As the FTC cracks down on labeling sponsored content, the time has never been more right to make sure those posts are the most effective they can be. Sponsored content is an opportunity for brands to establish themselves as an authority on news and entertainment websites, creating brand trust and entertaining consumers in a way that enhances, rather than detracts from, existing content.

A recent study by IAB asked 5,000 consumers to view a number of websites with sponsored content in a desktop format. Nearly nine out of ten (86 percent) of respondents feel that free content is made possible by sponsors. Although consumers understand and accept the need for sponsored content, that doesn’t mean they have to like it, as 60 percent said that they were more open to content that tells a story rather than reads like an infomercial.

The biggest takeaway—establish trust. Sponsored content that informs or entertains rather than sells is most effective when featured on a reputable site that is relevant to the brand and the target audience.

Relevant, Authoritative, Trustworthy

The most important element to successful content marketing, according to study participants, is the ability to trust the information offered. This is especially true for entertainment news sites, where 85 percent of respondents said that paid content was obvious (“Enjoying the drama between Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber? Here, try our hand cream!”). 91 percent said that relevance was the most important feature for entertainment sites when viewing sponsored content, followed by brand recognition and trust, both 83 percent.

  • For general newsfeeds, 90 percent said that relevant information was most effective for drawing interest, while 79 percent relied on brand recognition and trustworthiness of said brand. When it comes to business content feeds, however, respondents agreed that relevance, authority on the subject and trustworthiness were all important, at 89, 84 and 82 percent respectively.

IAB study 1 sponsored content

Paid content that is relevant, authoritative and trustworthy enhances a website rather than detracts. After viewing a number of websites with sponsored content, respondents across the board had a more favorable opinion of the website. Likewise, viewers were more likely to trust sponsored content that appears on reputable websites. Although a majority of those who participated in the study say that they prefer ads from a brand they know and trust, new brands will just have to be that much more relevant and informative.