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It’s official: sponsored content has taken over 2016. From prime-time television to political campaigns to Apple, the buzzworthy native format is starting to change the way publishers, advertisers, and consumers think about ads, content, and the attention economy.

Sponsored content is a form of in-feed native advertising that promotes a specific piece of content on a specific publisher site. Sponsored articles (or “stories”) are generally more custom executions that offer brands more on-page SOV (share of voice), vs. programmatic native campaigns through Taboola or Outbrain that take users off-site post-click. Because advertiser content lives on publisher sites, this ad format is becoming increasingly popular with both larger media publications and smaller industry-focused blogs.

Here are a few of the biggest headlines in sponsored content so far this year – and why they matter.

NBC is starting to replace standard TV commercials with sponsored content paid for by advertisers

Programmatic TV ad buys are officially old school. NBC recently started featuring sponsored content in place of traditional :30 spots. The content – in the form of celebrity interviews – was created by BuzzFeed, with the American Express brand mentioned before and after each segment.

Consumers – especially millennials – are becoming less and less engaged with traditional forms of advertising. This behavioral shift is creating valuable branding opportunities for digital publishers willing to invest in engaging, high-value content distribution strategies.

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Bernie Sanders’ campaign bought a ‘Sponsored Story’ on Politico

Running for president? Do as disruptive consumer brands do. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign recently bought a 1,200-word sponsored post on Politico. The article was promoted alongside Politico’s own editorial content.

Sponsored articles are quickly becoming a popular way for brands to capture the attention of highly-targeted audiences with long-form content. With this execution, advertisers are usually also granted a certain percentage (sometimes 100%) of on-page SOV, a major value-add for brands trying to drive post-engagement site visits or other conversions.

 

Apple News now has sponsored posts

iPhone and iPad users browsing the Apple News app will now be served in-feed native ads, in the form of branded sponsored content. Apple also recently announced that its iAd advertising platform will soon be completely automated and self-serve for publishers.

In an effort to maximize its mobile app monetization, Apple is eliminating any barrier to entry for advertisers. With Apple reporting over 40 million users in January, brands would be smart to consider developing a sponsored strategy for the growing news app.

 

Pocket, a popular app for saving links to view later, is now monetizing with sponsored articles

Sponsored articles are now featured alongside your bookmarked content, too. As more publishers and content recommendation companies develop increasingly-relevant digital experiences for users, opportunities for brand discovery are at an all-time high.

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Sponsored content campaigns are highly-effective native advertising executions for brands focused on upper-funnel customer acquisition. Marketers should consider a ‘sponsored strategy’ that supplements a more robust programmatic native discovery marketing approach for maximum upper-funnel exposure.