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NUJ backs advertising watchdog's ruling on paid-for links service

18 June 2014

The NUJ's public relations and communications branch has backed a ruling that online links to sponsored or paid-for material should be clearly marked as such.

This follows a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) against Outbrain, which provides recommended links to advertiser-funded articles for thousands of websites. The ASA upheld a complaint that a link to content offered at the bottom of an article on the Independent website was not identifiable as paid-for and constituted advertising.

The link appeared next to other adverts with the text “you may also like these”, and directed readers to a web page run by a third-party advertiser.The complainant said the link was not identifiable as advertising, therefore breaching the UK advertising code.

Outbrain provides the service to a number of other national newspapers including the Guardian, Express Newspapers and the Telegraph.The company is paid a commission by advertisers on every click generated and shares this with publishers.

The NUJ's ethical code for the industry says that "paid-for advertorials or advertising features are acceptable if they are clearly identified as such."

Mark Whitehead, secretary of the PR and communications branch, said:

"As professional PR people we welcome the ASA's ruling. Trying to sneak advertising into independent editorial material cheats readers. It devalues the editorial content as well as the advertising and leaves everyone feeling they have been short-changed. It benefits no-one to blur the line between editorial and paid-for material."

Phil Morcom, co-chair of the union'spublic relations & communications industrial council, said:

"The NUJ is committed to ethical journalism, and because of this we believe paid-for advertorials or advertising features are acceptable if they are clearly identified as that. We don't want to see people misled or misinformed by sleights of hand or because of cost-cutting or unethical editorial behaviour."

A guide to the rights and wrongs of PR practice

ASA rules against paid-for links service used by most UK national newspapers   (Press Gazette report)

Tags: , pr and communications branch, pr, ethics, advertising, ASA, online