Digital Advertising and News
The study, Digital Advertising and News, contains two main elements: The central research study conducted and written in-house by PEJ researchers and an accompanying essay by Professor Joseph Turow, Ph.D., Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. Professor Turow is an expert in media fragmentation and author of several books including the newly released, The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth. Professor Turow's full bio is below.
For the main research study, the primary PEJ staff members working on the report were research analyst Katerina-Eva Matsa, research analyst Kenny Olmstead and Deputy Director Amy Mitchell. Sovini Tan helped conduct the research. Dana Page, communications and creative design manager, managed publicity. Tricia Sartor created the visuals and Molly Rohal copy edited the report.
Digital Advertising and News analyzed 5,381 advertisements on the main websites and legacy outlets of 22 different news organizations-including national and local newspapers, broadcast, and online media. The outlets were built off of the list that PEJ regularly monitors for its weekly News Coverage Index.[i] See the table below for the outlets, programs and web addresses.
Capture and Phase I Coding
The initial phase of coding measured the mix of advertisement and style of ads across both traditional media and their website counterparts. For one week in June 2011 three coders from PEJ coded a mix of ads in each outlet according to the following schedule:
Legacy outlets: For Cable and Network TV, each show being studied was captured and coded one day during the week of June 28thth-July 1st, 2011. Newspapers followed the same pattern. The full print edition of each paper was coded by one coder on one day of the same week.
For the news magazines which do not publish daily, the timing was slightly differently. For The Atlantic, a monthly publication, the June/July issue was coded. For the Economist, Newsweek, and Time Magazine the week of June 28thth-July 1stwas coded.
All ads appearing within the program or publication were captured and coded.
Websites: The websites for Network TV, Cable TV and Newspapers were coded on the same day that the traditional outlet was coded. For news magazines the corresponding week was coded. (For the Atlantic only June 29th which was the Wednesday of the week of June 28thth-July 1st was coded, despite the magazine covering all of June/July in its print edition.) For the website of each outlet the homepage and the first five stories on the site were coded.
Each ad that was captured according to the criteria above, was coded for the following variables:
Broad Topic of the story associated with the article- Determines the type of broad topic categories addressed by a story such as crime, education, economy, etc.
Placement- Designates where ads are located within a publication, on a website, or within a broadcast. The location reflects whether an ad is in the front page of a publication and website or the pages connected to the news stories. Also, the location reflects whether the ad is in the first, second etc. natural break of the broadcast.
Format of the ad- this applied only to online ads and it determines the type of online ad, static banner, rich media, video, sponsored ads or sponsored link boxes.
Ad category- this variable reflects what the ad was for, for example an ad for a car would be coded as "automotive".
Company name- determines the name of the company in the advertisement.
Ad describer- Here the coder inputs a short description (approximately 5-15 words) of the content of each ad. The purpose of these describers is to examine whether an industry would use different ads for targeted audience.
Discount ad- Designates whether Groupon or other similar ads or coupon offers appear.
Part of an advertorial- applies only to magazines. This code determined whether the ad was part of an advertorial-an advertorial is a multi-page ad in a magazine that is formatted like a story but is sponsored by a specific product and the "story" is really about the product and not produced by the publication.
Phase II Coding:
The second phase of coding was to determine the level of targeting for online ads. For this phase each website was coded by two separate coders. Each coder coded the site 2 times, for a total of 4 passes on each site.
For the first round of coding on a site a coder would use the regular web browser he or she uses to surf the internet on a daily basis. For the second phase the coder would use a "clean" browser, or one where the cookies/history/cache was cleared and the coder was signed out from any personal accounts, such as Google, email and/or subscription accounts. In addition in the second phase the cookies/history/cache was cleared every time before a new site was coded. The purpose of this was to determine the level of targeting each site has. By clearing the cookies/history/cache, PEJ was attempting to control for the most common ways in which sites target.
In order to determine the level of targeting the researchers applied three steps:
Targeting Follow Up
On January 27th, 2012 PEJ researchers revisited each site to check the levels of targeting. To do this 2 researchers went to each site using their regular browser and took screen shots of the homepage and the top five stories. Then the ads on each page were compared between the 2 researchers to determine if the level of targeting had changed. In general PEJ found that the level of targeting had not changed on the news sites studied, only two sites (latimes.com and theatlantic.com) showed slightly higher levels of targeting.
The New York Times
Atlanta Journal Constitution Online
The Arizona Republic
St. Augustine Record
Network TV (Seven in all, Mon-Fri)
Morning shows - Code1 or 2 out of 3 every day
ABC - Good Morning America
ABC - World News Tonight
[i] One site in that mix, MSNBC.com, is the web identity for both MSNBC and NBC. The study includes MSNBC.com as the counterpoint to MSNBC cable rather than NBC. MSNBC.com serves as the website for NBC News, containing content from both the news network and its cable channel MSNBC. The digital platform is co-owned by NBC Universal and Microsoft.