Is This Post An Advertisement?

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How many advertisements do you see every day? The average person reportedly is exposed to hundreds or even thousands of commercial messages daily.

But what about advertorials, sponsored content, or marketing campaigns that use content as their main tool?

Can you tell if what you’re reading was created to sell you something?

As more and more companies adopt content as a selling point — in the digital-deal corner, see Groupon and Thrillist, whose alternately savvy and tongue-in-cheek tone is expressly geared to open your wallet — what we read will be shaped by what they have to sell. And it’s a trend media companies are warming to, as well: witness Business Insider’s launch of a flash-sale service, Pipeline.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social services have increased the ways brands create content that seems as though it is not an ad. But while marketers talk about “brand loyalty” and “engagement” as the new metrics, those are only in service of the old metric: cash. Companies hope that when we’re finished playing their games, reading their helpful, friendly websites on specialty subjects, and participating in their social charity causes, we buy their stuff.

We’re exploring the intersection of content and marketing at IGNITION, our conference on the Future of Media, taking place Dec. 2-3 in New York. For smart discussion on media business models, click right up and get your ticket. We’ve got some great speakers on this topic, including Federated Media’s COO Deanna Brown, and Tina Sharkey, who heads up Johnson and Johnson-owned BabyCenter.

Their companies demonstrate how content marketing is not necessarily a disingenuous PR tool, but rather a strategy used in a variety of ways. Federated Media employs what it calls “conversational media” with the stated goal of supporting independent website authors. BabyCenter is a much-awarded website on all things infant. It highlights the blurring of the line between content and marketing.

Another way to parse the issue is to observe the convergence of media and e-commerce. Thrillist’s Ben Lerer is speaking at IGNITION around this topic, as is LivingSocial’s Tim O’Shaughnessy. In fact, the entire agenda is geared to exploring content.  (Did I mention we’re still selling tickets?)

Ultimately, if what you’re reading is both content and advertising, do you even care? If it’s entertaining and informative, does who wrote it and why matter to you?

Is this an article or an ad?

You’re cordially invited to come and continue the discussion at IGNITION.

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