Sponsored content (or native advertising) is becoming a smoother and less intrusive way for digital publishers to make revenue without relying on display ads. Major sites like BuzzFeed, Forbes, The Huffington Post and Gawker all offer native advertising. And ethics aside, this model seems to be working. According to AdWeek:
“In the wake of a Pew report that sponsorship advertising was up 40 percent in 2012, Forbes Media is touting the growth of its own revenues—thanks, in part, to its success with native ads.”
But when you consider a medium like print, advertorials are typically frowned upon by readers and the writing staff. Especially in newspapers, advertising and editorial are viewed almost like church and state. Even if you clearly label something as advertising, many print readers get angry.
Is that about to change?
ESPN: The Magazine announced that in its upcoming 15th anniversary issue, it will run an editorial sidebar with the words "Cold Hard Facts presented by Coors Light" on the page, according to AdWeek. Unlike the online native advertising model where the advertiser manages the content, ESPN will have complete control over the sidebars. MillerCoors won’t even get to see the content before publication.
That may sound a tad dicey for an advertiser, but when you consider the fact that ESPN and MillerCoors have a long-standing relationship in broadcast-sponsored content, it’s really not a big risk. If you watch SportsCenter, you’ll often see segments called “Coors Cold Hard Facts." During these segments, the anchor asks a sports analyst six questions, alluding to a six pack of Coors. Again, MillerCoors doesn’t control the content. They’re simply paying to be tied to ESPN and content that they believe will be interesting to their target audience.
So is this case really an advertorial? I don’t think so. It’s an interesting take on sponsored content but because Miller isn’t producing the content I have a hard time labeling it an advertorial. This isn’t purely pay-to-play. It’s pay to be mentioned as a sponsor and be associated with our high-quality content. And that’s OK with me.
Do you place different values on digital, broadcast and print sponsored content?