There has been a lot of news recently about, well, news.
Plenty of digital ink has been spilled in think pieces about two related topics that deal with how we consume news in the digital space.
First, a recent study by Stanford University found that 82 percent of middle schoolers were unable to tell the difference between sponsored content and real news, despite the fact that this generation is supposed to be more tech savvy than older generations.
Further, the big Internet and social media players have been coming under fire over the spread of “fake news.” Fake news has become a particularly hot topic for Facebook, as the social media giant has taken flak for the way fake news was disseminated on its platform during the 2016 presidential election.
It’s becoming increasingly more common for people to use social media as their main news aggregator, so these findings raise the question of: what is the future of sponsored content and social media’s role as a news source?
In late 2015, The Federal Trade Commission issued new guidelines on native advertising, a form of sponsored content. With the FTC cracking down, and Facebook and sponsored content coming under greater scrutiny, we could be on the verge of a change in the way digital news and ads are delivered, or at least perceived. It’s too early to tell if there will be a change, but we’ve already seen some companies take measures. Google and Facebook are no longer allowing fake news sites to advertise on their platforms, so we’re already seeing changes come down from the online players.
What the larger impact will be remains to be seen. The Internet has been touted as a true experiment of the marketplace of ideas, but what we’re seeing is that, instead of the truth rising to the top, people are falling for false stories, as evidenced by the Stanford study and Buzzfeed’s analysis of Facebook’s news engagement, which found that fake news received more engagement than real news.
We’re seeing changes made as companies like Facebook and Google are being criticized for their role in the fake-news epidemic. How that will affect marketers of sponsored content and native advertising hasn’t been determined, but we very well could be on the precipice of a change in the way news is presented to us in the digital world.