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Content Marketing and Native Advertising: What's the Difference?

January 8, 2014 By Michael Gerard
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The recent buzz over the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) native advertising workshop and its consumer warning about the potential for deception have some marketers scratching their heads about how to create content that won't get them into trouble. People have confused content marketing with native advertising in the past, and I'd like to clear things up.

Content Marketing is the process for developing, executing and delivering the digital content and related assets that are needed to create, nurture and grow a company's customer base. It is intended to establish and sustain a "conversation" with buyers and customers. Within content marketing are three forms of content tactics:

  1. Created Content: Original content authored on behalf of your company.
  2. Curated Content: Portions of third party content that are annotated and published on your digital properties with full attribution to the original author/post.
  3. Syndicated Content: Third party content published in full form on your digital properties after it has already been published on another site, with permission of the original publisher.

Native Advertising is specifically a paid digital advertising method that is intended to appear as natural content, and garners attention by matching the design of the page it's located on. Because of the smooth integration with the experience they're embedded on, readers are often unaware that these are paid ads. Native advertising has a direct, short-term goal of developing leads and closing business.

Although the FTC's workshop and warning have sparked new concerns in the minds of marketers and consumers, native advertising isn't a new concept. It's sometimes called sponsored content, advertorials or infomercials. Newspaper advertorials, where advertising is dressed up to look like editorial content and placed in publications, are a much older form of this practice. Google's Matt Cutts goes further into detail about the concerns of online advertorials in this video from Google Webmasters.

With social media now outpacing some newspapers' distribution, VentureBeat reports that native advertising can now appear in the form of Sponsored Stories on Facebook, Sponsored Tweets on Twitter, or sponsored articles on websites like The Huffington Post or The FTC warns that these native ads should be clearly marked so consumers aren't tricked into believing they're the same as traditional editorial content. Cutts also clearly states that it should be abundantly clear to users what is paid and unpaid.


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