You may not know that sometimes the “news” that you are reading in a newspaper, online, or watching on television is not really “objective” news at all: it’s paid-corporate PR that is known as native advertising.
The reason that you might not realize that you are reading an article or whole section that is nothing more than an ad disguised as news is that often the disclaimers that “this content is paid for” (or some variation in wording) are in such small type, you can hardly see them. Add that to the fact that regular news consumers are now often reading information at a dizzying pace so that even if there were a large disclaimer, it might go unnoticed by readers surfing through news sources.
In short, the line between the already corporate-influenced and self-serving mass media news coverage and ads is becoming increasingly blurred. It’s hard to imagine that the corporate imprimatur on what is news and the frame in which it is presented could get worse, but it is.
Take for instance Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s (FAIR) commentary on how CNN is now going to sell air time to corporations. The reports will look and feel like news (with the requisite generally ineffective disclaimer, one assumes), but will represent a corporation’s PR goals and narrative.
FAIR reveals the sucker-punch ironic name of this eventual CNN advertorial program is “Courageous”:
It’s hard to see what’s particularly courageous about CNN‘s move, even if you see the destruction of journalistic boundaries as a heroic struggle. As a report about CNN‘s foray into “news-like content on behalf of advertisers” on a Wall Street Journal marketing blog (6/8/15) notes, “news companies from the New York Times to BuzzFeed to the Wall Street Journal have units that create advertiser content….”
So advertisers will come to Courageous because CNN‘s “trustworthiness” and unwillingness to “blur the lines” will be transferred by viewers to advertising content that is “similar” to CNN‘s news but “clearly label[ed] and differentiat[ed].”
Don’t count too much on the “differentiation.” Even if viewers will see a disclaimer, it is likely that in their memories the “native advertising” and the so-called news will become a jumble that will be hard to retroactively separate. In fact, you can bet CNN is selling “Courageous” air time with a wink and a nod about the program being labeled as paid for.
As The Wall Street Journal blog entry, which FAIR refers to, about advertorials indicates, expect the blending of the editorial side of corporate news and corporate-purchased news content (albeit with an alleged “disclaimer” alert) to accelerate.
In a world of global corporate brands, anticipate that increasingly the only news that you will be able to get that you can really trust is from sources that don’t accept corporate money or advertising, sources such as Truthout.