Native Advertising Versus Content Marketing: Understanding the Distinction

Native Advertising

Native advertising seamlessly integrates promotional content into a platform's user experience, blending in with the surrounding content to deliver targeted messaging to the audience.

The landscape of internet marketing has undergone significant evolution over the past 15 years, necessitating the adaptation of terminologies to reflect these changes. Among these evolving terms are native advertising and content marketing.

Native advertising denotes a specific method employed by marketers for content distribution, whereas content marketing encompasses a broader spectrum of advertising and content dissemination practices.

Despite the similarity in terminology, many businesses and marketers incorrectly conflate the two concepts. However, it’s crucial to recognize their distinct meanings and functionalities. Understanding this disparity is paramount for comprehending the trajectory of internet marketing and strategizing for the future. This article delves into elucidating the disparities between these two content formats.

Native Advertising

Native advertising is a familiar concept to many of us, albeit to varying degrees. It’s a form of online marketing distinguished by its subtle and integrated placement of ads, coupled with the delivery of relevant and useful content tailored to a specific audience.

These ads are seamlessly integrated into a website, often appearing between paragraphs, with the aim of preserving the viewer’s browsing experience. Unlike traditional advertisements, native ads typically don’t overtly promote a product or service. Here’s an example of how native advertising appears on BuzzFeed:

More often than not, this method of content distribution leverages relevant or intriguing information to captivate the targeted readership on external platforms. Often employing industry-standard “headline hacks,” as demonstrated above.

In essence, a space for a native advertisement resembles a slot for a TV commercial or an empty roadside billboard. These ads are distinguishable from other banners and the hosting website by a small label such as “ad” or “sponsored content,” though these labels are becoming increasingly inconspicuous over time.

Numerous platforms facilitate this form of content discovery, ranging from Yahoo Gemini to Outbrain and Taboola, among others. Below is a brief overview of the top three “content discovery” platforms:


Established in 2007, Taboola operates as a content discovery platform, facilitating connections between individuals and content. The company boasts a significant reach, delivering content to more than 550 million distinct visitors each month and generating over 200 billion recommendations to various websites, including notable platforms like Business Insider, Bloomberg, and USA Today.


Established in 2006, Outrain offers a service specializing in “recommended links” to enhance qualified traffic and revenue generation. The company’s strategic partnerships with premium publishing platforms such as CNN, Mashable, People, and MSNBC provide a significant advantage, resulting in substantial volumes of high-quality traffic.

Yahoo Gemini

Yahoo’s Gemini marketplace for native advertising debuted in February 2015 and serves as the default audience option for Yahoo advertisers. Leveraging proprietary data signals, Yahoo targets audiences based on their interests across various Yahoo web properties, including Yahoo Finance, as well as third-party websites and apps. The platform offers several advantages, including protection against click fraud, reduced competition for cost-effective branding (especially for target demographics aligning with interest layering), and affordable remarketing opportunities.

Notably, the native ad formats provided by Yahoo are unaffected by the increasing use of ad blockers, with over 200 million users currently employing such software. Additionally, click costs typically range between $0.03 and $0.06 for mobile and desktop, respectively.

Considering the upward trajectory of display ad revenue, it’s evident that native advertising is experiencing continuous growth. Marketers should heed this trend and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Content Marketing

On the contrary, content marketing encompasses a broader concept with a more extensive and long-term objective. While similar to native advertising in providing valuable information to enhance brand visibility and engage a targeted audience, content marketing’s primary focus extends beyond mere awareness-building.

Content marketing aims to nurture leads as part of a sustained, long-term process ultimately leading to sales and conversions. Unlike native advertising, which typically revolves around individual pieces of content, content marketing is an ongoing endeavor integrated into a comprehensive marketing campaign.

This multifaceted approach includes various content assets such as videos, guides, newsletters, whitepapers, and the blog you’re currently reading. A crucial distinction lies in the ownership of the media shared through content marketing; businesses own and control these assets, which become valuable components of their brand. In contrast, native ads operate on a “pay to play” basis, disseminated on platforms not owned by the company.

For effective content marketing, marketers should segment their content strategy into top, middle, and bottom funnel strategies, as outlined below.

Why Does this Matter?

Recognizing the distinction between these two facets of digital marketing enables us to leverage them effectively and enhance our marketing strategies. Native advertising focuses on intriguing potential customers through rented services, guiding them back to the type of content owned by the business. This content is meticulously targeted to sustain customer interest, foster trust, and ultimately drive conversions.

That’s not all…

The synergy between native advertising and content marketing becomes evident when examining their collaborative impact. While they possess distinct goals and employ different methodologies, when combined, they can deliver a substantial amount of high-quality content to targeted customers.

The combination of native ads and content marketing creates a synergistic one-two punch, particularly when integrated with other retargeting funnel tactics. This holistic approach not only maximizes return on investment but also ensures that businesses effectively engage their audience and drive meaningful results.