Journalists’ views on new trends: sponsored content and aggregation

Technology and business disruption have brought about new issues that relate to ethics and economics. The survey probed two of these in particular: the advent of sponsored content or native advertising and the issue of compensation for aggregation and curation.

First, the quest for new, more effective and more lucrative ways to monetize advertising on the web. Wherever it was headed, or no matter the shape it took, did people think what was being called sponsored content or native advertising would help content providers by providing new revenue? Or were they more likely to think it would ultimately hurt media by crossing ethical boundaries in a way that would hurt the brands that engaged in it?

Asked to choose, the majority of these journalism and communication graduates thought sponsored content or native advertising was likely to have a negative impact on the news organizations that engaged in it (59%) rather than a positive one (41%).

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Then we probed those engaged in journalism whether their organizations are trying some form of native advertising. By almost a two-to-one margin, those who work in journalism say their organizations are already experimenting with some form of sponsored content or native advertising, though a significant number said they didn’t know. Fully 50% of those who work in journalism say their organizations now employ some kind of sponsored content, while 27% say they do not. But almost as many, 23%, say they are unsure.

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We also probed how people feel about aggregation — incorporating and redistributing content originally produced by others. Do people think that content producers should be paid by anyone who aggregated their content? Or do they think that aggregation helped content producers get more audience and that it was now an inevitable effect of technology?

Overall, a majority believe aggregators should compensate content producers for curating their content (57%). A significantly lower number (41%) said they thought curation was now just inevitable and it was better to have a bigger audience.

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Does age impact people’s attitude toward aggregation?  Not appreciably. The youngest cohort and the oldest have similar views–aggregators should compensate content creators.

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Journalists take on freelancing and extra jobs

Economists talk increasingly about a phenomenon called the “gig economy,” in which people increasingly may not work as employees but take on work by project. This has always been a part of the world of media. It has been the norm in some fields, such as motion pictures, television and documentary filmmaking, and in the last generation, for many in photojournalism.

The survey did some probing of what experience people had with freelance and other work beyond their core job. The great majority of respondents had done something (only 13% said none of the options applied). The largest group (50%) had donated skills to some charitable group, association, church or school, even more than said they had tried to build their personal brand in social media (46%). About 1 in 5 said they had done freelance work in news (20%).

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Of those who did freelance journalism, the survey then asked how much, if at all, they were paid. The largest group, 30%, were paid between $100 and $500. Almost 1 in five (17%) did the work for free. About 16% were paid between $1,000 and $5,000, and just under 9% were paid more than $5,000.

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We then went one step further and asked those who had done this work about their motivation for doing it. Were they trying to make new professional connections? Raise their profile? Or was it the money?

Despite the relatively low amounts of money paid, the largest motivation (40% citing it) said the compensation made the freelance work worth their time. The second largest motivation was raising one’s profile (32%), and that was closely followed by trying to learn new skills beyond what their current job offered (29%).

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