A taxonomy of branded content and its role in the future of media


Immediately after my opening keynote on Creating the Future of News at INMA World Congress in New York last week was a very interesting plenary session from Neil Zuckerman of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on branded content in the future of media, drawing on a recent multi-country study they have done. I had already emphasized the importance of branded content in my keynote, so it was a great segue into his detailed analysis.

Zuckerman began by running through the severe challenges for the news industry, going on to highlight branded content as the next source of growth for the industry. Below are a few slides from his excellent presenatation.

BCG sees branded content growing at a 21% rate over the next 5 years. I believe it is likely to grow faster than this.
Branded_content_BCG_1_500Source: Boston Consulting Group

A study across four countries showed some variation between countries, but overall a strongly favorable reception from consumers. Overall they identified a 21% net increase in likelihood to purchase due to branded content, and a 20% net increase in affinity for a brand. However if consumers already have a negative perception of a brand, branded content will accentuate that perception.
I was very interested by BCG’s taxonomy of branded content, in particular identifying native advertising as a distinct subset of branded content. There is much confusion over the language used in this domain, with ‘content marketing’ being commonly used, as well as ‘sponsored content’, ‘corporate publishing’, and of course still ‘advertorials’.


As made clear in this framework, one of the key distinctions is in the platform used. Many news publishers focus on creating content for their own platforms, yet they also have the capability to create outstanding content for use on other platforms, and indeed even the brand’s dedicated platforms. The intent of the content, from product-specific marketing through to emotion-based branding, implies very different types of content.

There is no question that branded content will be a massive part of the future of media. Its scope is far beyond traditional media boundaries. Brands are rapidly developing their own capabilities in both content creation and platform development. However established media companies have exceptional capabilities to play extremely successfully in this rapidly growing space.