Advertisers Beware: The Dangers of Fake News Aren’t Limited to Consumers

A recent survey shows that advertisers are overwhelmingly concerned about how fake news will impact potential customers’ views of their products, and almost 1/3 will reduce their spending with publishers who are seen as purveyors of fake news.

Fox News host Sean Hannity saw an advertiser backlash after he spent several weeks exploring a story many are calling fake. The story involved the unsolved murder of a former DNC staffer, Seth Rich, and Hannity’s assertion that his death was payback for providing emails to Wikileaks during the Hillary Clinton campaign. Even after Fox News withdrew the story citing a lack of evidence, Hannity continued, and watched several of his advertisers head for the exits.

This is part of a larger issue facing the media right now and the advertising dollars that keep the industry afloat. Companies have to target their advertising budgets smartly, and could face financial repercussions if customers perceive them as even indirectly funding the spread of false or needlessly harmful information.

In a world of polarizing political forces and ubiquitous media exposure, a story that is fabricated, but appeals to a certain demographic can go viral in an instant. For an example of how this happens on the political left, Louise Mensch has amassed a large following for her conspiracy theories. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at how fake news affects news consumers, but the implications for businesses are similarly stark.

In previous eras, such virality would be a no-brainer for advertisers. In the BrightRoll survey above however, a majority of companies are now putting pressure on “programmatic tech partners to proactively screen for fake news.” It is clear that the ability to evaluate information is becoming progressively more essential for success in the 21st century. We are only just beginning to understand the effects of fake news on our politics, economy, and society, but one thing is clear: in order to thrive in the Knowledge Economy, critical thinking is an indispensable skill no matter what industry one works in.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore, CC 2.0