When news articles are actually paid adverts in disguise

I’ve noticed lately that news.com.au has been devoting a lot of time into publishing news articles about the joys of Kmart.

At first they seemed like harmless news stories that were showing how the new look Kmart stores were a huge success with the shoppers, although me and the Mrs always thought the new store layout was dreadful with checkouts in the middle of the store, the returns counter being up the back of the store, display stands so high you could no longer see the signs that hung down which are supposed to show you where the different departments are, and a lot of our favourite products no longer being available.

Then the news articles started to come in thick and fast about how wonderful certain products from Kmart are and how mums had found a simple hack to make each one even better. Just take a look at the garbage that a simple search on their site for Kmart comes up with:

This is only a small sample of the rubbish they’re trying to palm off to us as legitimate news stories and no where does it once state that it’s a paid advertisement. Not even in small hard to read letters.

We’ve been constantly fed these as news articles as well:

So imagine my surprise when suddenly this cropped up as a headline:

This is exactly what me and the Mrs were saying when the new layout was first thrust upon us and it seems that other Kmart shoppers weren’t as thrilled with the new look of the shop as we’d been mislead to believe either.

I’m just wondering how long this non-paid, truth-riddled article will actually remain online, because this other one, although the search engine still shows us that it was published online 2 days ago, is no longer there when you follow the links to read it. Instead you just get redirected to the general finance page with no signs of the article anywhere.

I can only assume that because Kmart is spending so much money on false advertising on news.com.au that someone in charge made a phone call and had the damaging, yet truthful article taken down.

Now, I know that radio presenters are forced to state if they’re endorsing something because they’re getting paid by someone to say they like a product. So are there any laws that say news corporations also have to state if an article is actually a paid advertisement? Because if there isn’t, news.com.au and Kmart are both taking advantage of the lack of laws concerning their misleading articles/adverts in disguise.


Well documented Vince. But K Mart is not the only beneficiary of this sort of free advertising. Many companies get similar or better free advertising, even Apple, various airlines announcing products that are still 1-2 years away from first availability, grocers, and more ! :wink:

It used to offend me but in our small market I have come to realise we do not have much news to fill the 24 x 7 cycle beyond our amateur self serving bland government, so we are bombarded with advertising in the form of what are essentially infomercials melded with financial punditry, and items from across the globe where one has to read every word carefully to determine what country the item is from realising it is predominantly little more than click bait as it affects us in our far corner of the world…

Given how few journalists are left at newscorp they’re probably desperate for any kind of content.

Even if it’s just puff pieces supplied by companies to promote their own products. Makes you wonder if the critical article was supplied by a competitor…

And on the new store layout for Kmart, haven’t shopped in Kmart here in Australia, but went to one in NZ earlier this year. Very confusing paying in the middle of the store and I had the feel-like-a-criminal security shakedown on the exit. Not a pleasant shopping experience.


One of the biggest problems with the new store layout, apart from having to show your receipts for all purchases on the way out, is that if you have something to return, you now have to take it inside the store and right up to the back wall which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever come across as far as security is concerned. Anyone can take their receipt into the store now, grab the same thing off the shelf and then go to the back wall with it and get a refund, all the while the item that was actually purchased could still be at the person’s home and they’ve now got it for free. If you do take something back you feel like a criminal because you’ve got no way to prove that you’ve actually brought the item back to the store. It’s now your word against theirs if they ever think you might have tried to pull a swifty when you haven’t. What if you haven’t got your receipt any more? Their policy is that if you don’t have your receipt you can still get in-store credit if you need to return something that was faulty and they don’t have any replacement stock. But without a receipt, how can you show you didn’t just take one off the shelf and pretend you bought the thing?

With all the false advertising claiming how wonderful everything’s going I can’t help but think that it’s actually going the way of Dick Smith stores just before they went belly up because the owners fudged the numbers in order to put the share prices up, which they then sold at the highly inflated prices and did a runner with, leaving the rest of the shareholders with a business that had no option but to collapse on itself.

Mind you, the stores are always full of shoppers, but then again, so were the Dick Smith stores right up to the day when they went into liquidation. The public had no idea about it and many got stuck with gift cards that were no longer valid, even though they’d been on sale in order to get the public to buy them when management knew they wouldn’t be able to honour them.


I have hoticed that the Fairfax media sings songs about VW group cars, and often rates them higher than non-European brands. No surprise that VW group brands feature regularly in their media. Likewise for Aldi, they advertise in Faifax media and Fairfax sympathetically publishs its media releases as news.

Unfortunately unbiased journalism in Australia is very hard to find and cash of comment appears to becoming the norm.

Gone are the days of reporting facts associated with news. Todays media is about communicating views and opinions about news stories. I expect that this is something the masses desire as it follows the (un)reality TV model.


Just Newscorp? Fairfax is going no better (2015-17 news) re journalism, although they are not so much into vapid click bait. Regardless, when did we have a journalist in the mold of America’s Walter Cronkite or Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein?


I know from years ago that if you wanted publicity for your business, give pre-written handouts to the media. We had a journalist acquaintance who used to write copy for small business, and hand it out to the papers and radio. As often as not, the copy would be printed or read out verbatim. He said that if you made it easy for them, that is it was written in the way that the media needed, they used the copy.

No doubt the cuts have made it more attractive to use pre-written publicity material, but is happened for a long time.

On a side note: this is also what lobbyists do with politicians. They hand the politicians copy that the politician then uses (often without checking or verifying) and gets credit for.

1 Like

Having been on the receiving end of journalist interviews, the only way to make most of them quote you accurately is to write it out for them. You don’t get to vet their material before it is published.

1 Like

Channel 9 News has started putting News Articles in that are pure advertising. Tonight’s (6 Sept) was about Myers Clearance Centres. If they, 9 News, miss out you can rely on A Current Affair (ACA) to do it.


I learned this at the age of 17, on my first job out of school as one of the first Commonwealth Government ‘Youth Trainees’ - in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Somehow we were allowed - nay, encouraged - to have a nice chat to reporters after the government’s latest ‘yoof’ announcement, and… oops. The Secretary of PM&C wrote to my boss about what I had said on national TV!

Turns out that even back in the '80s, TV ‘news’ editors were happy to turn what you said into its opposite. A decree went out to all departments after this, that no youth trainees were to be allowed anywhere near a journalist without their minder, and a guarantee from the journalist that they would submit their work ‘for official comment’ prior to publication. (Nowadays you’d have trouble getting near the minder, let alone the trainee.)

That was my second - and hopefully last - starring moment on national television. The previous one was a year or so earlier, and involved playing a piano (badly).


Channel 9 is always giving out info about Apple phones. So annoying as it is clearly an infomercial. They do it for other products too


Apple is is a marketing and techno-jewellery company first, not a technology company. Their success is from creating and honing a cult [of customers], and they have been historically brilliant doing it.

Next time you are in a shopping plaza or a market look at the ratio of “Apple” phone cases and accessories signage as compared to all others. Which company was first supported by integration into vehicles? Apple! No accident. Being first keeps one ahead of the market. See Apple supported in vehicles but not Android, every person paying attention gets a subliminal if not in your face message that ‘Apple is the one’.

Apple products are generally good but their command of marketing is far better. They have essentially turned themselves into the news and reflect how certain reality stars have become ‘products’ in their own right.


I am appalled by a “news” story on 9 News essentially promoting small loans for retail shopping, using a company called AfterPay. There were no warnings about fees or repayment premiums and how a consumer could end up paying exorbitant fees for this type of loan!

It would be great if you could look into the growing trend of sponsored “news” being included as part of television news bulletins. I think that viewers know what an advertisement is, but not necessarily differentiate between a news item and an advertorial.

There has been an increase in this type of advertorials in news bulletins across all channels, with topics like:

  • the revolution in shopping centres (about refurbishment of Westfield properties)
  • how to save money on your next grocery bill (promos for various supermarkets)
  • the new technology for your home (Harvey Norman retailer, including “interviews” with Harvey Norman!

In print media, if an advertisement is trying to look like a news article, they are required to have [Advertisement] as part of the ad. I believe that television news should be subject to the same type of disclosure! I certainly feel sorry for the journalists who are finding themselves presenting promotional campaigns rather than real news.


I must admit that I was shocked - shocked, I say - to see this advertorial for an airport looking to sell off the odds and ends people had left in it over the last year.

The ‘article’ tells me who the auctioneers will be, the kind of products I might be able to pick up ‘on the cheap’… it even states when each of the online auctions will be opening! The shameless promotion of a sale, a few pretty pictures, and a chance for us all to throw some of our hard-earned money away on possibly broken, almost certainly untested items leaves me flabbergasted! What publication would stoop so low?


Hi @postulative, as a consumer publication, we often write about consumer goods and items that may be of interest to consumers, from new technology to advice for shoppers. I appreciate how difficult it is for readers to navigate what content is paid, fake or otherwise tainted. However, in our case no content is advertorial, sponsored or otherwise influenced by advertisers.

Perhaps we need to do better about promoting our values and I will raise your feedback internally. In the meantime, you can find out more about our organisational values here: https://www.choice.com.au/about-us


On topic, a headline click bait on news.com.au today is very important information for all Australians. Drum roll…


I feel that my comment regarding the Sydney Airport auction has been misread and misinterpreted - largely due to my failings in writing it. Let me try to clear things up a little.

  1. I am well aware of Choice’s insistence on distance - this is where its reputation has been deservedly earned. My comment was not intended to suggest that the article in question was in any way, shape or form paid.
  2. My comment was in part made because of the obvious opportunity for humour of the pot/kettle/black variety. It obviously fell flat on its face in this regard.
  3. Having said that it in part was meant in jest, I do not mean to imply that there was not a serious point that I wished to make. That point is that there is a very fine line between informing the reader and seeking to affect their preferences based upon anything other than evidence of efficiency and efficacy. I do feel that the article Choice posted regarding Sydney Airport’s auctioning of its lost and found - while well-meaning - may be a little closer to that line than one might normally expect to find in Choice, and appreciate your referral of this issue for additional scrutiny.
  4. My final sentence was inappropriate, totally destroyed any attempt at humour that may otherwise have existed, and I have deleted it. As some form of excuse, the comment as a whole was written in ‘bits’ and I am sure that sentence was added quite some time after I had formed the original intent. Regardless, it did not belong with any message I had intended to convey.

To sum up, I am sorry that I failed to communicate my intent adequately, and that I failed to make clear that I was in no wise intending to suggest that Choice had published for pay. I am sorry that my attempts at humour fail so often and so badly. I am not sorry that I have raised the issue for Choice to consider.

Finally, to an issue that falls outside of the question of what Choice should or should not publish:

  • I am concerned that any commercial, government or non-profit entity might profit from the losses of others. While I do not (yet) have ‘the perfect solution’, I am very concerned at the idea of lost property being sold off in this manner. Yes, it is better than the old ‘Christmas party fund’; still, it fails to recognise or account for the loss someone out there has suffered and instead turns that loss into an unrelated party’s profit.

/hides in corner


From my experience, Domino’s present has very little to do with pizza - at least insofar as one expects a pizza to involve more than sauce and a scattering of cheese on top of some bland, grain-based base.

Edit: wait, is that:

  1. Domino’s future; or
  2. Domino’s’s future; or
  3. Domino’ses future?

Ah, no problem I see. No need to apologise, on the contrary I should have noted the implied sarcasm in your post, which I think you did quite well actually. To ensure that we are known as unbiased is a concern here for us though, and we always take this type of feedback seriously. We will certainly still have a look at the tone and as you mentioned to make sure we aren’t giving the wrong impression.

Thanks as always @postulative.


News? Who would have guessed this is how it works? (no need to answer!)