Ever find yourself reading an article online or in a magazine only to realize it’s “sponsored content”? Does it bother you?
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released a report earlier this month on the changing news industry and among the topics covered were sponsored content and “native advertising.” Lovingly referred to as “advertorials” during my journalism days, these are articles that are penned and paid for by an advertising company, not the publication’s editorial team, but largely made to look like the publication’s regular content.
In their study, Reuters said “a third or more” of readers in the United States and United Kingdom “have felt disappointed or deceived after reading an article they later found had been sponsored.”
Before we all scrap our sponsored content plans because we’re worried about reader backlash, let’s take a deep breath and consider two key points. First, there are (at least) two sides to every statistic. Two thirds of participants in the study have not felt disappointed or deceived by sponsored content. Not too shabby.
Second, the study doesn’t control for the quality of the content. Maybe the study participants were remembering the one or two bad articles that were thinly veiled attempts to sell a product or that didn’t consider their audience.
The moral of the story here should be: If you’re planning to develop sponsored content, make sure it’s good content.
To that end, here are a few things to consider:
In an era of ad-blocking software and growing fatigue around online ads and pop-up banners, sponsored content is a way for advertisers to get their brand in front of a relevant audience and for publications to continue to bring in needed revenue. This kind of content isn’t going away any time soon, and you can capitalize on it by creating good, strong content.
Erin George is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. Connect with Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ErinLawley.
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