Native Advertising: What is it?

For many, the concept of native advertising is unclear and sometimes mistaken with content marketing. However, native advertising is a very different and important concept in its own right.

A CopyBlogger report found almost half of its respondents said they didn’t know what native advertising was, while the other half said they had little familiarity with it. Despite this, a 2015 Business Insider report found that brands would be increasing their native advertising by 21 billion dollars in 2018, which is double 2015’s almost 10.7 billion dollars.

So how is native advertising spending increasing, while most don’t even know what it is? It’s simple; the brands that do know what it is, know its value (hopefully by the end of this article, you will too.)

What is Native Advertising?

Finding a clear definition for native advertising is challenging, with sites like Wikipedia defining it as “a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears.” Definitions such as this cause confusion and hardly explain what native advertising is.

Quite simply put, native advertising is creating valuable content and presenting it on a platform in a way that resembles the other content the user is there to see.

Still a little confusing? Take a look this example of native advertising on Fox News:

Native advertising blending in with content on Fox News.
Native advertising blending in with content on Fox News.

The content in the red box is not produced by Fox News, it is sponsored news made to resemble and flow with the content below the ‘More From Fox’ heading.

Here’s another example of native advertising, this time using Twitter:

Native advertising implemented into a Twitter feed. (Source: Dialog Tech)
Native advertising implemented into a Twitter feed.
(Source: Dialog Tech)

Once again, the promoted tweet resembles and flows with the other content found in a Twitter users news feed. The goal is still to sell a product or service, but through carefully placed and disguised paid content.

Some confusion surrounding native advertisings function derives from a tarnished reputation it has developed thanks to those who use it for clickbait. Clickbait is sensationalized content that strives to draw attention to the web page it is published to. In order to steer eyes their way, some marketers employ this frowned-upon practice to the headlines of their native ads.

Here’s an example of clickbait from Upworthy:

An example of clickbait on Upworthy
An example of clickbait on Upworthy

Avoid using these headlines to retain audience trust.

How does native advertising differ from content marketing?

Content marketing is a very popular marketing strategy that involves the creation and distribution of original content to attract a specifically targeted audience. This content is intended to be informative and relevant to its audience’s interests.

While the goal of this content is to build a relationship with audience members and increase sales, it does so without directly promoting it’s product or brand. For example, Anthropolgie, a women’s apparel and accessories retailer, creates content around topics that interest its audience, such as travel, fashion ideas, music and DIY’s.

It’s also important to note, content marketing does not involve paying others to distribute your content, your content is published and distributed by you.

Which one is better?

The answer to this question could be debated on endlessly, as both have their downfalls, but one thing that can’t be is the power of native advertising and content marketing used in combination.

After spending time carefully creating and distributing your content, you want it to reach the entirety of your target audience, however, sometimes creating relevant and interesting content isn’t enough. In fact, content marketing on its own cannot always guarantee an audience, especially in highly saturated fields.

For content marketers that are struggling to reach and retain their audience, native advertising is a very useful tool. By paying to distribute your content on popular platforms and displaying it in a way that resembles that platforms content, you can reach a larger audience and then draw them into your content marketing platform.

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