Student Media Watchdog Association

The Threat of Advertising in the Online Media Environment

In Editorial, News on March 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm

By Krista Carney

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With the rise of digital media, advertising has gone from traditional news sources to uncharted territory – the Internet. Online advertising has become more prevalent and targeted to audiences than ever before due to tracking Internet activity for specific users and data mining. This change raises questions asking whether online media will lead to unintended negative influences on the news that millions consume everyday online.

A recent Pew Research Center study analyzed news outlets’ websites and their advertisements. They found that most websites did not have targeted advertising; however, there was a strong Google ads presence that does use targeting. Their analysis also found the majority of advertisements were from the financial industry, followed by cosmetics. A great deal of in-house advertisements that promote products specific to the news outlet were featured on their websites as well.

While the Pew study did not find specific targeted advertisements on news, there still are concerns about advertising dollars’ influences on news content and reporting biases. Specific industries buying digital ads could use their influence to alter story content or even persuade reporters to avoid reportingaltogether. This also could lead to the news content being targeted as well, leaving media consumers with biased coverage and a limited world view.

The technology exists to create specific, targeted ads and it is only a matter of time until news outlets will use this lucrative form of advertising on their websites. With these developments, what will this change for Internet news consumers and the content that they are exposed to? Will the rise of digital advertising on news outlets’ websites affect news content and coverage?

News outlets need to ensure that advertising dollars from major corporations will not affect coverage of particular news stories featuring those companies.  Online news is an important informative tool and overall source for millions around the globe and ensuring this outlet’s credibility is crucial for the news industry. Taking steps to make sure the unbiased and credible reporting of these news outlets in online coverage is important not only for the news source, but also readers who rely on Internet news.

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