Advertisers and publishers have many names for this new form of marketing — including branded content, sponsored content and native advertising. Regardless of the name, the strategy of having advertisers sponsor or create content that looks like traditional editorial content has become increasingly common as publishers try to create more sources of revenue.
Publishers are largely being driven to support the use of sponsored content because of fewer people clicking on banner ads, the abundance of advertising space and other factors make it more difficult to make money from traditional online advertising. As advertising technology becomes more sophisticated, ads can be bought and sold at cheaper rates across the Web. Often they are ignored by the very customers advertisers are trying to reach.
It’s a pretty great deal for both advertisers and publishers. By having their advertisements appear to be regular content, people are willing to share the articles with their social networks. As opposed to banner ads, which people have learned to automatically ignore, this content actually has people telling their friends that they should give it a look:
An article on Google Glass technology was shared almost 2,000 times on social media, indicating that readers may not have cared, or known, if it was journalism or sponsored content, although the series was identified as such.
For publishers, it means less of a reliance on banner ads while still being able to offer content for free (though Forbes and the Washington Post are using both sponsored content and paywalls).
There hasn’t been any major backlash from readers against this rise in sponsored content, so perhaps they don’t care as long as the posts aren’t outright ads.