The Online Publishers Association's Is Branded Content the Future covers the growing trend towards online media companies allowing sponsors "to publish branded content directly into the main news stream."
As the article points out, this isn't a new idea. Advertorials have been around a long time. But in print publications it was generally very clear what was sponsored content versus real content. Online it's much harder to differentiate between the two.
With their business model completely broken, it's no surprise that media companies are turning to branded content to try and drive revenue.
For readers, this means paying even more attention to what you are reading and understanding you may be reading an ad instead of a piece of journalism. The old adage of "buyer beware" needs to be updated to include "reader beware".
Small businesses need to start thinking about how this new content model may fit in their marketing plans. The growth of local and hyperlocal news and information sites means many new potential outlets for content from small businesses.
Tom Foremski from Silicon Valley Watcher has been saying "every company is a media company" for years. It's clear he's been right.