Content comes in all shapes and sizes, and in today’s society, we’re surrounded by it everywhere we go. Messaging reaches us in many formats, from ads to articles, videos to social media, brochures and beyond. What’s more, we experience content across platforms, from TV to the Internet and smartphones. Content is meant to tell us something we want to know. As such, it is designed to be unique, attention-grabbing, and meaningful.
Yes, content is all around us by default; but we also have a choice in what we’re consuming to a certain degree. We can sign up for newsletters from businesses and brands we like, and unsubscribe from ones we don’t connect with. We can “hide” things from our newsfeed if they don’t interest us, or press “play” on a video that looks enticing. There is no arguing against the fact that content is king. But not all content is created equal — and that’s precisely the point! Let’s take a look at the kind of content that reigns supreme, and that is present all around us, whether we’re aware of it or not.
What is sponsored content?
In a world with an abundance of content, sponsored content is created along with many other types, but it is more visible, and here is why: such content receives preferential placement because someone has paid to make sure that it gets seen. But why would someone go through the trouble to do that? We know that this type of content is placed front and center, and takes up the most visible spots with good reason. But what is sponsored content and what is its purpose?
Sponsored content definition
Native advertising includes sponsored content. This particular kind of content features commentary that promotes a product or service on behalf of the advertiser sponsoring the post. But it’s important to note that sponsored content doesn’t necessarily include a definite call to action, the way plain ads would. The user will not see a button that says “click here” or “buy now” amidst sponsored content. That’s pretty unique, because we usually think of advertising as being designed to translate into sales as quickly as possible. But sponsored content takes a different approach. This is because it is about awareness and visibility. It is not outwardly trying to sell a service, a product, or any specific idea. Instead, sponsored content promotes what the advertiser expects it to by integrating them as naturally as possible into their existing content — without expecting a direct action from the readers.
Native advertising sponsored content
As mentioned, native advertising sponsored content has its benefits, and one the most crucial ones is authenticity. But what is so special about it, and why do people tend to digest and believe sponsored content? Presumably because this form of content is created by the publishers themselves, rather than the sponsors or advertisers. They stand behind it. That means it’s not traditional ad content, simply appearing on the page; it’s actual editorial. This is how sponsored content differs from branded content, which the brand created itself, and then published.
Because native advertising sponsored content is written by the publisher themselves, it matches the aesthetic and tone of the typical content provided by the outlet. This keeps a generally seamless experience for readers and viewers. By agreeing to publish sponsored content in partnership with the advertiser, the publisher stands behind this sponsored content. This helps speak to — and boost — the advertiser’s credibility. It can enhance their following. Partnering with credible publishers can also help to drive business growth.
Sponsored content marketing
Almost anything readers and viewers can consume — from articles and editorials to videos — can be sponsored content marketing examples. Social media is also a popular platform for sponsored content marketing, especially given the large number of posts that writers crank out from week to week. The more posts an author creates, the greater the chances to turn these posts into real money by partnering with advertisers to work on sponsored content creation. Sponsored content marketing posts are always published and promoted by the site owner, and include content that their audience would expect to read on the site.
Ethically speaking and without exception, publishers are always obligated to inform the reader that what they’re seeing is sponsored content. This shows transparency that they’ve been paid to create this content, and not doing so is considered bad practice. This is the largest rule for publishers when it comes to posting sponsored content. They must disclose the sponsored content and make the disclosure visible enough to the audience to prevent readers from feeling misled. If the disclosure is hidden or easily missed, the audience feels tricked.
Even in instances where the publisher discloses sponsored content appropriately, some pushback still exists around the practice. Still, when handled properly, society has come to expect native advertising sponsored content across various outlets and channels, and it a modern marketing technique that is expected — and that is accepted and fruitful for all involved.
In terms of sponsored content pricing, it varies greatly. Pricing depends almost entirely on the publisher themselves, along with their popularity. What will advertisers be willing to pay? The idea of paying for a publisher to run sponsored content is based on the idea that the advertiser is leveraging the publisher’s following, which can cost a premium. Let’s consider an example. A local blogger working with an area business on sponsored content would charge much, much less than mainstream outlets. But which large publishers are getting into sponsored content? It is safe to say that some of the biggest and most recognized names out there are tapping into this trend in content. Some of the names leveraging the sponsored content trend as part of their growth strategy include Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, and more.
Native advertising vs. sponsored content
How sponsored content marketing differs from native marketing can be a bit confusing, and is a question that is commonly raised by publishers and advertisers alike. One is considered the other, but not vice versa. Are you still with us? Let’s break it down. According to Google Dictionary, the sponsored content meaning is “material in an online publication which resembles the publication's editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser and intended to promote the advertiser's product.” But that still leaves us with the question about native advertising vs. sponsored content; what’s the difference?
Consider this: native advertising resembles a common ad, whereas sponsored content is more like a media placement. You wouldn’t see sponsored content “pop up” the way you would expect to see an ad. It’s naturally integrated into the experience. That’s how expert marketers at BrandPoint.com describe it. Sponsored content can best be thought of as brand journalism. Examples of sponsored content include that is in keeping with the publisher’s typical content.
Why sponsored content works
There is a growing phenomenon around a cohesive user experience, uninterrupted by ads. That’s sponsored content at its best. According to Moz’s “Everything You Need to Know About Sponsored Content,” brands value sponsored content marketing because the connection with a publication is important to them, as is exposure to its audience. These things combined can drive traffic and brand awareness. They can also introduce conversions and leads. When we define sponsored content, it is in keeping with what consumers expect to see from a given publisher and presumably and is in keeping with their standards.
We know from an earlier look at native advertising vs. sponsored content that sponsored content is brand journalism. It is representative of the publisher, their voice and tone, and the type of material they typically share. That’s why sponsored content works. The publisher has already created a level of trust with the readers who follow their writing and expect to see a certain type of posts. So, when a publisher’s sponsored content falls in line with the quality material the readers are used to seeing, everyone wins. Their audience is reading something useful and meaningful, and their advertiser is experiencing brand recognition and a potential boost in traffic as a result of the post. The sponsored content marketplace continues to grow based on demand from publishers everywhere, and interest from advertisers looking to leverage their audience and reputation.
Evidence exists to show that sponsored content has a bright future. Moz’s “Content Promotion Manifesto” showed that brands spent, on average, 6.7% of their content marketing budgets on sponsored content in 2013, and trending upward. The New York Times claims readers spend the same amount of time on sponsored articles as traditional news stories. And according to the Native Advertising Institute, research says native advertising generates 18% of overall advertising revenues, and publishers expect it will reach 32% by 2020.
Clearly, sponsored content presents significant opportunity for publishers and advertisers alike, each with a great deal to gain from symbiotic relationships that result in meaningful content for readers everywhere. If you keep your eyes out, you will see sponsored content popping up by more publishers as the trend grows and continues to be fruitful.