Media, especially newspapers, have been struggling for decades. The rise of the internet was a seismic shift that changed the way the game was played and many of the newspapers have been slow out of the blocks. It took too many too long to even have a website, never mind a business model that would make it work.

Stage 1 was showing all their content for free. The majority of news organisations still do this, but pay for it with banner ads. This makes the business model all about getting the maximum number of views. However, display ads pay so little that to get enough views to even pay wages pushes strongly in favour of “tabloid” type stories. An example of this is the Daily Mail. The online version resembles the paper version in name only. It is all celebrity gossip and what “sells”.

Many newspapers have switched to subscription models with some revenue coming from ads. The Times and The New York Times have erected paywalls with people paying a monthly fee to view the articles. It’s a difficult model to get to work as every news story is covered thousands of different ways on the internet for free. It is about whether the readers think it’s worthwhile to pay to read the insight from the columnists that they’re gathered together under their umbrella. I think The Times has done this and happily pay for it each month.

Perhaps the most pernicious type of advertising ever invented has been introduced into a number of websites. Buzzfeed is the most popular example, but The Guardian is leading the way as well. It is called Native Advertising. It is about the ads appearing in the same style as the articles. In many cases, they are indistinguishable. In other words, it is about tricking customers into thinking what they are reading is analysis rather than advertising. As long form content, it brings in more money than banner ads. Especially as it’s more likely to fool a customer into buying their product.

However, Native Advertising strikes at the very heart of journalism. A news story is meant to at least be told with an attempt at impartiality (not that that is ever truly possible). However, Native Advertising deliberately sets out to tell you what the company wants regardless of the truth behind it. Most such stories barely consist of what could be termed news.

If you type Native Advertising into Google you will find a lot of people talking about the topic and doublethink’ing themselves into believing that tricking people is bad but native advertising is good. I wholeheartedly support the efforts of newspapers to make themselves profitable as a free and strong press is essential to challenge government. However, there are enough newspapers making money through subscriptions or banners. This is simply wrong and I haven’t heard one point to debunk it yet.