Readers and marketers have been inundated for years with jargon-y terms for new ways of reaching consumers. Native advertising, native content, branded content, brand journalism and content marketing are some of the many ways publishers and marketers are referring to these offerings.
Traditionally native advertising has been defined as advertising that matches the context of the user’s experience. Mitch Joel, writing last year in the Harvard Business Review, defined it “as an ad format that must be created specifically for one media channel in terms of the technical format and the content (both must be native to the channel on which they appear and unable to be used in another context).”
In other words, native advertising is content that looks and feels like the content that surrounds it. A reader may not notice that the advertising they are consuming is at all different from the rest of the digital content they’re reading.
Web readers find native advertising in many different places, from sponsored Tweets or Facebook posts, to branded Buzzfeed articles that look like their regular content offering, but branded with an advertiser’s logo. The aim of this type of advertising is usually to provide a delightful reader experience, branded with the advertiser’s logo, and create organic engagement and, if they’re lucky, even virality for the post.
So how does that differ from content marketing? Here’s where it gets tricky. Do enough research online, and you’re bound to find plenty of definitions of content marketing that sound quite a bit similar to definitions of native advertising.
Wikipedia says content marketing “is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.”
According to The Content Marketing Institute, “basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing.”
Push Social sums content marketing up with this rather pithy definition: “Storytelling for sales.”
Looking at these definitions, and drilling down to their essence, native advertising and content marketing look confusingly similar. They are a way for brands and publishers to reach potential customers in a format that is interesting and delightful to them. The difference is that native advertising is a paid distribution channel – giving a brand access to an existing audience, and content marketing is content creation and cultivating the brand’s own audiences. More and more, brands are discovering that native advertising is a crucial way to enable their content marketing efforts – showcasing their stories to a broad audience and getting readers to engage and connect with the brand, but measuring its performance and effectiveness is often difficult. It’s easy to buy traffic and impressions, but converting these to an engaged audience that will linger after the ad campaign is done is strikingly difficult.
The way for this type of advertising to work most effectively is to make sure the right content reaches the right user, and to create an opportunity for a lasting relationships. Algorithmic solutions like the one offered by News360 allow brands and publishers to do just that: target the interesting content to readers most likely to find it relevant, and to cultivate a permanent relationship between brand and reader.