Native Advertising Vs. Content Marketing | Outbrain Blog


Native Advertising Vs. Content Marketing: What’s the Difference?

| James Thompson

The Difference between Native Advertising and Content Marketing

Many in the advertising industry are confused by the difference between native advertising and content marketing. In some cases, the terms are even used interchangeably. However, it is important to recognize that they are not the same thing.

The Difference between Native Advertising and Content Marketing

Let’s put in the most simple of terms. Native advertising is like going on a date. Content marketing is like being in a relationship.

Native Advertising: The Date

Picture this—you’ve recently connected with someone great on Tinder or at a recent party. You want to romance them, so you’ve focused on a specific night with a selected person at a particular place.

A date is all about the context of ambiance: the right restaurant, the appropriate wine, the perfect appetizer. In advertising terms, it highly targeted. It is about the sell.

Very much like a date, through one of six core native advertising tactics, you can wine and dine your customer in an immediate and time-boxed way. However, native advertising is just the beginning. It may or may not result in a deeper, more meaningful relationship.

The Relationship

Meanwhile, content marketing is not a single asset or tactic—it is a discipline and a mindset. It is deliberate, cultivated, and about the long-game. Content marketing is when all of your content tactics (perhaps, including native advertising) coalesce to become something larger. Just as meaningful relationships need to be nurtured with thoughtfulness and a vision for a shared future together, content marketing is an approach that enables you to connect with consumers on a deeper, more committed level for the long-term.

For example, perhaps you’re a cloud company focused on attracting small-to-medium-sized-businesses. As a result, your content marketing strategy for the next year may include PR (earned media reviews), a blog with guest contributors offering unbranded work advice designed to interest and attract SMBs, active social media channels to distribute your blog content, and a growing arsenal of case studies and testimonials featuring your happy clients. As part of this larger strategy, you may also rely on native advertising, like Outbrain, to amplify your earned media via premium publishers.

Overall, content marketing is a long-term approach designed to build trust, demonstrate to consumers that your brand or company offers unique expertise that somehow improves their lives or solves a problem—and eventually pull them deeper through the funnel once that trust is established.

Though content marketing requires a high level of commitment and human investment to create, it also yields greater loyalty and impact with consumers. Just like in a relationship, the time one puts into content management is proportional to the quality of the results.

What Are You Looking For?

Outbrain has singular expertise in both native advertising and content marketing and works closely with brands to leverage their unique assets and values through strategies designed for sponsored content and long-form content marketing. You can learn more about our Amplify product here.

Native Advertising x Content Marketing Comparison

Native Advertising

Content Marketing


Any paid content that is “in-feed” and inherently non-disruptive.

Any piece of content that communicates with customers in a way that adds value, without the sales pitch.

Why Use it?

In its marriage of form and function, native is playing a growing part in publisher’s monetization strategies, quickly becoming a best
practice for marketers online.

On the list of trusted mediums, editorial content outranked ads on TV, radio and billboards, as well as in newspapers and magazines.


  • In-Feed Units
  • Paid Search Units
  • Recommendation Modules & Widgets
  • Promoted Listings
  • In-Ad (IAB Standard) with Native Element Units
  • Custom /”Can’t Be Contained”
  • Blog Posts or Articles
  • Videos
  • White Papers, eBooks, and Reports
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • How-To Guides
  • Email Newsletters or Nurturing Campaigns
  • Case Studies and Client Profiles
  • Thought Leadership or POVs
  • Social Media Posts

Best Practices

Do: Properly label your content.

Don’t: Use inaccurate, misleading, or overly sensational headlines or ad copy.

Do: Draw from social media when determining what types of headlines to use.

Don’t: Write headlines that are “too good to be true.”

Don’t: Create articles with duplicate content based on other affiliate offers.

Do: Use body copy to smoothly lead the reader to your intended next step.

Don’t: Encourage accidental clicks by implementing ads (or images) that appear to be organic content.

Do: Produce social currency (i.e. the extent to which people share content related to the brand or information about the brand as part of their everyday social lives at
work, on the go, or at home.)

Do: Provide practical value (i.e. the extent to which content can immediately and easily be acted upon, without people having to spend too much effort or money in order to reap its benefits.)

Do: Create an emotional connection (i.e. the extent to which content elicits an emotional response with someone, driving their decisions, prompting actions, changing mind-sets,
and developing strong brand loyalty.)

Do: Tell a story no one else can (i.e. the extent to which an audience member’s content journey is shaped by an experience that is unique to only your brand.)

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James Thompson

James Thompson

James “Jim” Thompson is an Outbrain contributor. He has more than 15 years of experience as a content marketer, writer,... Read more

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