People don’t read or watch advertising. They engage with content they like which might happen to be advertising. Advertisers, publishers and journalists have yet to come to terms with “native” advertising, which is content produced or sponsored by advertisers in magazines, newspapers... For example, you can check out this article sponsored by Geico in Buzzfeed. You can also watch Andrew Sullivan and Ben Smith live debate on native ads at social media week 2013.
On one hand, some journalists and publishers argue that native advertising is bad. It is misleading and violates the consumer trust. People visit publishers’ sites such as The New York Times and Washington Post for unbiased information, not to be sold.
On the other hand, advertisers and some publishers argue that native advertising has been around forever in some shape or form. As long as the content is properly labeled, it is fine. Plus, it helps pay the bills. Publishers have been struggling just to keep above water as revenue from print declines and digital fails to make up the difference.
I think there is fairness to both arguments. Publishers need to play a balancing act: Increase digital revenue without alienating their customer base. The current digital revenue model, which depends on display ads and/or subscription, is not working. Therefore, the reality is probably somewhere in the middle. We should accept native advertising as long as it is not misleading, and more importantly, consumers see value in it.
We live in an era of branded entertainment. Consumers, especially millennials, who will compromise 75% of the workforce in 2025, are likely to accept this trade off as long as they get value out of it and don't feel misled. A recent study of millennials (Gen Y) from Edelman yielded some interesting insights relating to Branded Entertainment. Millennials want brands to entertain and help them. Consequently, in the future, native advertising should not be an isue as long as consumers get value out of the content.