My inbox is always open to tips for stories relating to gaming and the industry. I love writing about the culture and what is happening in media, and I am always interested to hear your opinions. Since Kotaku was forced by the FTC to disclose all of its affiliate links, it has been easier to spot which articles contain links, which if the reader purchases through them, gives Gawker a small amount of money. Some consumers consider these links a form of advertisement as a writer might be more inclined to give a product a positive review, in order to encourage the reader to buy the product and therefore generate income. This lead people to show me this image, taken from the front page on the 29th November, which breaks down Kotaku’s articles into non-advertising, articles with affiliate links, and a new phenomenon called native advertising.
Many websites engage in native advertising or advertorials, a new form of advertising which is where a company or product pays the website in order to write an article related to the product. These types of articles are often considered anti-consumer as the website could be promoting a product for monetary gain rather than to inform readers of their recommendations. Native advertising has got pretty bad press lately, most notably from John Oliver and he does make some great points. The Atlantic doing advertising for Scientology is clearly so completely anti-consumer it boggles the mind, but what about Kotaku.
So the majority of Kotaku’s native advertising, which is only noted as such by the addition of commerce team in the author section, are tech deals from Amazon, or lists of other deals from around the web. While I believe that Kotaku should be doing more to alert people to the fact that they have a sponsored partnership with these websites, as long as the commerce team are working thoroughly to look into these deals and make sure they are in the best interests of the consumer, then alerting people to these offers isn’t always a bad thing. It should be noted that the day this screenshot was taken was the day after Black Friday when consumer deals are high, and usually Kotaku only has around 1 native advertising deal per page.
The matter of fact is that while many websites do abuse native advertising to the point that it is anti-consumer, in theory, it’s a tool which, like the New York Times, can be used correctly. TechRaptor currently doesn’t engage in native advertising, but say we were approached by a product which we use and love, why would it be a problem to write about, promote and gain revenue from it? This form of native advertising, with obviously placed disclaimers can be very pro-consumer.
We pride ourselves on a free press. We don’t pander to sponsors or advertisers and try to keep content strictly for our consumers. That being said, running a website doesn’t come for free, and the more money we have available to us, the better the website can become. Being the WiiU’s biggest fan, if say Nintendo came to me and asked me to write an article promoting Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker a game which I think is amazing and which you should all buy immediately from this affiliate link, then this helps the consumer in two ways, but recommending an awesome game for them, and by improving a site which is pro-consumer. If however a site abuses this power to promote absolutely anything that is willing to pay them, then that’s where things get bad.
So basically native advertising is a power which can be abused, but it doesn’t have to be. TechRaptor would never sell its readers down the river for revenue, so you shouldn’t assume that every other outlet would do so either.
Tell us your thoughts? Is native advertising always anti-consumer?