8. Website Credibility through Advertising – 13.8%

People in this study used advertising on a site as a criterion for judging the site’s credibility. In the comments, people talked about advertising, usually negatively. But at times, study participants talked about the judicious use of advertising in a positive way. Pop-up ads were widely disliked and seemed always to reduce perceptions of site credibility. Sample comments relating to advertising are below:

  • The advertisements were distracting and reduced the credibility to me. Any site which gives so much real estate to advertisers probably doesn’t have my best interests in mind. — M, 25, Washington
  • Every link brought pop-under ads as well as traditional ads. I feel their view is colored by their desire to boost their advertising revenue: they perceive their primary clients to be their advertising base, rather than the people who use their site. — F, 43, Illinois
  • This [site] didn’t have any advertising, which makes it more credible in my opinion. — F, 34, Iowa

Not surprisingly, advertisements are especially harmful to a site’s credibility if they lead a user to believe that the site’s content is swayed or controlled by the advertisement or that the site is connected to the advertisement, and is itself trying to sell the user something.

The comments make clear that some users are fully aware of potential sponsor influence. They expect a clear line between the content and advertisements so that sponsors do not compromise the site’s information.

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