“From Around the Web” and Other Fictions
This first appeared on Medium.
Using my organic followers as well as running Twitter ads to get this in front of a general US consumer base of people I’m not connected to, I surveyed consumers on Twitter in a few different ways about their perceptions of ad disclosures. Per my reading of the new FTC guidelines on Native Advertising, “From Around the Web” (which is widely used) doesn’t appear to meet their standards for disclosing that the items in that section are, in fact, advertisements. Consumers appear to agree, selecting “Paid Advertisement” 6.5 times more frequently than “From Around the Web” in this poll. “Paid Advertisement” is disclosure language that is specifically mentioned as acceptable by the FTC.
Which of these labels above a block of image+text items on a news article web page makes it clear these are ads?
— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) June 22, 2016
A prior poll I had conducted, compared “Ad Content” directly with “From Around the Web” and asked which was preferred, or if neither was acceptable. Turns out 35% of people thought neither was clear disclosure, and 8 times more thought “Ad Content” was okay versus “From Around the Web”:
Which of these two labels on content ads on news sites is best to ensure you know they are ads?
— Rob Leathern (@robleathern) June 21, 2016
It’s Getting More Confusing
Some websites have slight variations like “From the Web” (NBC News or theDaily Mail). Other sites have resorted to new euphemisms like “You May Like” (Huffington Post), “Sponsored Stories” (Ars Technica or ABC News), or “Sponsored Stories you May Like (FoxNews). Slightly better is “Paid Content” (CNN), but then that same page also has “Content from LendingTree” with lighter text above it saying “Advertisement”. Sometimes the vendor like Taboola or Outbrain adds smaller text on the right hand said saying “Sponsored links by”, but sometimes nothing, or simply the text “Recommended by” and their logo. It’s all Very Confusing!
I’d ask as a consumer that the language around these ad units be standardized, and I hope the FTC will take a closer look and present some better guidelines.