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Experiment finds under 1 in 10 people can tell sponsored content from articles (bu.edu)
99 points by DocFeind 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

For serious now: I think the whole idea of “native advertising” just shows how rotten the whole advertising industry has come. They are completely morally bankrupt and have zero human decency.

Even the term “native advertising” is an euphemism. In my opinion, this stuff is outright fraud. Why is this still tolerated?

Why haven't those people been chased out of Internet Town with virtual torches and pitchforks?

This is why I like news aggregators like HN, Reddit, Slashdot, etc. Even if I happen to be the 9 in 10 regarding some article, the 1 in 10 will usually be quite vocal in the comments.

Some of the HN content can be sketchy on the weekend when there are less people around and it falls outside the traditional HN fields of expertise. For example, I remember an article that claimed philosophy had "proved" the one true method of parenting. Few people took issue with this absurd premise.

No human-based system is going to be 100% right 100% of the time, or even close.

I've only been here a few months, but I feel like we do a pretty good job all things considered.

True. In fairness HN tends to be overly cynical more often than it is overly trusting.

Reddit is an absolute shithole now. I've never seen a website fall from grace so quickly, not even Digg.

With the redesign and their further forcing of it on users with the giant text and ads all over, it’s tipping away from even tolerable now - looking for the next minimalist aggregator (HN too specific)

I use an addon to always redirect to the old.reddit.com and ublock to aggressively block divs that are for advertiser's benefit rather than mine. Along with RES, it makes for a pretty nice experience. The only real downside is that once subs get large enough they invariably turn to shit.

Theres a new Reddit alternative that's open source, Tildes.


I've been on it for a few months and would recommend it.

Never heard of this. I like the philosophy. I’ve seen users try and enforce that kind of thing on Reddit, but it often falls flat because it’s not core to the platform.

Sounds good. But how will they reach critical mass? How to avoid being popular driving it into trash like most other aggregators?

> But how will they reach critical mass?

Tildes prioritizes quality over quantity.

> How to avoid being popular driving it into trash like most other aggregators?

It's currently invite-only to limit its growth and keep its userbase from being polluted. Later, a trust system will be added for active and trusted users to help moderate it. When it gets opened to the public, it might also limit signups to prevent overwhelming floods of users taking over.

Also see https://docs.tildes.net/overall-goals.

The more any service becomes mainstream the more it trends to lowest common denominator - that’s pretty much a rule at this point. Only way to avoid is to keep moving on - I welcome examples to the contrary!

What are some of the ~ you follow?

Isn't reddit open source?

It used to be, but the open-source repository stopped being updated and was archived years ago.

although if everyone hates the new version, maybe that's what people want

It’s never the app that’s the barrier, it’s the user base.

Reddit is much like the internet in general. Certain corners, like HN or certain subreddits are great.

Clearly. I think it varies a lot by subreddit. I used to be active on quite a few subreddits, and I've witnessed their evolution as reddit becomes more mainstream. My personal opinion is that the limit seems to be about 100k subscribers on a sub before it starts becoming garbage.

r/spacex is now 300k and still quite good I think

Likewise, some science and history-based subs are doing well. I think large subs need heavy moderation to work.

I agree. But those threads just look like they've been nuked from orbit. I think that's what you have to do to keep the quality high. Any sub that isn't willing to delete everyone's comments is going to be dragged down.

I've been hearing that for 6 years now and yet still it keeps growing.

Growth and quality are unrelated (or, as the cool people here would say, orthogonal)

I think they are very much related, just not linearly. As a site grows from tiny to small its quality often rises, since the worst content gets filtered out as more good content comes up to replace it. But from then on growth mostly decreases quality as any sense of community vanishes and only content targeted at the lowest common denominator rises to the top.

Doesn’t it depend on the subreddit? My main complaint is there is less of a community feel about it than say HN, but some of the coding subreddits are quite nice but albeit a bit quiet.

MeWe has some pleasant groups too

I hear this claim all the time: which subreddits are you visiting? Because that makes a huge difference.

/r/funny may be a shitshow; /r/askhistorians probably is okay.

What has changed about Reddit in terms of quality?

The simplest way I've found to describe it is this:

The front page of reddit is now nothing but images and videos, or self posts.

I clearly remember when reddit was mostly aggregated long form text content. I won't state that that's always better, but you can't find it hardly ANYWHERE on reddit today without logging in and selecting subreddits.

I think a fundamental problem with user ranked sites is that as the population grows, the very nature of the most popular posts is that they appeal to all of that broad population. I find this often means the content is... drivel. It's that 3 second feel good item, or that 5 minute rant. It's never content that requires time to digest and might challenge your assumptions or world views.

Recently I opened the /hot feed on r/all and began blocking the subreddit of posts that were non-text.

...I think I blocked 200+ blocked subreddits my feed is still all pictures and videos. Even checking now, there are only two text posts on my r/all: r/AskReddit and r/NoStupidQuestions.

Really frustrating. Also, searching self:yes doesn't seem to work for me, I think it was deprecated?

I found the ad they were talking about on multiple websites and they don't have advertising disclosures: https://www.vt-world.com/americas-smartphone-obsession-exten... This one says it's from AP: https://newsok.com/article/feed/865832/americas-smartphone-o... this one is similar (probably same campaign): https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20150629005126/en/Per...

After reading both the article and that ad, I suspect the reason is because it doesn't resemble any sort of "ad" in the traditional sense --- yes, it's "sponsored content", but I don't see it trying to actually sell me anything.

I just thought it was weird because the HN article says that a disclosure is required by the FTC. The BoA article has the same title so I assume it's the article they were talking about.

Not overly surprising, these media outlets aren't trying to make it easy to tell the difference. Rather they are doing the bare minimum so they can claim they're trying, to stave off regulation.

In my opinion, things like this ought to be major scandals that undermine the newspaper as legitimate news source, especially if 90% of people can't tell the difference.

What? You means ads aren't news? </sarcasm>

The Shell example is a clear example of deliberately concealing the fact that it is advertising/sponsored content. If a print newspaper did the same there would be an outcry (in some parts of the world at least).

This is great news for corporate sponsors and bad news for the average consumer.

It used to be easy to block ads when they were simple banner ads. Nowadays, these ads are injected directly into the newsfeeds of these newspapers.

I’m quickly arriving at the conclusion that there is no longer anything that resembles “news” anymore.

Media is so mutated by technology, and unrepentantly and blatantly biased, that we’ve reached a point of inversion where technology now more frequently obscures information, instead of surfacing it.

It’s funny that we’re reaching a moment where a tool invented to solve a problem plays an active role in creating the problem. Initially we solved informtion overload with search indexing, but it’s not about overload anymore. Now it’s about poisoning all sources.

>Media is so mutated by technology, and unrepentantly and blatantly biased, that we’ve reached a point of inversion where technology now more frequently obscures information, instead of surfacing it.

There's no clear evidence that the media was better before the internet. If anything, the internet has connected people together so that they can realize that the media isn't working for them.

Whats more insidious is the articles that dont get written or editorials that dont appear due to the influence of advertisers. (ie Manufacturing Consent)

"under 1 in 10?" What kind of metric is that? Why not say the number out of 100? Or in a percentage? And what is it? 1 in a hundred? 9 in a hundred? 1 in a thousand?

Does anyone else feel like Google search is now at least 60% sponsored content within the first 50 entries?

And that's with adblock enabled. Now I don't mind being targeted with relevant stuff when it's appropriate, but when I'm looking for DIY tutorials, the last thing I want is sponsored content peddling cheaply made Chinese goods to me.

I realized halfway through reading the article that I had not checked for a 'sponsored by' disclaimer. I rarely do unless an article feels 'off'. Hmm...

I doubt there as a clear line between ad and non-ad so it makes sense that for some sample you get these numbers.

I actually wrote a little application which mitigates this:


Basically, you follow topics and it sends you relevant material that has been vetted. You can get it on a monthly, weeekly, daily, or real-time basis.

Overall, I think this is essentially the “end” (if there ever was a beginning) of an informed population.

How is it vetted?

It’s auto curated, but we use the metacortex platform our company built. That works by ranking experts in related fields and then ranking content they discuss accordingly.

It works extremely well, and some of our data sources include hacker news and reddit.

As such you can see it in action:


Reasonable results from a few queries, well done!

Isn’t this just native advertising working as designed?

Plot twist: The article is sponsored content, too.

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