Speed Reads

Late Night Antics

Here's John Oliver's take on the blurred lines between advertising and news

John Oliver knows he's lucky his show airs on HBO and doesn't rely on advertising money — it's the reason he can get away with saying things like "Old Navy clothing makes you look like a tacky murderer." On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, the host talked about media outlets who aren't as fortunate, and have to rely on native advertising, in which the ads are disguised to look like news stories.

Consumers really do have a hard time telling the difference between the two; a recent study showed that less than half of the visitors to a news site could distinguish native ads from the real news. As Oliver points out, that means it's working. "Of course they can't, it's supposed to blend in," he said. "[That's] like a camouflage manufacturer saying 'only an idiot cannot tell the difference between that man and foliage.'"

As much as we all want a press that's free and independent, Oliver says, we can't have that if people aren't willing to pay, and we basically have ourselves to blame for the current state of native advertising. But, if our news is going to be corrupted, we should at least get something in return. Oliver's suggestion? "Every time a corporation sneaks advertising into our news and ruins it, our news should be allowed to sneak into their advertising." Watch the clip below to see Oliver's solution in action. --Catherine Garcia