Native advertising was one of the buzzwords in 2013. As digital outlets such as news sites looked for ways to make money, many turned to sponsored content.

A native advertising distribution firm, Sharethrough, ranked the most popular sponsored stories in 2013, according to Adweek. Most of the data was based on shares through social media platforms.

The top sponsored content was actually about books.

HarperCollins sponsored a post on BuzzFeed “17 Problems Only a Book Lover Will Understand.” It had more than 700,000 social actions.

The story on BuzzFeed generated nearly 1.5 million pageviews.

But how does this translate into leads? The post was amazingly popular, but other than a small area at the top of the list was HarperCollins even mentioned. Also, there are no ways of tying any of these ’17 things’ to the publisher.

It was a cute post. I remember reading it when it came out. But, since I’m already a book lover, I didn’t feel compelled to purchase more books – especially running out to buy anything from HarperCollins.

I’m curious to see how native advertising will be handled in 2014 as the Federal Trade Commission looks more closely at the sponsored content.


  1. In the same way that newspapers have always differentiated between news (facts), editorial opinion and advertisements (via clear labeling), this convention should be extended to all other media, including these sponsored stories. As a reader, I always want to consider the source but to do so I must know what that source is.

  2. “In the same way that newspapers have always differentiated between news (facts), editorial opinion and advertisements (via clear labeling)”

    I only have a cursory knowledge of the history of newspapers and even I know that’s not true. Check the Internet Archive or Google Books and you’ll find advertorials, “native advertising”, or whatever you want to call it has been around since at least the the late 1800s. And I would bet that you would find them even earlier.

  3. There are eight main parts of a typical modern newspaper. They are:
    1. Front Page
    2. Editorial Page
    3. Sports Page
    4. Classified Ads
    5. Entertainment
    6. Opinion
    7. Business and Finance
    8. Obituary

    In this scheme, the intention is to use labeling to segregate factual reporting from the editor’s opinion and the opinions of readers and others and, further, to segregate these from commercial messages (Classifieds).
    That this convention is sometimes not well lived up to (e.g. Yellow Journalism) doesn’t change the fact that the newspaper convention is to alert readers as to the source of what they are reading. An infomercial is advertising and should be labeled as such both in newspapers and elsewhere.

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