The Intersection of Content Marketing and Advertising

In order to deliver something more memorable than most advertising, marketers are turning to content that tells a story, engages the audience and delivers value.

But how do marketers reach a large audience with their content? Major publishers continue to have audiences that dwarf those of nearly every marketer, relying on just their own audience isn’t enough.

In the past, marketers relied on advertising and PR to get to these audiences, but those approaches mean the marketer’s own content is still a step removed. Today, there is an emerging third option that allows marketers to distribute quality content at scale: native advertising.

What is Native Advertising

Native advertising blends advertising and editorial, putting marketers’ content in the same space as editorial content.

For purposes of this article, we are focused on native advertising within traditional editorial publications, not native advertising formats used by social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Here are two examples of publishers offering native advertising opportunities appropriate for B2B marketing.

Forbes BrandVoice
“Forbes BrandVoice allows marketers to connect directly with the Forbes audience by enabling them to create content – and participate in the conversation – on the Forbes digital publishing platform.”

Light Reading TV Custom Programming
Light Reading TV Custom Programming “allows you to effectively own the message you want to deliver to a qualified audience, backed by the editorial integrity provided through the industry’s largest publication.”

Here is an example from Light Reading’s homepage:

Native Advertising is a relatively new term but it is not a new idea. The Light Reading example above was around well before native advertising entered the marketing lexicon. In many ways, native advertising is akin to advertorials, although the bar for quality is far higher.

Keys to Successful Native Advertising

Like content marketing and social media in recent years, native advertising places new demands on marketers. However, larger advertisers that have embraced content marketing and publishing will find they are already well positioned.

Here are the three key requirements for successfully starting in native advertising:

  1. A Publishing Mindset: Do you value establishing and growing the audience for your content? Is having that audience, without a lead, ad exposure or demo download, an element of your success?
  2. Excellent Content: Most marketing content pales in comparison to the quality of content produced by independent editorial teams. In native advertising, your content needs to be able to compete side-by-side with editorial content at a time when sharing and social media are key to driving page views. The bar for quality is higher than ever before. Does your content measure up?
  3. Budgets: Native advertising is not free. With costs ranging from a $5,000 for a single contributed blog post on established B2B sites to $1,000,000 a year for Forbes BrandVoice program (source), placement within editorial can come at a significant premium. [Note: native advertising programs often include accompanying ad space as well]

If you meet these guidelines, the value can be significant. Here are three marketers working with Forbes that are getting significant distribution for their content.

  • SAP’s top 5 articles alone have driven more than 300,000 pageviews and have been in the list of Forbes most read articles.
  • Gyro’s article Welcome to the Era of Design has been viewed more than 100,000 times. Contrast this to, which Compete estimates gets only 5,000 total visitors a month.
  • An article from NetApp topped the most read articles on Forbes list in September. At least briefly, NetApp’s content topped every piece of traditional editorial content on Forbes!

By creating excellent content and distributing it with editorial on a high traffic property, these marketers have been able to distribute their content much more broadly than they would through traditional content marketing alone.

Are you a content and inbound marketer and only meet the first two requirements? See this post for more information on quickly ramping up inbound volume with smaller investments.

Your Turn

What is your perspective on native advertising? Is this a breakdown in the chinese wall between advertising and editorial or a valuable new opportunity for both marketers and publishers?

Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Image credit: Danilo Rizzuti /

Get every post delivered directly to your inbox.

Your email address will not be shared or sold. I hate spam too.


  1. says

    With all due respect, this is a dangerous path to follow. Merging marketing content/advertising with editorial content will quickly lead to your prospects trusting neither. This approach seems to me, IMHO, to be another example of something that can be done but perhaps should not be done. The short term gain has to be weighed against the potential long-term harm that could be done.

    • says

      Emily, thanks for your perspective here. So much will come down to execution on both the advertiser’s and the publisher’s part.

      I think we will see some failures, particularly with smaller publishers where advertisers have difficulty justifying the investment to produce the best quality content. However, I think some of the Forbes examples show that marketers can, at times, provide content that is as good as traditional journalists.

      As long as marketers are willing to provide value to the publishers audience instead of push their own message, I believe it can work. But you raise a very good point, what is the long term impact, particularly since we all know some publishers and marketers will treat this as advertising space and use it to push their marketing message.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. says

    I see what Emily is saying, but I hope that over the long term, people will realise that heavy sales-led content will be ignored and good quality discussion-prompting editorial will become prominent.

    David Lomas

  3. says

    Eric, thanks for the mention and appreciate your perspectve here. You know I support this 100% because I believe brands have a role in meeting our customers information needs.

    But what I find most interesting is how few agree and even how much disagreement this causes. I think we have a big job ahead and plenty of traditional mentality resistance to overcome.

    Marketing is not just about promoting products. And Brands have a role in delivering valuable info!

    • says

      Thanks Michael. There is both resistance and interest from all corners it seems. As long as marketers have the perspective you have, that brands need to deliver value beyond their product or service, there is a lot of potential here. The disagreement comes when people expect marketers to just push marketing messages, IMO.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *