Nearly half Estonian newspapers publish unlabelled advertorials

Jan Richard Bærug, who recently defended his PhD at the University of Tartu, analysed the attitude of 691 newspapers and niche magazines of northern Europe to the merging of journalism and advertising. He found that three quarters of all analysed publications agreed to publish unlabelled marketing texts.

According to Bærug, such hybridisation of journalism is a problem as it may weaken democracy.

Although the study was conducted in 2006 and 2007 and ten years have passed since, Bærug believes the problem of hybridisation of journalism has not diminished. “On the contrary, data from the Press Councils of Denmark, Finland, Germany and Lithuania show an increase in the number of cases in which the problem consisted in merged marketing and journalistic content,” said Bærug, who says such hybrid content is becoming more and more justified.

The most intense hybrid journalism could be detected in Estonian and Russian newspapers, nearly a half of which accepted and did not label advertorials.

“The United Kingdom was different from the other countries as it was characterised by almost no publications rejecting advertorials and at the same time all publications wanting to label commecial content appropriately,” the author of the doctoral thesis explained differences between countries.

Results of the research allow to argue that a quarter of the publications were loyal to readers, a tenth were loyal to advertisers and slightly more than a half agreed to publish advertising texts only if labelled appropriately.

Bærug finds that journalism is in a very vulnerable and intense situation, where the merging of journalism with the marketing content supports the weakening of democracy. “The strong tradition of freedom of the press and journalistic autonomy can act as the counterbalance,” Bærug believes.

Read further on ERR Novaator.

Additional information: Jan Richard Bærug

Viivika Eljand-Kärp University of Tartu Press Officer Tel: +(372) 737 5683
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