Mention sponsored articles and you're likely to be met with looks of confusion or distrust. Maybe using a different term will help. Sponsored editorial content falls into the native advertising spectrum and deserves your attention if you haven't already considered it.
To explore how sponsored articles can help meet your content marketing needs, you need to consider what sponsored articles are (and are not), why they matter to you, and pricing structures.
Sponsored articles are not advertorials.
Advertorials explicitly push a company's brand or products whereas sponsored editorial content is helpful in nature and doesn't put forth an overt sales angle.
Sponsored articles focus on providing useful information that helps a company, brand or person establish thought leadership. (The concept of thought leadership is thrown around often, and many thought leaders have sought to define the concept; here's a particularly comprehensive explanation.)
Although sponsored articles technically fall under the umbrella of advertising on a media outlet, it's in the form of editorial content that looks like it's supposed to be there. Blog posts, articles, opinion pieces, and news releases are all forms commonly used in sponsored content. You read those because it's content you want to consume, and a brand - or company or expert - has intentionally put it where you would find it and read it.
Adding reach to your content marketing strategy
According to this infographic, 70% of consumers "want to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertising." By publishing sponsored articles, you're providing content that customers are looking for.
You're paying to have that content placed in front of a particular audience, yes, but the audience who wants it. Paying for that privilege is about ensuring the right audience sees it, and it's also about potentially reaching an audience you might not otherwise reach.
Don't worry about possibly deceiving an audience or instilling distrust; sponsored content is generally labeled, so consumers know what they're reading.
Considering the cost of sponsored articles
All marketers are working within a budget, so you can't go buying placements without research and justification. The Media Buyer's Guide to Sponsored Editorial Content offers the industry's first-ever sponsored content pricing analysis based on pricing information from 550 publishers (from bloggers to large media outlets like Forbes) that accept sponsored articles, as well as factors such as Domain Authority, PageRank scores, etc.
Pricing ranged from $100 or a few hundred dollars to place a one-off sponsored article to $50,000/month for a "subscription" lasting for a minimum of three months. So how do you decide whether a tiered sponsorship is worth the considerable investment, or your money is better spent on a series of one-off sponsored articles on various outlets frequented by your audience? The guide can help you determine how to get the most bang for your buck.
Hopefully, this information can help you start down the path to effectively integrating sponsored content strategies into your 2015 content marketing initiatives.