Nieman Journalism Lab points to a recent study into the possible brand-damaging effects of native advertising on journalism sites. The study compared a younger audience’s perceptions of a test news site with those of an older audience. The researchers found that native ads did not damage the site’s credibility as a new source.
But lest you think that is a solid point in native advertising’s favor, there’s this: the younger crowd recognized the ads and had an overall critical, hard-to-impress stance toward the site, while the older participants didn’t notice the ads despite being more positive in their feedback. Critical users who can recognize native ads (and presumably know to avoid them) and uncritical users who miss the ads entirely don’t add up to an emphatic win for the medium.
Obviously, the question requires more research, which the team that conducted the study plans to do next. As I’ve already suggested, the credibility of news sites is at risk — if only because of increased cynicism.