You’re more likely to win the lottery than click on a web banner ad. Not good odds, right? That’s why digital marketers and media have increasingly experimented with native advertising, also known as sponsored content. For marketers, native advertising holds promise as a more effective way to reach potential customers. For media (including social media), sponsored content has potential to supplement their revenue.

We recently explained the difference between branded content and native advertising / sponsored content in this post. I also expressed my optimism that, implemented well, native advertising has huge potential. Now, let’s explore some interesting reads about current native advertising trends.

Native Advertising Isn’t a Fad

Inc. recently published a gianormous infographic with statistics that suggest native advertising is here to stay. Check out this compelling sample of facts to support that sponsored content has a future:

infographic of statistics about native advertising

For the full infographic, visit Inc. here. For more explanation, check out this article.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Cares About Native Advertising

Not long ago, the U.S. FTC held a workshop about native advertising aptly titled Blurred Lines. (Forgive me if you now have a Robin Thicke earworm.) The workshop aimed to bring some clarity to the distinction between editorial content and native advertising. Specifically, the workshop put native advertising in historical context, examined effective recent examples, consulted research about the impact on consumers, and discussed some best practices.

Is FTC involvement in native advertising a good thing? I say yes at this level−facilitating healthy conversation and fostering best practices or solid ethics. Some people wonder whether this workshop means the FTC will regulate native advertising and native advertising will die. My philosophy is this: If you don’t act like a child, you won’t be treated like a child. In the same way, if an industry acts responsibly and ethically, it won’t stir up complaints about abuse and trickery and behavior that begs for regulation to protect consumers. (See the pharmaceutical and finance industries.) So, if media and marketers execute native advertising and sponsored content well, intense regulation is unlikely.

To get a video or transcript of the workshop, visit the FTC website.

New Examples of Native Advertising / Sponsored Content

We shared some examples of native advertising and sponsored content here. Since then, some new intriguing experiments in native advertising have emerged.

Paid Posts in NYT Now

The New York Times launched a new mobile app called NYT Now which includes paid posts. Not only that, our newspaper of record plans to expand paid posts to other media products.

The NYT commented:

Paid Post units and branded content will begin appearing on NYT Now on April 2 and on The Times’s core news app for iPhone and iPod touch and mobile web site in the coming months. Paid Posts will become available on some of The Times’s other smartphone and tablet apps later this year.

Advertising on NYT Now will consist exclusively of Paid Post programs which include in-line native ad units within the NYT Now news stream that users can click through for full access to Paid Post content.

The first advertiser to use these paid posts? Dell. AdAge provides a handy glimpse into how that works.

Other Examples to Watch

These prominent publishers have either started offering native advertising or expanded their native advertising units, as well. Learn more about them at these links.

The Future of Native Advertising Depends on Execution and Effectiveness

As a content strategy consultant who has worked with both marketers and media, I’m now even more optimistic about digital native advertising and sponsored content. We now have data and notable good examples to show its potential. We also have healthy discussion of ethics and best practices fostered by the FTC. To ensure native advertising fulfills its promise, marketers and publishers would be wise to focus on ethical execution, such as clearly disclosing when content is sponsored, and evaluating results.

Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in April 2014.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a growing content intelligence and strategy company based in Atlanta GA. Content Science owns Content Science Review, Content Science Academy, and the content effectiveness software ContentWRX.  She also is the former Head of Content at Mailchimp. Colleen regularly consults with executives and practitioners to improve their strategy and processes for content.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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