Media Industry and Consumers  

Examining Consumers’ Recognition of Native and Banner Advertising on News Website Home Pages

Native advertising online – advertisements that look like editorial content – has grown dramatically as a source of revenue for media companies. Online native ads include sponsored news articles, sponsored blog posts, and influencer advertising on social media.

But what is advertising and what is editorial content can be confusing for consumers, which can have an impact on a news site’s credibility. As a result, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Advertising Assistant Professor Kasey Windels and Lance Porter from the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication, recently evaluated whether consumers recognize native ads on digital news website home pages at the same speed and as effectively as they do banner advertising.

As the researchers explain, consumers first notice an ad and then interpret it. Thus, online users with a high skepticism toward advertising should be more aware of the manipulative tactics used by advertisers, thus making them more recognizable. But the authors found that there was no indication that is the case. In fact, readers, regardless of their perception of advertising strategies, paid attention to the part of the home page where they expected to find relevant information not necessarily deciphering an ad from news content.

People generally understand what a banner ad is and how to interpret it. But, they do not have the same knowledge where native ads are concerned. The researchers discovered that native ads took users almost three times as long to be identified as an advertisement. Further, 32 percent of the sample could not recognize and identify any of the seven native ads they encountered in the study.

Therefore, the study authors suggest that future research should look at whether other factors like media literacy influence the ability of consumers to recognize native content. Additionally, studies might examine whether there are differences in people’s ability to recognize native and banner ads on varying types of news websites like entertainment versus hard news. Stronger regulation and stricter guidelines are proposed for native ads as well as an examination of what features of native ads can be made clearer for consumers.

The original article, “Examining Consumers’ Recognition of Native and Banner Advertising on News Website Home Pages,” appeared online in the Journal of Interactive Advertising on Dec. 2, 2019.

 This summary was written by Dana Hackley, Ph.D.

Posted: February 10, 2020
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