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Sponsored Articles

Posted by admin on November 15, 2018


In this day and age, people are able to get millions of different sources of information about any given subject at the simple touch of a button. One search on any search engine will instantly pull up an array of blog posts, interviews, articles and more that are all linked to the keywords that the user has searched. It is then up to the user to filter through all of the results and open up the information that is relevant to them.


While this seems easy enough, more than 2.73 million blog posts are written and published daily. This gives users a huge amount of information to try and get through, as well as giving other companies an unprecedented amount of competition when trying to break into the market. More often than not, industries are actually experiencing a content surplus, which means that they are literally saturated with information and explanations, which continues to make it even more challenging for different companies and marketers to reach their target audience and actually get their content seen.


There are some channels of marketing which are easily and readily accepted by users, including emails, PPC, SEO and social media broadcasting, and these definitely help deliver content to the right people, but there is no guarantee. In fact, some social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are adjusting their algorithms to ensure the least amount of organic visibility for brands. This means that companies are turning to alternative methods of advertising, including, specifically, paid or sponsored articles.


These sponsored articles are popular with almost everyone, as they boast a very impressive collection of users. From The New York Times to Forbes’ Brand Voice, companies everywhere have realized the value of these blog posts. In fact, research from 2013 has shown that brands spend, on average, upwards of 6.7% of their marketing budgets on sponsored content.


Defining native advertising and sponsored articles


Part of the reason that these adverts are so appealing to business, is because of their ability to blend in with the rest of the webpage. This concept is known as native advertising, and is defined as “paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behaviour that the viewer simply feels that they belong” by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).


According to the IAB, the sponsored articles fall into the “in-feed” category of native advertising. When this is broken down, it is basically saying that any type of sponsored content amounts to being advertised on a particular media outlet in the form of editorial content, so that it blends in and to the user, looks like it’s supposed to be there. Companies put a lot of value on this, as it gives a link and association to the publication and their business and this heightened exposure to its target audience can lead to more visits on their webpages and, ultimately, bring more customers.


Controversy of sponsored articles


However, being able to blend in and look like editorial content has proven to be a bit of a double edged sword. A fair number of publishers have openly criticized sponsored content becoming native content, as it could very easily damage the integrity of a publication, as well as a brand’s image. It is not just publishers who are unhappy. Some customers feel as though they are being tricked, as most of them are actually unaware that the advertisements they are seeing have been paid for.


As a whole, it is apparent that native advertising, in general, is misunderstood by many consumers and marketers. In fact, Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising Report surveyed over 2,000 marketers and discovered that 73 percent were either completely unfamiliar with or hardly familiar with native advertising. In the first quarter of 2015, Contently surveyed 542 U.S. internet users to determine what they thought about sponsored articles. Only 48 percent of the respondents believed sponsored content that was labelled as such was paid for by an advertiser that had influenced the content produced. This level of unclarity is dangerous for everyone involved, as people need to have a clear cut idea of what is being sold to them, whether it is the brand, product or idea.


How easy is it to spot them?


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released Native Advertising: A Guide for Business in December of 2015, as a way for business to know exactly where their boundaries are, as well as giving customers an official piece of documentation so that they know what to look for when searching for different types of sponsored content. However, it hasn’t quite figured out how to regulate native advertising. The FTC has delayed handing down regulations around disclosure requirements, language and graphic separation. Some companies, like Buzzfeed for example, have actually made a whole business model out of these “listicles”. Some of the easiest ways for customers to be able to accurately find these types of articles is to look for certain keywords, such as ‘paid/sponsored/promoted/presented’ by.


Sponsored content is literally a product of its own environment. Businesses needed to find a way to incorporate their advertisements in the lives and routines of the target audience, especially as traditional advertising is becoming less effective year-over-year. Unfortunately for some, banner blindness runs rampant. According to Solve Media, you’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad. These paid for adverts can be seen as a less intrusive type of advertising, as it looks much more natural and can easily blend into the topic that users are already reading about, rather than linking them to another web page or harassing them with pop-ups.


However, it also runs the risk of customers feeling lied to, or deceived as they are not always aware that what they are reading is in fact an advert. With the different ways that adverts can be seen constantly evolving, as well as the number of competitors constantly growing, it should not come as a surprise that sponsored content is so popular.