Content marketing vs native advertising: what’s the difference?

The relationship between consumers and advertisers has hit an all-time low. Today, according to eMarketer’s latest study, one in four Americans block ads, which amounts to a number larger than 70 million users – and that’s just in the US.

In other parts of the world, the story is almost the same. People have grown tired of aggressive marketing tactics, so they have decided to put up a wall and distance themselves from lazy and uninspiring advertisements.

This, of course, has a lot of negative repercussions for publishers. Regardless of the business model they’ve opted for, most publishers still run ads. A noticeable portion of their overall revenue is still made through selling premium real estate on their pages. Even though most publishers now try to be frank and creative when it comes to asking people to pause their ad blocking devices, a lot of them still struggle to get readers to comply.

It’s no surprise then, that most brands and publishers are pulling away from ads and investing larger portions of their budget and effort in other marketing tactics that will help them reach customers in a non-obtrusive way.

The two most well-known such tactics are content marketing and native advertising. If you don’t really have much experience with these two concepts, content marketing and native advertising might well seem like two different phrases that explain the same thing, which isn’t really the case.

Mistaking these two ideas is not only confusing but also dangerous. If publishers and brands aren’t on the same page with what certain terms actually mean, they can easily start talking at cross purposes and fail to meet each other’s expectations.

Ever eager to ease this kind of strife, we at Content Insights decided it was high time to set the record straight, clarify the similarities and differences once and for all.

Ready? Then, let’s begin.

Content marketing

Content marketing revolves around the continuous creation and distribution of relevant content that’s supposed to influence the target audience’s actions and perception of specific brands.

As with any other marketing activity, the end goal of content marketing is to generate more leads and sales – however it doesn’t expect to do it as directly as other approaches.

Unlike most traditional marketing activities, content marketing is not a race, but a marathon. The main idea of this practice is not to chase people online and aggressively push them to buy specific items, products, or services, but to slowly, subtly, and patiently build solid relationships with current and potential customers.

Through a steady stream of fresh and relevant content, marketers build trust, credibility, and authority for their brand, which in return helps them increase sales. People begin to recognize their expertise and the quality of their offerings, which significantly lowers the level of difficulty needed to break through potential customers.

The content that is made under the umbrella of a specific content marketing strategy can be distributed anywhere across the web. Traditionally, marketers might share content on their company blog and social media profiles, however, it’s not really that uncommon to enlist third-party-owned websites and pages into the mix.

This is especially interesting to publishers. A lot of big brands today make publishers a crucial part of their content strategy. Instead of paying for standard PR articles, companies are now interested in writing columns for different online magazine and news portals. This way they’re improving the visibility of their brand and building trust in their expertise.

Native advertising

Native advertising is a form of paid advertising where the ad experience follows the look, feel, and function of the user experience of the platform where it appears. In layman’s terms, the main idea behind native advertising is to create advertisements that are more contextual than other forms of digital advertising.

The ads themselves have to mimic the content of the media on which it appears in order to be effective. They need to come in shape of relevant, valuable and non-interruptive articles that meet the expectations of a particular audience.

A wide variety of different formats fit the definition of native advertising. Some of the most common are:

  • Advertorials in newspapers and magazines.
  • Advertiser-funded programming on broadcast – or web – TV.
  • Promoted or sponsored posts on popular social media websites.

Native advertising is definitely reshaping the publishing industry and many have decided to include it as one of the revenue sources in their business models. As such, it is changing both the way publishers sustain their businesses and the way brands look to promote themselves.

The main differences between content marketing and native advertising

Even though both of these practices share the same fundamental goal of promoting brands, products, and services without being too aggressive, or appearing as standard advertisements, they are not really the same.

To return neatly to our athletic metaphor, native advertising is the Usain Bolt of the track, whereas content marketing is the Haile Gebrselassie

With native advertising, we focus on concrete, short-term goals. We pay to access someone’s audience. The goal is to organically integrate a piece of content into the desired platform. In that sense, a promotional piece has to be seen by the readers as “just another article” on that website.

When we’re investing in content marketing, we are basically in the process of building an audience and bringing people to our channels. This practice has a much wider scope. Unlike native advertising, content marketing is not a “one and done” deal. It’s more a series of efforts and materials that we use to build relationships with people. The goal is to gain the users’ trust and influence their purchasing decisions over time.

In order to achieve this, content marketers need to deliver value to the targeted crowd through various different formats on a continual basis. They need to regularly update their blog, publish guest posts on authority websites, create infographics, do interviews with industry experts, case studies, use cases, host webinars – the end result is dependent on a lot of different activities.

Closing Words

Even though content marketing and native advertising are not synonyms, both of these practices are often part of the same strategy and they complement each other. Apart from generating traffic, more leads, sales, and other obvious benefits, these two concepts also do wonders for the brands and publishers that invest in them correctly. The real benefits lie in long-term engagement and reputation building.

Investing in native advertising can be a smart move if you’re savvy enough to strategically choose the right publications to collaborate with. The idea is to grab the attention of the fresh yet relevant pool of audience and put yourself on their radar.

On the other hand, publishers need to find a way to promote their native advertising services and organize their writing teams for the greatest business gains. More importantly, they have to provide reliable content performance reports so that brands know what is the ROI they can expect.

Are you a publisher looking to explore the possibilities of native advertising as a business model? Or maybe you’re a content marketer struggling with measuring content performance of your high traffic company blog? Get in touch with us today and see how Content Insights can help!

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