#GamerGate: How To Spot Gawker’s Native Advertisers

Doritos

What is “Native Ads” and what do they have to do with Gawker? Well, they’re a new kind of monetary method by some websites to get sponsored content on a website without it looking like sponsored content. Sponsored blogging is more like it. This is an alternative revenue stream that Nick Denton, Gawker’s owner, put into play back in 2012, and it’s one of the ways that Gawker is able to evade some of #GamerGate’s tactics to pull ads via “Operation Disrespectful Nod”.

Gigaom has a nice little rundown on how “transmedia advertising” is being pushed into today’s media scene under a dirty term called “commerce journalism”. It’s a way to sell news through advertising. It was part of several sporadic discussions within the Game Journo Pros.

According to Copy Blogger, a website about search engine optimization and copyrighting, more than half of consumers have no idea what “Native Ads” are or how they look. An example of a “Native Ad” would be like something below.

A company basically has someone blog on a prominent website to advertise their product.

FTC regulations dictate that any sponsored or endorsed content for the purpose of media promotion or advertisement must be made known to the public via apparent and a readily available disclosure clause. This is outlined in the FTC guide governing endorsements and testimonials under section 255.5, which states…

“Where there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

So what does this have to do with Gawker? Well, it means that there’s always going to be a viable way to find out what sort of content is sponsored on the site. It doesn’t mean that the kind of language used is indefinite, it means that they’ll always have to use some kind of language for the purpose of making their disclosure known.

For instance, in this sponsored Pringles post on Gawker, they have the following disclosure at the bottom of the article that leads to this disclaimer page

What's the story with this post?

As a company, we champion the need for media transparency — so we want to be clear that this content was created for a brand partner.

We don't believe this affects our ability to tell great stories, but please feel free to share your feedback. Also, if you really want to know what we're up to (we swear, it's much less dastardly than you'd imagine), you can follow us here, here, and here.

If you still don’t get “Native Advertising”, it’s essentially as close to making articles look like news on blog sites as possible without giving away that they’re actually sponsored ads from big companies.

This video from HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver sums it up nicely.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Native Advertising (HBO)

The line between editorial content and advertising in news media is blurrier and blurrier. That’s not bullshit. It’s repurposed bovine waste.

This is also further noted by Gawker’s Denton himself in that Gigaom article…

“We all know the conventional wisdom: the days of the banner advertisement are numbered. In two years, our primary offering to marketers will be our discussion platform.”

So what does this mean for #GamerGate? It means you just got the necessary info to level up “Operation Disrespectful Nod”. Combine this with the info that Scott Nichols from the GJP provided the public with and it could be a devastating one-two combo… assuming that’s something someone might consider doing.

#GamerGate is no longer looking for sponsored banner ads; it’s now about looking for Gawker’s disclosure statements to find sponsored posts from advertisers. From there, it’s possible to contact the respective company about Gawker.

Take note that under Gawker’s own “Sponsored Posts” tag on the site, you’ll see that there is hardly anything there.

Gawker’s marketing was smart to remove their sponsored ads from out of direct sight in the “Sponsored Posts” section. They’ve also conveniently removed their sponsors from their official Studio.Gawker site, so you’ll no longer be able to see who they’re affiliated with.

Also, as noted with sponsored posts on Gawker by Volvo, Pringles, Microsoft, Insomniac Games and Netflix, they’re not tagged under a universal slug, but instead they have a separate attachment to Gawker.com to keep you from seeing the full list of advertisers (there’s a post on Kotaku in Action that lists some of these hidden sponsors). It means each one will have to be found manually.

Nevertheless, Gawker still has to play by the FTC’s rule-set; this means that they still have to make a disclaimer apparent in “Native Ad” posts.

Of course, if someone wanted to contact advertisers they would first have to find the disclaimer, search for it on Google, find out who is natively advertising with Gawker, then make a list of the “Native Advertisers” and e-mail them.

[Update: #GamerGate sleuths found that Gawker receives their publisher sponsorships from an intermediary called StackCommerce. The list of a few vendors that sometimes post “Native Ads” on Gawker can be found here: https://pastebin.com/Dvj4r8tf]

Feel free to send your thanks to Kotaku editor Jason Schreier on Twitter at @JasonSchreier as well as the Game Journo Pros with the hashtag #GameJournoPros for providing tips on how to identify “Native Ads” and help make some of Gawker’s methods for advertising more public.

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[Disclosure: I was a former member of the Game Journo Pros e-mail group]

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Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Contact.

6 thoughts on “#GamerGate: How To Spot Gawker’s Native Advertisers

    1. There’s supposed to be a disclaimer for Amazon Associates. Everyone is supposed to have them clearly labeled somewhere on the site.

      You can type in the following to find out if Gawker has it on their site:
      “an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking”

      Search that up + Gawker.

      If they don’t have that anywhere on their site, be sure to notify Amazon about that.

      1. It’s not on the pages with the links. Don’t know if its burred somewhere in a terms of service or something obscure like that.

        Many normal articles are written and links to products added in the editorial process but I found a way to find all the posts that are generated solely for pushing associate programs. Note this is not the same as sponsored posts which is the subject of the above article.

        https://deals.kinja.com/

  1. Gawker, one way or another, is completely screwed. There’s literally no way out of this, except to admit to their wrongdoing and make amends, and considering that they’d even shit on their own advertisers, there’s no way they’d even try. Hindsight is always clearer than foresight, I guess.

    When consumers decide not to spend any more money on you, that’s damning enough. But when they actively want to dismantle your revenue stream, they’re part of a group as dedicated as gamers, and they can spot subtle weaknesses like that, you’re going to lose, and you’re going to lose almost instantly.

    It was fun while it lasted, Gawker, but your time is up. You have no more continues left. Game Over.

  2. >not tagged under a universal slug

    Don’t know if this is a recent development or not but I found

    https://kinja.com/tag/sponsored

    This appears to have a few false positives but I think it gets all the directly sponcered posts. It will not catch the commission based ads.

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