Skip to main content

As your brand gets deeper and deeper into content marketing, you’re likely to come across a variety of new-to-you, unfamiliar terms. Even worse, some of these terms seem interchangeable even though they mean different things. For example, native advertising and native content marketing are similar in concept but also completely different in practice.

For example, many people use the term “native advertising” when they are talking about content marketing. Although native advertising can be a part of content marketing, the two aren’t identical, as the Content Marketing Institute went to great lengths to point out.

To make things even more confusing, there’s also sponsored content and native content marketing, which have some things in common with native advertising, but aren’t the exact same thing. Native content marketing can be part of a content marketing strategy, but it’s not the whole of content marketing.

What Is Native Content Marketing?

Native content marketing is both a part of content marketing and a type of native advertising. Native content marketing often takes the form of a piece of content (whether it’s an article, blog post, or video) that’s recommended to a user looking at a particular publisher.

If you’ve ever looked at a “Recommended for You” sidebar and seen articles that came from the same website or publisher you were viewing, as well as links to articles or content on another site, you’ve seen native content marketing in action.

Unlike straight-up content marketing, native content marketing is typically “pay-to-play.” Your brand usually either pays to have your content appear in the recommendations or pays to have the content created and published on a particular publisher or platform.

For that reason, native content marketing has more in common with advertising than other forms of content marketing. Disclosure is an essential part of any native content marketing strategy. That means you need to let the customer or audience know that you’ve paid to have your content appear as a recommendation or on a particular publisher.

Benefits of Native Content Marketing

One of the benefits of native content marketing is that it’s a type of “pull” marketing. A person makes an active choice to engage with a piece of native content because it’s a topic that he or she finds interesting, or because the content seems like it will help solve a problem. With pull marketing, the audience is already engaged, making the work of the marketer a bit simpler.

Native content marketing can also help to maximize the reach of your brand’s content. While you might be able to pull in some readers from social media and search, having your content appear in the recommendations section of a major publisher or having a major publisher actually post your brand’s content is going to make it more likely to be seen by a wider range of people.

Example of Sponsored Content

Native Content Marketing in the Wild

One of the best examples of native content marketing might be the “New York Times'” T Brand Studio. One of the first native content projects the studio produced was “Women Inmates: Why the Male Model Doesn’t Work.”

For nearly a year after, the article was among those with the most traffic on the “Times'” site.

How to Do Native Content Marketing Right

What can your brand do to make the most of native content marketing? How can you incorporate native content into your existing content marketing strategy?

Produce the best content possible.

Native content marketing is paid media, which means your brand pays for placement. But, you need to ensure what you produce is high quality and the best of the best. Don’t waste your money on crap content.


Disclosing native or sponsored content does two things. First, it ensures that you’re following the FTC’s rules. It also avoids annoying or angering people. No one wants to feel tricked.

Be relevant and accurate.

Earlier forms of native or sponsored content sometimes relied on click-baity headlines that drew people in but delivered very little. You want to create headlines that people want to click. But, you also want to make sure that your headlines don’t overpromise or misrepresent what the content is actually about.

Don’t neglect other elements of content marketing.

Native content should just be one egg in your brand’s content marketing basket. Don’t ignore social, search, or other ways of promoting content in the hopes that native placements will replace them.