Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing » When advertising becomes content, who wins — advertisers or publishers, or both?

When advertising becomes content, who wins — advertisers or publishers, or both?

2 March 2013

From Paid Content:

One of the biggest trends in media at the moment is “sponsored content” or what some call “native advertising.” But is it the savior of online media, or just another mirage in the advertising desert?

. . . .

The principle behind what some call sponsored content and others refer to as “native advertising” (and newspapers and magazines called “advertorial”) is that marketing messages and other forms of advertising are more successful when they look and feel just like the other content that surrounds them, rather than an annoying and/or irrelevant interruption. If you can make your message useful, the theory goes, then users are more likely to click or remember.

The most obvious example of this is the kind of advertising that both Twitter and Facebook offer: namely, features like “promoted tweets” and “sponsored stories.” They appear in a user’s stream just like any other status update or message, but they are advertising that is based on — and in some cases even includes — the activity of a user around specific topics (although Facebook’s version has caused some controversy over the inclusion of status updates).

. . . .

Forbes‘ chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin, who will also be on our panel at paidContent Live, has written about the idea behind this platform, and the idea is that branded or marketing-related content should be given a status that is equal to that of the magazine’s traditional content, and that it should succeed or fail based on whether it is actually useful to readers or not. So the blog written by someone who works for a brand or corporate sponsor looks and functions almost exactly the same as any other blog written by a Forbes staffer.

Link to the rest at Paid Content


21 Comments to “When advertising becomes content, who wins — advertisers or publishers, or both?”

  1. P.G.

    The internet is a useful tool, but it is being turned into a pestiferous ad laced flog fest.

    Bluddy Ads….HATE!


  2. Well, the advertiser may “win.” The publisher may “win.” But this sounds like the reader distinctly and definitively loses.

    • Yeah, my reaction was “There’s a third party involved here…”

      Funny that this ignores the principle of generosity that top online media marketers are finding success with.

      • Hey, the reader wins – they get to abandon a site that doesn’t respect them (and made it obvious) in droves and find someone who’ll do it better, while listening to the customer!

        On the internet, your competition is a mouse-click away, and you are erased from a customer’s existence as easily as selecting “manage bookmarks.”

  3. People don’t want to be marketed to constantly. They resent it. They want things that are sincere, genuine, organic and they embrace it gratefully when they come upon it.


    • I had a boss once tell me that people like being sold to.

      I hated that guy.

      • Nobody wants to be sold to but people love to buy. It’s a delicate line between providing information and service and pushing products at your customers. The distinction lies mostly in the attitude, I think.

  4. What about creating a new genre called Corporate Fiction? Go beyond just product placement in your book. Instead, make the product the star or the essential item to bring victory. Just think of the series you can create:
    1. Twinkies Tales (nothing says hero like a cream-filled cake)
    2. Microsoft Mysteries (every crime solved by the use of a Microsoft product like Excel or Word)
    3. Apple Games (I can already picture the cornucopia overflowing with Apple products as young people fight for items and try to kill each other)
    Yes, this has great potential. Sign up your corporate sponsors now and get to writing!

  5. Anything that’s either “promoted” or “sponsored” is an automatic pass for me. I don’t even bother to see if it’s something I might be interested in.

  6. Fascinating. There is a blurred line, and it’s not just advertisers.

    If I’m tweeting (not yet, don’t have a twitter account) in order to connect with people who might buy my book – I’m selling, but not directly. There are some interesting questions there. Am I connecting? Or am I promoting? Am I being manipulative? Or am I offering a valuable product to those who are looking for it? Does this have integrity? Or is it so obvious that it’s aboveboard?

    I don’t like the idea of Forbes creating advertisements that look just like other content, I don’t like being fooled. But I will admit the line is getting very blurry. I think it’s very worth discussion. This is a very new world.

  7. “I’m selling, but not directly. There are some interesting questions there. Am I connecting? Or am I promoting? Am I being manipulative?”


    It’s a fine line.

    Whenever I, as a reader, follow someone who tweets as a writer, I expect to hear the latest news on their output.

    5 tweets a day, containing notification that your book is available on Amz et al is not cuddly.

    If yer going to use Twitter, you have to give up some real time to it. I think you must connect with your audience.

    In my case, that doesn’t mean I need or want to know too many personal details, but something of the personality, something of your story has to be given up.

    Note that my Twitter preference is very different to some others here. I’m social and respond. I read and comment and ask questions.

    Others, as you will have noticed, actually prefer the, “announcement,” type of tweeter. I’ll never be one of them, and I can only buy one, maybe two copies of your book.

    I filter Retweets, and most of the other #Hashtags such as #GetGlue. For me, they are like the axiom at the bottom of someone’s fifty-eight thousandth email, boring repetitive nonsense. I have NO interest in what someone else says, I’m interested in what YOU say.

    If someone finally gets permission to work out how to make a decent client and still remain within Twitter’s API, they’ll make a ton. Twitter desperately needs a client with control.

    This is my twitter, (under control.) You won’t see many stripped as bare as this:)



    • brendan – interesting thoughts, sounds like you are careful not to cross a certain line that you’ve identified.

      What I find interesting is – do we all have the same line? How do we, as a society, define that line? And is it something that can or should be enforced?

      • “do we all have the same line?”


        Oh, nyet.

        That’s why I asked Camille what was too much tweeting.

        I’m a dinosaur. Some of the stuff that passes for, “Trends,” is so boorish and nasty I fear for the species.

        It can be entertaining, and for instant news it can be revelatory, but there are crack-heads out there:)

        I think you could do worse than rissen to Margaret Yang on matters related to Twitter. She knows her stuff.


    • “…and I can only buy one, maybe two copies of your book.”

      For some reason I broke up laughing upon reading that. I think because I suddenly pictured you bicycling through dozens of bookstores scooping up copies of Troll-magic for purchase. Don’t ask me why. I honestly don’t know. But, oh, that image!

      :: still laughing ::

  8. My favorite example is the old spice commercials. You might not like them, bit their target audience loves them and will go to YouTube just to watch them. THAT’s what “advertising as content” means, and it works because the viewer wins.

  9. This is not new. Sometimes you can even get something great from this idea:


    Arguably an even earlier example would be the Shakespeare’s history plays which were great plays and great advertising for the House of Tudor.

    • Poor Richard III wasn’t half the nasty beast Shakespeare created. Great writers can do great harm to truth when writing for a potential benefactor. Maybe if the play had been labeled ‘Sponsored by the house of Tudor’…

  10. This topic reminds me of a book titled “Jennifer Government”, it basically took capitalism to the extreme. People took on the name of their employer as a last name and sales/marketing was literally a combat sport. I think the author’s name was Max Berry.

    Funny read but it also made one wonder where we are heading.

  11. This reminds me of a perennial issue with Wikipedia: PR flacks or other people with a financial stake making edits. On one side, all contributions to Wikipedia should be made on the basis of altruism & without any conflict of interests. On the other, they can’t be any more of a headache than others who have a vested interested in their contribution, & as long as they provide quality information & follow the rules, they can’t cause any further harm. Further, in some cases these folks are experts & can provide material that other editors cannot provide.

    A consensus was forming to accept paid editing — as long as the contributions met all of the other guidelines & rules of Wikipedia — when Jimmy Wales stepped in & announced he would block & ban anyone who accepted money for their edits. Which effectively killed all further discussion of the matter.

    In my opinion, Wales made that decision because he has too much invested in being “Mr. Wikipedia”. If Wikipedia were to lose its reputation, it would reflect badly on him — despite he has far less to do its operation or content than Victoria Barnsley has with editing a book at HarperCollins.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.