#MuckedUp chat Tuesday: Much ado about native advertising

#MuckedUp chat Tuesday: Much ado about native advertising

It goes by many names -- “sponsored content,” “native advertising” and “content marketing” -- but it’s all the same animal: content created jointly by publishers and sponsors that fits the design of its particular platform (hence, the word “native!”) and in many cases, it looks indistinguishable from that publication’s editorial content. It’s also designed to be more appealing than regular advertising. Ever eyeball those small widgets that sit at the bottom of online articles under headers like “Recommended for you” or “From around the web?” Then you’ve seen just one example of native advertising at work. 

And it’s catching. Just last week the Salt Lake Tribune joined the ranks of native ad experimenters, beginning its own foray into exploration with sponsored content in an effort to boost revenue. Meanwhile, Taboola, one of the leading tech companies that distribute advertiser-sponsored content online, has expanded its circle of partners to include numerous respected publishers: The New York Times, BBC, Time.com and many others all embed third-party sponsored links on their sites. But just recently the Better Business Bureau ordered Taboola to make sponsored content disclosures more prominent, criticizing their content’s confusing similarity to normal editorial. And they’re right; it often does look too similar.

Still, The American Press Institute offers a thoughtful analysis on the landscape of sponsored content, including both its positives and its ethical implications. For instance, API points out that native advertising shouldn’t be confused with advertorials and its benefits are still bountiful -- yet at the same time, its use also puts brand credibility at risk and begs for constant regulatory intervention: “The best protection for a publisher is to encode a set of standards and processes for handling sponsored content, so each piece is not left to varying degrees of inspection or care,” the report suggests. One rule-of-thumb cited: the content should be so useful and accurate that the reader wouldn’t care whether it was sponsored or not. “If the reader would be upset to learn after reading that this content was sponsored, then somewhere you’ve crossed a line.”

Let’s figure out where that line is. If you have questions you'd like us to address, email or tweet them to me, and then join us on Twitter as we delve into this increasingly relevant topic, this upcoming Tuesday, May 27, at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST.

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