It turns out native advertising, the buzzword that seems to have publisher and advertiser aflutter these days, is still very much misunderstood among marketers. A whopping 73 percent of say they have no idea or hardly a clue about what native advertising is according to Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising report.
The results are based on a survey of 2,088 respondents, most of whom are Copyblogger readers and thus likely to be marketers. Just 3 percent of those respondents said they are very knowledgeable about native advertising.
The results are somewhat surprising in light of the attention surge the format has received in the past year as evident in the Google Trends chart for the term.
Publishers are eying new revenue streams and advertisers see the ads as a way to couch their messages in the ethos of editorial. The Online Publisher’s Association shows 90 percent of US publishers either already offer or plan to offer native advertising opportunities this year, while BIA/Kelsey predicts brands will spend $4.57 billion on social native ads by 2017.
Certainly part of the confusion comes from the vast number of ad types that can be crowded under the native advertising umbrella. Advertorials and sponsored content are the genesis for just some of what is called native advertising — those paid articles on sites like Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, Forbes. In-stream ads and promoted posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo are also often considered forms of native advertising — in that they are presented in formats akin to the organic posts on those sites — as are product placements and content recommendation widgets.
However, more than a third of respondents weren’t able to identify what is considered native advertising when given the options Promoted Tweets, Advertorials and Branded Content. Just 23 percent answered correctly that they’re all considered native advertising. Does this mean these marketers don’t think those are ads? Of course not. It most likely points to the fact that the term native advertising is still really “ambiguous” as the report’s author Demian Farnworth puts it. It’s also not held in particularly high regard for that matter.
More than half (51 percent) said they are skeptical about native advertising. Just 9 percent said they or their companies have budgets dedicated to native advertising, and 91 percent spend less than $100 of their ad budgets on native advertising.
Only 11 percent of those who identified as freelancers or working for an agency said they are “very likely” to offer native advertising as a service or option.
Buzzfeed is known for building a business model on native advertising with its sponsored listicles, so it’s not all that surprising that 72 percent of respondents said they weren’t at all or hardly bothered by the fact that brands create content in publications like Buzzfeed. However, when asked about an old-guard publication like The New York Times (which also has its own native advertising program) that number rises to 49 percent.
And what about advertisers or corporations reporting the news? Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents would be “very much” concerned. Farnworth finds this “striking because corporations already do report on the news” because, by their very nature, most news outlets and publications are corporations.
Here’s a full look at the survey questions and responses: