Before explaining the Kabbalah, I usually try to give a brief overview of the subject being discussed. But the more I read about Native Advertising, the more I realize that I have no idea what exactly Native Advertising means.

On the surface, the term is intended to describe an advertiser that uses more natural means to advertise their product. For instance, an article from TheNextWeb.com entitled “The rise of native advertising: Fine or farce?” details all the various “native” ways advertisers use to sell you things.

authentic journalism

But before waxing philosophical on whether an advertisement could ever be considered “native,” let’s introduce another question. This one came to mind after reading a piece from Mashable.com called “Why This Is the Age of Publishers, Not Journalists.” The article is about journalists who create a name and following for themselves, especially by means of social media, then leave their jobs in order to begin their own start-ups.

Not So Native

Initially when thinking about Native Advertising, it appears that there are two categories of content writers: 1. Staff writers. 2. Content producers working on behalf of advertising clients.

But when you start drilling down further, what really separates a staff writer who is positioning themselves for a career of independence and a writer for an advertising agency who overtly operates as an independent entity?

Buying and Selling

If we take the example of a bride and groom, who is the buyer and who is the seller? The simple understanding is that the bride is selling, while the groom is the buyer. If we look at the Almighty and the Jewish people, God is known as the One who “buys everything.” God is above (buying is higher consciousness). But, for God to be able to buy everything, we have to be willing to sell everything, all of ourselves. The meaning of the bride here is she doesn’t leave herself anything. This is true self‐sacrifice. So someone who feels himself to be something, he sells himself and at that moment feels like nothing. The being below, the bride, has to be able to decide that she is giving herself entirely to the nothingness above. But, the being Above is that which buys everything.

Native Selling

How does this relate to our present discussion? Let’s assume for a moment that everyone providing content is trying to sell something. For instance, maybe they are selling the public to buy into their future career as an independent journalist. Given the above, what is conceptually problematic is not that they are selling themselves, but that they aren’t giving themselves over to something higher. In Native Advertising parlance, they appropriately phrase this idea in terms of the reader: Is the content that comes from a staff writer or advertiser benefiting the reader or not?

But what we are now adding is that in order to benefit the reader, the content provider has to “sell themselves” to be bought buy a higher consciousness. This means that the most prized content, the most “native,” comes from those who sell themselves over to the Source of the content.

As long as articles are self-oriented, then the content feels like an advertisement no matter who it comes from. The ideas may sound beneficial at first, but they will quickly appear fleeting and elusive. But when married to a higher consciousness, then even if the content was written on behalf of an advertiser, the reader will still feel like the content is “native.”

In a desire to be uplifted to a higher consciousness, the public is willing to listen to whoever will bring them to this state. No longer does the influence of media conglomerates win out over this concept behind reader engagement. But while media outlets, journalists and advertising agencies are all theoretically on equal footing, the second lesson from our discussion is that the message needs to be authentic.

Inherent in this discussion is the nothingness required to give oneself over. Like the Jewish people (bride) who gives their “something” over in order to marry God (groom), the most authentic or native content comes from those writers who become nothing in order to give their readers everything; a glimpse into a higher consciousness.

In Summary:

The rise of Native Advertising is a sign of the public’s yearning to find information that is connected to God, the source of all content. But in order to be an authentic, content writers should view their task as brides vested with the task of connecting readers with the higher, Divine consciousness behind the content they are now presenting.

With this in mind, a more fitting title for this article would have been “The Kabbalah of Conscious Journalism.”* But since this term is not yet well known, we opted to use the term that is presently being used.

As explained in “Nine Steps Toward Engaging a Community of Readers,” consciousness, the sefirah of knowledge (da’at), is the first of nine steps in engaging readers. From consciousness, the second stage is the sefirah of foundation (yesod), the verification of what was presented at the first level. This is the inner reason why the question of authenticity in Native Advertising is a question rooted in the sefirah of knowledge.

As the second stage is also a time for verification, this article could have also been named “The Kabbalah of Authentic Journalism.”

With material adapted from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s recent class at the Torat Hanefesh (School of Jewish Psychology) semester seminar, 26 Shevat 5774. The unedited English translation can be viewed HERE.

* This is an indication that the term “conscious journalism” may soon replace “native advertising.”

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