Every morning, when it’s time to read the news, I see headlines and subjects — and before I read those stories through, I check the source to see if it’s considered credible or not.
This is unfortunately the world we currently live in. Fake news is interspersed with real news, and all of it is sensationalized. The media is cluttered more than ever before because anyone with a Web site can “publish” what they consider to be news, but in reality is probably an opinion, often simple conjecture and probably not true. A rumor can catch fire quicker than a fact if it’s juicy enough, traveling the information superhighway around the globe in seconds.
A lot has been written about the role that advertising should play in supporting or not supporting fake news. I err on the side that advertising does have a responsibility to only support credible sources and true, authentic, genuine content. Unfortunately, I am not responsible for all ad dollars on a global scale.
Advertisers fall into two distinct categories: brand and direct-response. With all the recent missteps from YouTube and brands showing up in unsafe content, there’s a wave of brand-safety consideration now, and companies are getting more cautious about where their ads will show up. I anticipate publishers may look to charge a little more for guaranteed-brand-safe inventory.
On the flip side, we have direct-response advertisers who are too often buying blind and are focused solely on the price, with nominal consideration for the audience. These advertisers aren’t as considerate of the context as they are of the conversion. There are far more advertisers that fall into this bucket than the previous brand-marketing category.
Do I think the industry can change as a result of the focus from brand advertisers on changing the way we look at content and news? Honestly? Probably not. I think it has to be a more concerted effort that includes the leading technology companies as well as the leading publishers.
Late last year, AppNexus cut Breitbart News out of its inventory. Other leading tech companies have made similar moves in an effort to denounce fake news, hate content and misleading content. I also think the push towards “native content” has been detrimental because it blurs the lines between what is content and what is advertising as well as what is news vs. what is editorial. Native is valuable and shouldn’t be pushed aside, but I think publishers have a responsibility to vet what gets dropped into those placements, and advertisers have a responsibility to call out when they see something that isn’t right.
I do feel the industry has a responsibility. There are many billions of dollars being spent on online advertising. TV advertisers already exert their weight on the content that gets played on major programming. The same should apply in the digital world. When dollars are spent to convey messages and sway audiences, a conscience should be applied as well — a conscience that tries to ensure the quality, accuracy and relative fairness of the content it supports.
When I get up in the morning to read news, and especially news aggregated in any of the various apps or sites that I visit, I should feel confident that the sources are credible and that the content is genuine and authentic. It should not be my primary job to determine credibility. Publishers should already be playing that role, at least to some extent.
Don’t you, as a consumer, agree?