But essentially, what it is is client-paid-for material blended seamlessly into editorial material. Frequently it will carry a small disclaimer "Sponsored Content."
Publishers love it because it brings in revenue. Organizations and individuals love it because it gives them exposure in prime media space. In addition, it provides them control over how they present themselves. That control prevents the possibility of "ambush journalism."
As Keith J. Kelly reports in the New York Post, right now Conde Nast's decision to allow native advertising is controversial. The way Conde Nast is approaching it is to have editorial talent collaborate in shaping the material. Media purists are horrified.
However, this is a win-win for both the media and for advertisers. The controversy will simply be ignored. And this is nothing new.
Baby Boomer public relations players remember the time way back when the head of Mobil's public affairs, Herb Smertz, did this kind of advertising in influential media such as The Wall Street Journal. Then, it was positioned and packaged as a paid op-ed. It told the energy story to movers and shakers. The strategy was perceived as effective.
Even my most conservative clients are asking about sponsored content. Creating it is another major niche for ghostwriters like myself.