Mention the phrase “sponsored content,” “sponsored journalism,” “branded content,” or “native advertising,” and I guarantee you’ll get a reaction all over the map from journalists, advertisers, and readers. (Heck, no one can even agree on what to call it.)
The increased blurring of lines between advertising, news, and editorial is the latest digital dogfight to take hold of the world’s most popular sites—from homegrown online media darlings like BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and Mashable to traditional publishers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes.
With a cascade of media attention, sponsored content has become both hero and headache for the publishing industry. Either way, here’s why it’s not going away anytime soon.
A match made in publishing heaven
Sponsored content is estimated to be a $1.54B industry in 2013 alone. For lots of professional journalists, it represents a complete sell-out—faux news cloaked in a fish wrapper and the antithesis of true reporting. But for publishers desperate for revenue streams, having witnessed their ad budgets and paid subscriptions steadily shrinking, it’s a lifesaver.