There is a widespread misconception that content marketing and native advertising are the same thing.
With the former being a fancier and more contemporary way of talking about the latter.
This isn’t helped by the fact that many marketers incorrectly use these two concepts interchangeably.
But both of these channels have different meanings and capabilities. Getting the terminology right is crucial, and knowing the distinction is key.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between content marketing and native advertising, In this article we break down the key differences.
So to begin – what is native advertising?
To put it simply, native advertising it is a single paid-for opportunity where the advertising experience slots into the layout and format of the media without disrupting the user experience.
The first point of clarity in this statement is that native advertising is paid-for by an advertiser. If your product or company information is placed or mentioned on a website but you didn’t have any financial influence in its placement, then it is not native advertising (it’s probably PR or a news article).
Native advertising is almost always content-based (hence the confusion with content marketing). It is useful and interesting information that is highly focused on the target audience. As such, it’s often not a direct advertisement about the company’s service or product.
It is particularly popular online, although is becoming regularly used in print: The New York Times ran its first print native advertisement in 2014 for Shell.
Finally, and importantly, the goal for native advertisements is to avoid disrupting the user’s experience, which is an important factor in it being an ‘authentic’ native ad. It means that it doesn’t have any influence on the normal behaviour of the user and essentially takes on the look and feel of the surrounding content.
Native advertising is popular with social media platforms as ads can be placed ‘in-feed’ or ‘in-stream’ creating minimal user disruption, while delivering highest engagement for the advertiser.
Compared with banner advertising, native is far more discreet and subliminal. As a result, it is often better received by the user. Native ads are growing in popularity and, with the development of technology, are often finding new ways to merge themselves in our everyday lives.
According to the IAB native display will make up the bulk of all US display revenue by 2021, at 74% in total, up from the 56% share it held in 2016. Social platforms are a key area in which native advertising thrives, and they are expected to generate the majority of the revenue from native ads in coming years.
Is it worth doing?
According to Hexagram, who produced a State of Native Advertising report, 62% of publishers and media companies are currently offering some kind of native advertising program to brands, while 66% of brands surveyed are responsible for creating their own content for native advertising programs.
For those that don’t, publishers often assist by creating content. Typically, sponsored blog posts are the most popular kind of native ads at 65%, while sponsored articles come in at 63%, and Facebook sponsored updates come in at 56%.
What about content marketing?
In comparison, content marketing is about the much bigger business picture with a far longer-term goal. In a similar method, it does provide valuable knowledge that helps a highly targeted audience get to know the business.
However, content marketing goes beyond the pure tactical approach to promoting a single piece of content. To forming part of a broader strategy. One that’s focused on helping the business achieve it’s business objectives.
Where as traditional marketing is focused on the promotion of a company’s products and services. Content marketing is an on ongoing process that involves the creation and dissemination of valuable content such as blogs, videos, whitepapers and social media posts for example.
Content marketing channels can include both owned, paid and earned such as:
- Owned channels: Website, blog, email and social media.
- Paid channels: Sponsored articles, sponsored updates, PPC.
- Earned media: Media coverage, social media mentions, shares and reviews.
Essentially, it is about how you promote and market your company through content, rather than just through a single advertisement or feature.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
To succeed in content marketing organisations need to understand what content marketing success looks like, how will it move the business forward, and ultimately – what is the goal.
Content marketing goals go beyond solely increasing social media engagement and website traffic, to helping an organisation achieve its goals at every life-cycle stage from increasing website traffic to generating inbound leads and improving customer advocacy.
Here are some marketing goals content marketing can help with:
- Increase brand awareness: social shares and views.
- Drive more traffic: total number of unique visits, no. of blog post views per month.
- Generate leads: number of leads generated, landing page conversion rates.
- Convert more leads into customers: lead-to-customer conversion rate.
- Improve retention: retention rate, percentage of repeat customers.
To do that companies need to create content for every stage of the buyers journey, from awareness to consideration and purchase.
In a nutshell…
Native advertising can form part of a content marketing strategy – it is one channel available to marketers to help distribute content.
However, content marketing is not native advertising. Instead, it is the bigger picture, in which all of your marketing comes together under one strategy to increase engagement, builder deeper customer relationships and drive sales.