Content marketing in the fake news era

Native advertising has changed a lot in the ten years since I wrote my first advertorial. It’s found not just in printed inserts in a trade magazine, like the piece I wrote, but also alongside feature articles on social media and news sites.

It’s that proximity which has its validity being called into question. In a process that only accelerated during the last quarter of 2016, native advertising has become increasingly top-heavy, part of a fake-news cycle that has come to contribute to a distinct lack of trust in media.

Indeed, Media Life Magazine predicted:

Native advertising is fake news under a different name, nothing more. It’s not hard to foresee native ads getting mistaken for fake news and being caught in an ensuing backlash.

But that’s not the only problem with native advertising. In the same article Media Life also pointed out its lack of high quality, its low return on investment (a function of a quality, well-researched piece), lack of reader engagement, and the risk to the advertiser’s credibility — all reasons it could tank this year.

However, the article also noted that native advertising’s ROI was lower compared to content marketing. That means you still have the opportunity to make content work for your business in 2017; you just have to go about it in the right way.

3 pathways to responsible content marketing

1. Be a great source of trustworthy information. This goes past simply demonstrating your company’s expertise, to demonstrating its relevance to the problems your products and services are designed to solve. For example, in July 2016, Santiago Ayala, a partner with ATX Forensics, offered cybersecurity tips to businesses in his local area in Florida. On a larger and more virtual scale, the annual Verizon Data Breach and Incident Response (DBIR) Report presents takeaways from tens of thousands of cyber incidents to help companies defend their networks.

2. Own your citizenship. According to a 2016 Stanford study, 82% of youth can’t tell the difference between native advertising and real news — so help them. Take up the mantle of teaching digital literacy. Sponsor content in local schools; develop a corporate social responsibility program around it.

But also, don’t limit your efforts to kids. 77% of adults surveyed didn’t interpret native ads as advertising, either, as Fast Company reported in December. The article went on to offer a number of solutions, among them being clear, and partnering with trustworthy publishers who are clear in defining and labeling your content as advertising.

3. Do it right. Engagement is suffering because quality is suffering. Want to reach your audience? Invest in good research, and good writing. You can advertise for freelance journalists on,, and other locations.

However, be aware that it can take time to ramp freelancer knowledge, especially if you’re in a highly technical or complex space. Seek marketers who know your space and have a journalism background who know how to perform the needed research and have great writing skills.

How do you plan to build awareness and your customer list in the new year? Comment below, or send me a message!

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