shutterstock_105487481Once upon a time, there existed a publishing model that allowed media outlets to charge consumers for accessing their content by selling them actual physical copies of newspapers and magazines. In this bygone era, editorial departments and sales teams had very little to do with one another for the most part.

But in today’s media milieu, these lines are blurring and divisions between marketing and advertising, and entertainment or editorial content, are much less clearly defined than they once were.

Branded content, content marketing and native advertising are more than just the latest buzzwords. They are contemporary ad mediums that could potentially represent the future of marketing and advertising, and also to some degree, editorial and filmed content as well.

Branded Content on the Page

Native ads and sponsored posts have been prevalent for some time on major online publishers like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.

But lately, even the New York Times, which not long ago was one of the staunchest resistors to native advertising, has begun selling paid posts that appear alongside the rest of its digital news content.

The Wall Street Journal, another editorial bastion that had stood firm against the influx of native ads cropping up on other publishers, has also bowed to what seems like the inevitable and has set up its own content studio to work with brands.

Both the Times and the Journal have made it implicitly clear that the teams working on these branded content projects are completely separate from their actual editorial teams. But the content they produce will nonetheless appear right alongside the editorial content that features in the newsfeeds of both publications’ sites.

Branded Content Onscreen

And it’s not just in the print world where the lines are becoming increasingly blurred. Branded content outside of traditional commercials has existed onscreen for more than a decade. Remember BMW’s excellent The Driver series, which starred a young Clive Owen? Branded content has gotten bigger since then and looks set to become more pervasive in the future. Did you happen to hear about a little thing called The Lego Movie?

Despite being singled out by some Republicans as another example of how Hollywood is anti-business, The Lego Movie, although admittedly entertaining, is essentially a 100-minute, big-screen advert for the ever-popular line of colorful construction toys.

Pseudo-Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle has also taken the plunge into branded content with Farmed and Dangerous, a scripted comedy centered around industrial espionage in the food lobbying industry. The show, which is aired by Hulu, stars Ray Wise and plays into the Chipotle brand’s line about creating fast food that’s sustainable.  

Branded Content is everywhere

Whether you’re for it or against it, one thing that’s certain is that branded content doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon. In the UK, six of the top 10 magazines belong to brands. Branded content videos are popping up on popular content platforms like Funny of Die, while agencies, brands, and publishers are putting together branded content divisions ranging from brand newsrooms to in-house production companies.

Call it what you’d like: branded content, content marketing, or native advertising, the fact is that this type of ad content is already all around us. 2014 may just be the year that it goes above ground and becomes more front and center.