We enjoy new buzzwords here at Small Business Labs.
Native advertising is a relatively new and hot buzzword in online advertising circles. It describes what used to be called advertorials or sponsored content. This is company produced content that runs on a media company website.
This content is meant to engage the media company's audience as much as their "real" content does - while at the same time delivering a soft branding or marketing message.
I consider native advertising a subset of content marketing, which is the creation and sharing of content in order to acquire customers. Content marketing has mostly been focused on creating content that resides on company websites - blogs, online videos, etc.
Native advertising extends content marketing from a company's own websites to the websites of media partners such as the Wall Street Journal, CNN, etc. Usually, the media partner helps create the advertising content in addition to publishing it. This insures the content fits the look, feel and voice of the media company site.
Effectively, this approach allows a company to rent a media company's audience with content that doesn't look like a traditional ad. Everyone wins - as long as the audience understands the content is not independent and unbiased.
Accepting advertising of this sort used to be quite controversial in the media industry, but pretty much all media companies now offer native advertising.
Expect to see more native ads in the future. This form of advertising has too many benefits for both advertisers and media companies for it not to become more common.