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General News

July 15-31, 2005 Edition GENERAL NEWS Ads Have No Effect

On E-News Credibility

Mu Study Finds

COLUMBIA, MO/07/05/05—The relationships between media outlets and their advertisers have been singled out as a possible reason for the public’s eroding trust in the media. Ad placement and “advertorials,” which are advertisements written in the form of editorial copy, can often confuse the reader and blur the line between editorial content and paid advertising. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism have completed a study examining readers’ perceptions of credibility when it comes to advertisers and e-newspapers.

“Internet sponsors attempt to leverage the e-newspaper’s credibility by placing sponsorships at the top, middle or bottom of a news story,” said Shelly Rodgers, professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. “The concern is that sponsorship timing, or where the readers see the advertisement relative to the news story, will confuse readers or hurt the e-newspaper’s credibility.”

Rodgers, along with MU journalism professor Glen Cameron, analyzed the responses of 114 e-newspaper readers after they read news stories with ads placed at the beginning, middle or end of the story. They found that sponsor timing does not significantly affect the reader’s perception of the e-newspaper’s credibility.

In general, readers’ attitudes toward the advertisers changed, depending on where ads were placed. Readers remembered ads appearing in the middle of a story most, according to Rodgers and Cameron. This may indicate a blurring effect, or readers not being able to distinguish advertising from editorial content. Thus, researchers concluded that placing an ad in the middle of a story had the most harmful effects on the readers’ attitudes toward the sponsor.

Attitudes toward sponsors who placed ads at the end of a story were the most positive, according to the study.

“Content was remembered and trusted most for sponsors that appeared after the news story, indicating that ending sponsors were perhaps least harmful to the news,” Cameron said. Although most electronic newspapers rely on sponsorships from advertisers, the researchers emphasize the need for e-newspapers to be conscientious when it comes to advertisers. “The findings imply that advertisers and newspapers must compromise so that advertisers can attain their marketing goals without exploiting the e-newspaper and its contents,” Cameron said.