Consistency in Labeling Ads as “advertisements” on Content Sites

Some newspaper and magazine web sites visibly label some ads on their web pages as “advertisements” but don’t mark other ads including their own in-house ads on the same pages. Their intentions are journalistic: They want to visibly differentiate their editorial content from ads. (Though that doesn’t explain why they don’t label their own in-house ads.)

Sites should be consistent in visually differentiating journalistic content from advertising and other types of content. Either they should label all ads consistently or not label any.

In specific cases where the Editors believe advertising content may be confused as editorial content, they should label it as an “advertising section” like they do in print.

However, some sites choose not to label ads as “advertisements“. Their reasons:

  • Readers can differentiate an ad from editorial content in over 99%1 cases of web pages.
  • Ads are not visibly labeled as ads in print publications, except in special cases when the Editors feel that ad may be confused as content.
  • Why stop at ads? Why not label everything on the web page that is not editorial content?

Presenting an entire advertising section as that does make sense. The same way the sports section is branded sports in both print and online, it is useful to brand an advertising section as such. It also does make sense to label ads that look like editorial content (in the Editor’s opinion), such as text ad links and ads in between content.

A related article on this subject at MediaPost.

  1. This 99% is not based on a survey, but I believe the actual percentage would be even higher. []

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