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date: 03 December 2020

Advertising and Journalismlocked

  • Corinna LauererCorinna LauererDepartment of Media and Communication, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich

Summary

News is produced primarily to inform readers and viewers. However, audiences are charged only a fraction of the high production costs or not asked to pay at all. The reason is subsidy by advertising revenue. Since the beginning of professional journalism, news has been bundled with advertisements. This way, media companies can sell the attention of audiences attracted by journalistic content to advertising companies, which in return seek to attract consumers to their products and brands. Beyond distributing both simultaneously, advertising and journalism can intermingle, which causes ethical concerns. From a normative point of view, news and advertisements should be separated clearly in regard to the production process and the content itself. The separation of “church and state” or the “Chinese Wall” between the newsroom and the business side within a media company are commonly used metaphors used to express the ideal of separation. This principle aims to protect journalistic autonomy from economic influences such as advertising considerations. Nevertheless, advertising interests may influence journalism in different forms and to various degrees. They are regularly discussed as influence on journalistic selection of topics as well as writing style, and as the source of attempts to blend advertising and editorial content. Scholarly concerns are increasingly consumer oriented and less critical journalism, biased reporting on advertisers’ brands or products, and the potential deception of audiences, for example, when hybrid forms of advertising such as native ads camouflage their commercial nature. The relationship between journalism and advertising has been treated as an orphan compared to the relationship to public relations or politics. However, the media organizations’ struggles for sustainable business models in the 21st century fuel discussions in media economics and journalism studies about whether advertising is a blessing or curse to journalism. In a nutshell, the relationship between advertising and journalism is as long-standing as it is ambivalent (see “Evolution of the Relationship”). On the one hand, advertising revenue largely lays the financial foundation for prospering professional journalism (see “Funding Journalism”). On the other hand, this financial dependency causes potential threats to journalistic autonomy (see “Influencing Journalism”).

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