By Joe Pulizzi published August 23, 2014

This Week in Content Marketing: When Native Advertising Erodes Trust

pnr logoPNR: This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose can be found on both iTunes and Stitcher.

In this episode, Robert and I dive into the controversial issue of native advertising and talk about what happened when a blogger “liked” everything he saw on Facebook for two days. We also discuss the latest research on the growing pay gap between journalists and public relations professionals, rant about unscrupulous marketers trying to benefit from Robin Williams’ death and Amazon’s crazy idea on eBook pricing, and review The Compass magazine by UPS as this week’s This Old Marketing example.

This week’s show

(Recorded live on August 19, 2014; Length: 1:02:12)

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1. Content Marketing in the News

  • Is “Going Native” Nothing More Than Deceptive Advertising? (4:30): Doug Kessler from Velocity Partners takes proponents of native advertising to task in this eloquent blog post. He lists four of the arguments that apologists make in defense of the technique (including several points from my recent LinkedIn column) — and debunks each of them. Robert and I agree, in principle, with Kessler’s points; but we both take issue with his contention that publishers are purposely trying to deceive their readers and that all native advertising erodes trust. I also give a prediction about publishers and native advertising, which leads us into a discussion on another article on the topic…
  • Native Advertising is Further Proof We’ve Lost Our Way (17:51): This opinion piece by Todd Copilevitz on Digiday is somewhat confusing. It implies that both marketers and publishers have been blinded by trying to create short-term gains from minimal investments. Marketers are always trying to find new opportunities to exploit, while publishers are struggling to uncover new revenue streams — not exactly a new revelation. The article ultimately issues a challenge to marketers, which is exactly what Robert and I have been saying for some time now.
  • When the “Like” Strikes Back (26:11): This article from Yahoo Tech chronicles one writer’s social experiment, in which he liked everything that showed up in his Facebook feed for 48 hours. It quickly devolved into a cavalcade of ads and sponsored content, which pushed out nearly all of his friends’ updates and started to infect their feeds with more ads, too. Robert and I share what our key takeaways are from this fascinating story — both good and potentially scary.
  • The Growing Pay Gap Between Journalism and PR (34:36): The salary gap between public relations specialists and news reporters has widened over the past decade to almost $20,000 a year, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center. I’m not sure why Pew chose to release this “new” analysis, because, in truth, the data on this hasn’t changed very much in the last few years. It also ignores brand journalists, who tend to be paid significantly more than traditional journalists.

2. Sponsor (39:45)

  • This week, This Old Marketing is being sponsored by Smartling. A multilingual website is your gateway to the global marketplace. But being truly multilingual isn’t just about translated content. It’s also about providing visitors with an authentic and transparent user experience. Smartling has published a white paper entitled, Creating an Optimal User Experience for Global Website Visitors, that contains best practices for companies that are building a global brand across multiple languages. You can download it at

smartling white paper cover

3. Rants and Raves (42:02)

  • Robert’s Rant: Within hours of the announcement of Robin Williams’ untimely death, several marketers published blog posts with headlines like, Marketing Lessons From Robin Williams’ Movies. The deputy managing editor of the New York Daily News’ digital group sent a memo to his employees congratulating them for keeping their articles “SEO strong” by stuffing them with keywords related to the renowned comedian and actor’s death. These ill-conceived efforts at newsjacking are tacky and should be avoided.
  • Joe’s Rant: recently announced that it wants all eBook authors to price their books at $9.99  — a price the company believes to be optimum for all parties involved. I explain why that line of thinking is seriously flawed.
  • Joe’s Rave: I also offer a rave on an image I found on Facebook, in which an Ad Sense ad was placed in a New York Times graphic for a “Scientific 7-Minute Workout.” It’s an amusingly “meta” example of Google’s efforts to steal audience away from a publisher — in essence, it’s Google spending its own ad money to promote its content marketing within its own ad.

figure doing exercises-scientific 7-minute workout

5. This Old Marketing Example of the Week (54:36)

  • Compass Magazine from UPS: This high-quality magazine started life two decades ago as a print piece. In its quarterly print format, it is distributed to over 600,000 subscribers worldwide; the monthly digital version, launched earlier this year, already has over 400,000 readers. Its content is focused on helping corporate shipping managers get better at their jobs. Compass is an excellent example of content marketing that’s focused on the needs of a very specific audience.

man in warehouse-compass

For a full list of the PNR archives, go to the main This Old Marketing page. 

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Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Norton Loomer

    Interesting that you picked a Robin Williams headline that only had 530 views on LinkedIn. I guess they should expect to see more traffic now that you linked their article.

    Also, I definitely agree with your thoughts on Amazon’s $9.99 e-book pricing scheme. There is no one-size-fits-all price tag for e-books.

    • Robert Rose

      Yes Norton….. Agreed that it’s probably ironic that we placed the link there…. But at least we didn’t call this week’s episode “The Native Advertising Secrets Of Robin Williams”…. Thanks for listening!!

  • Eric Wittlake

    I want to comment here on your native discussion (and I loved Doug’s article as well).

    Joe: “Is there deception?”
    Robert: “There may be but it is unintended.”

    I’ve talked to account leads and media leads at agencies that recommend native publishing programs and MANY have flagged the credibility their message has by publishing on sites like Forbes. Many have said they wouldn’t run the same thing as an advertorial in print. They specifically value publishing under the masthead.

    If agencies are recommending these programs because the audience reads an article and believes it changes perception because people believe it comes through a process with editorial oversight, that deception is key to its value.

    If you didn’t see Augie Ray’s piece last week on this, it is definitely worth a read:

    Keep it up, enjoy the show!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks so much Eric. It’s an interesting conversation that continues to evolve. But yes, if I’m a brand, I’m ALL IN with native right now. I’m projecting (as we discussed) that many publishers will take this off the table in the near future, while some will bask in it (like BuzzFeed)

      • Eric Wittlake

        Joe, I’d personally expand that a little bit and say (for marketers that are decent at least at content) that I’m all in on native with publishers that allow me, as a brand, to borrow the credibility they’ve established for their masthead (and there is that deception bit…). I’ve been referring to this as native publishing, to distinguish it both from things like Twitter or Facebook ads and from Outbrain or Taboola links.

        My definition: “Paying to publish your content within the property of an established media company which traditionally maintains editorial control over published content. Native published content functions like the publication’s own editorial content.” (originally shared here in a post that 4 months later already is a bit dated).

        In many ways, Buzzfeed is a different animal because you aren’t actually trying to ride on the coattails of their credibility as much as you are on their ability to draw an audience.

        I agree, we will see publishers take a stand against marketers content in their main content well, but I think most will likely draw a finer line than simply “no native advertising” that still keeps a finger in the honey pot.

        I still think this will be one of the most interesting areas to watch and participate in. Like with all shiny objects, just don’t let yourself get blinded as you dive in.

    • Robert Rose

      Eric… Yup Augie is a smart cookie for sure…. I’ve got no disagreement with everything he said… The only thing I’d say is that it is a spectrum – not a binary on/off or good/evil switch… Lest EVERY magazine or publisher that has advertising in it be required to have a plain white cover on every issue that says “Beware! all content contained herein is sponsored in some way”…

      I very much like what Augie uses as examples – they really bring the point home. However, I’d argue that Red Bull’s Red Bulletin or others like it won’t have the same distinction…

      So – in a world where EVERYONE can compete with the New York Times – it’s ultimately a “be careful what we ask for…” By limiting or restricting (or simply demanding) that “independent” publishers make these kinds of “onerous” (hyperbole just to make the point) disclosures – we may be encouraging ALL of them to be subsumed by brands who will have no such requirement…

      • Eric Wittlake

        Agree, it is definitely a spectrum when it comes to disclosure and deception. And interesting thought:

        Imagine a world where branded publishers have an audience that rivals traditional media companies and can produce any sort of (biased) content without disclosure because, well, the whole publishing endeavor is from the brand.

        This actually needs to be juxtaposed with two alternatives:

        1. (the obvious one): native publishing directly on a publisher’s site.
        2. Contributed content. Visit most sites these days and there are contributors that aren’t paid and don’t pay to publish (I’ve contributed to CMI with no compensation either direction). Just because there wasn’t compensation doesn’t mean my contribution wasn’t biased, and I’ve read quite a few contributions across various marketing from sellers of online advertising that are HEAVILY biased, IMO.

        When we talk about investments and business models, #1 is the focus. However, when we talk about perception or deception of the audience, I might say we need to take a hard look at #2…

        Alright, thanks to both you and Joe for responding and the discussion!

        • Joe Pulizzi

          Sounds like a John Lennon song. I love it.

  • Louise Bateman

    I think Eric makes some really valid and interesting points here. Doug’s argument is passionate, and he’s right to raise the red flag, but i think he’s presenting a rather naive view of publishing, and dare I say a possibly a biased one. See my blog here –