Often when I explain to my friends and family what I do for work, particularly when discussing how I incorporate blogs into a content marketing strategy, I find myself explaining the difference between native advertising and content marketing.

They’ll ask me, “Is that like when (brand) is featured in (magazine)?”

I’ll reply, “No, that’s native advertising. Content marketing is if you wrote the whole magazine”.

Usually I’m met with a blank stare.

What’s the difference between native advertising and content marketing?

Although the difference between the two can be hard to discern, what it comes down to (according to most definitions) is paid placement. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) puts it this way:

If you pay for placement, it’s advertising. If you pay for placement of valuable, relevant content in a format similar to the third-party site, it’s native advertising. If you don’t pay for placement, the content is not advertising.”

It’s also important to note the intention of the content when making the distinction between native advertising and content marketing. If the intention of the piece is to persuade, promote or sell, it’s native advertising. If the intent is to inform, educate, inspire or empower, it’s probably content marketing.

What’s the difference between native advertising and sponsored content?

For many (myself included), this is where the line can become particularly blurry. Especially as ‘sponsored content’ still technically falls under the content marketing umbrella, whereas ‘native advertising’ does not.

Sponsored content can exist on an unpaid platform with paid sponsorship behind it – for example, on Facebook or LinkedIn through boosted posts. However sponsored content can also exist on platforms you paid to appear on.


Take, for example, the instance of a third-party blog. If a brand has paid to have a piece they wrote themselves featured on a site, it’s native advertising. If they’ve paid for the owner of the blog to write an article that serves the audience but features the brand, it’s sponsored content.

When can native advertising be used in conjunction with content marketing?

It’s not uncommon to see native advertising mentioned in a content marketing strategy, as native advertising still necessitates the production of content. Especially for brands with large audiences, native advertising can be a way to achieve wide exposure in a short time frame. Brands like Netflix, through their native advertising articles in popular publications like the Wall Street Journal, prove that native advertising doesn’t need to be cheap and cheesy, and it can still deliver real value to an audience.

If you’d like to explore creative ideas for your content marketing strategy, contact Lush Digital Media. We create bespoke content marketing strategies for businesses of all sizes and industries.