Since Sharethrough was founded in 2008, two beliefs have always been central to our mission. I believe that publishers play a critical role in providing real, meaningful content that moves people, spreads information, and creates shared context for the world. And I believe that any sustainable monetization model for those publishers must be built on a foundation of respect, trust, choice, and ads that fit in (i.e. native ads).
The recent debate over the role of fake news in manipulating people with misinformation has reminded me how essential it still is to preserve and protect those who create true, real editorial content.
What is “fake news” & why are we talking about it? If you haven’t followed along with the unfolding dialogue about fake news, Buzzfeed reports that over the past four months more fake news about the election was shared on Facebook than real news from mainstream news publications, and one of the creators of some of this high profile fake news shared more details in an interview with the Washington Post last week. For a live example of non-partisan but shamefully-deceptive fake news, see here, and be sure to read down halfway to the section about David Mikkelson.
At Sharethrough we see a publisher’s editorial voice as their most vital asset, and our job is to help them preserve it with ads that fit in with their audiences’ experience. Native advertising lets publishers share their voice and influence with marketers -- which is something ads on aggregation platforms like Facebook or Google Search cannot do -- and as their audience grows their business can too. We see this as a sustainable strategy for original content publishers to evolve within the changing landscape of the web.
This system is built on a mutual level of trust between publishers and marketers to deliver honest messages to their audience. When that line of trust is crossed, and false information is deliberately published, all sides suffer and if not corrected, the system at large is put in jeopardy.
We are currently in an era where a new breed of bad actors are exploiting an oversaturated media environment by publishing blatantly false articles to make short term profits by spreading sensationalized misinformation. Sadly, fake and deliberately misleading news can spread like wildfire on Facebook, faster than real news, because of the nature of confirmation bias and the fantastical nature of the headlines. This trend is hugely detrimental to society.
I believe that as an industry we must do everything in our power to preserve consumer trust in publishing.
We see it as essential to help responsibly-produced journalism find a sustainable business model by prohibiting funding to fake news publications.
We applaud Google and Facebook in their recent efforts to disallow these types of publishers from their advertising networks and we call on them both to publish the list of websites they have deemed to be producing fake news, to help the industry join arms against these bad actors.
Beyond Google and Facebook, we believe the wider advertising technology industry needs to step up our collective efforts to stop funding publishers — of all political persuasions — who are producing fake news stories designed to misinform. If your company actively funds fake news sites by providing revenue through advertising and widgets, now is the time to reconsider that strategy.
At Sharethrough, our publisher partners go through a vetting process before being approved to use our software. We would welcome a more official registry of domains to help in our vetting process and would gladly contribute any offending URL’s to a collective “fake news” domain list.
More than anything, this is a stern reminder of how important it is to protect the future of legitimate content creators and responsibly-produced journalism. We are still in the early days of the new web, and it’s our responsibility to help shape things for the better.
Founder & CEO, Sharethrough