Study probes effects of ad placement in online newspaper stories

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Columbia, Mo.—The placement of advertisements in online newspaper stories does not appear to affect readers’ perception of an e-newspaper’s credibility, according to research conducted by professors at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.

"Internet sponsors attempt to leverage the e-newspaper’s credibility by placing sponsorships at the top, middle or bottom of a news story," said Shelly Rodgers, professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. "The concern is that sponsorship timing, or where the readers see the advertisement relative to the news story, will confuse readers or hurt the e-newspaper’s credibility."

Rodgers, along with MU journalism professor Glen Cameron, analyzed the responses of 114 e-newspaper readers after they read news stories with ads placed at the beginning, middle or end of the story. The research found that readers remembered ads appearing in the middle of a story most. This may indicate a blurring effect, or readers not being able to distinguish advertising from editorial content.

Thus, researchers concluded that placing an ad in the middle of a story had the most harmful effects on the readers’ attitudes toward the sponsor. Attitudes toward sponsors that placed ads at the end of a story were the most positive, according to the study.

—Sean Callahan"

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