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Evaluating News: Native Advertising

This LibGuide provides resources to help you identify fake news and evaluate news and disinformation.

What is Native Advertising?

Can you tell if what you are looking at on a webpage or social media is a news article or an advertisement? It may not be as easy as you think. Many readers have a difficult time telling the difference between them.

In 2019, Stanford University conducted a study among 3,446 high school students. The results of the study showed that two-thirds of students could not tell the difference between news stories and ads (set off by the words “Sponsored Content”).

What is native advertising?

It is a paid advertisement that has the same look, feel, and function of an actual news article that you would find online. You will find these types of advertisements on social media and blended into websites. It can never be objective. There is inherent bias, because the content is intended to promote a brand.

  • Sponsored content (a.k.a Branded content) is a type of native advertising. It does not look like a regular ad and can be hard to spot. It blends in so well that unless you look closely, you might never realize you are looking at an ad.

Targeted Advertising

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you search for a product on the internet you will start to see ads about it across multiple websites and devices. This is called targeted advertising. Based on the data that is collected about you from what you do on the web, including the emojis you click on, advertisers will target you with ads they believe you may like.

Tips on Identifying Ads

Here are a few tips on how to identify native advertising.
  • Look for terms "suggested post", "promoted stories", "recommended for you", "sponsored", "brought to you by", "paid for by", "recommended", "suggested", "content from", "brand publisher", "from around the web", "in partnership with"
  • Look for hash tags like #ad, #advertisement, #sponsored, #paid,
  • Check the byline: is there a company name or logo where an author's name should be listed.
  • Look for "sponsored by Taboola" or "by Outbrain"


Give it a Try

Go to these websites and see if you can identify all the sponsored content.




Here are some example of what sponsor content looks like on websites and social media.

Recommended Content Ads


Banner Ad


In-feed Native Ad

In-Feed Social Ad

Paid Search Ad

Promoted Listing Ad

What if the advertisement looks like a real news article?

Branded (Sponsored) Content