Man drawing marketing metrics on a whiteboard.
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If you spend any amount of time reading stories, articles, and news on the Web, by now you’ve seen some form of native advertising – when a media outlet embeds a piece of sponsored content alongside its own editorial pieces, giving the sponsored story a similar look and feel to help it blend in, although it’s paid for.

While most outlets will label a sponsored story with something like “paid post,” “promoted,” or “partnered with,” how do readers respond? Not particularly well, according to Joe Lazauskas of

In a survey of 542 U.S.-based Internet users, aged 18 to 65, 54 per cent of respondents said they feel they can’t trust sponsored content, while 66.6 per cent said they had felt deceived when they found out a brand paid for a particular article or video. Another 59 per cent said they don’t think a site has credibility if it runs pieces that are brand-sponsored.

While it may seem odd that respondents said they felt “deceived” when they discovered a brand paid for a particular piece of content, especially as publishers usually do label pieces as “sponsored,” that may stem from yet another problem. Only 48.2 per cent of respondents said they understood “sponsored” to mean that a sponsor paid for a piece and got to influence it.

12.6 per cent said they thought it meant a sponsor wrote the piece, while 18 per cent said it meant a sponsor paid for its name to appear next to editorial content, the same way banner advertising appears on a page. Yet another 20 per cent thought it meant the news site wrote it, but sponsors paid for the piece to allow it to happen.

Most damning of all, about 57.2 per cent of these respondents said they actually would prefer banner ads over their favourite news sites running sponsored content. About 25.54 per cent said they would stick with the sponsored content, since banner ads are annoying, but just 18.27 per cent said they would rather have sponsored posts.

While’s survey may not be conclusive, it’s definitely worth finding out how much readers value sponsored posts – and to continue testing to see if they work.