现在，这种广告模式不仅被BuzzFeed等新兴的网络公司所采用，就连《福布斯》（Forbes ）和《大西洋月刊》（ The Atlantic）等老牌媒体也打上了软广告的主意。业内人士在观察之余不免议论纷纷：软广告是不是骗人的？是不是不道德？还有，它究竟有没有效果？
不管这些问题的答案是什么，不可否认的是，这种做广告的方法眼下已经悄然时兴起来。《华盛顿邮报》（the Washington Post）、《华尔街日报》（Wall Street Journal）、《纽约时报》（New York Times ）等大牌报刊也会隔三岔五发几篇软文。【《财富》（Fortune ）也决定不再置身事外。】去年广告主们花在软广告上的金额达到了24亿美元，比2012年跃升了77%。同年，《华盛顿邮报》的研究总监将软广告誉为“一场心灵的旅程”。（这是真的。）
有三分之二的受访者表示，一旦他们意识到一篇文章或一段视频是由某个品牌赞助的，他们会觉得受到了欺骗。超过半数的受访者表示他们不会相信软广告，不管它是关于什么的。59%的受访者认为，一个新闻网站如果登载了软广告便会失去公信力——不过尽管如此，他们还是觉得软广告的可信度好歹要比《福克斯新闻》（than Fox News）强上那么一丁点。
In recent years, a debate has raged on among publishing and advertising industry insiders over “sponsored content”—more recently called “native advertising” and once known as “advertorial”—the sort of advertising that looks very much like editorial content but is, in fact, directly paid for by an advertiser.
The approach has been embraced by newer digital ventures such as BuzzFeed and new digital efforts for very old publications like Forbes and The Atlantic. Industry peers watched and discussed: Is it deceptive? Is it ethical? Does it even work?
Whatever the answers, there’s no denying that the approach is suddenly in vogue. Storied news organizations such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times NYT have since taken the native plunge. (Fortune has also decided to engage in the practice.) Last year, advertisers spent $2.4 billion on native ads, a 77% jump over 2012. That same year, the Post’s CRO called native ads “a spiritual journey.” (Really.)
Native ads may be popular with publishers, but consumers are not in love, according to a new survey conducted by Contently, a startup that connects brands with writers who then create sponsored content. (Yes, the survey runs counter to Contently’s mission; more on that in a moment.)
Two-thirds of the survey’s respondents said they felt deceived when they realized an article or video was sponsored by a brand. Just over half said they didn’t trust branded content, regardless of what it was about. Fifty-nine percent said they believe that a news site that runs sponsored content loses credibility—although they also said they view branded content as slightly more trustworthy than Fox News.
Publishers and advertisers tend to respond to concerns of confusion or credibility with the same response: “It’s clearly labeled!” Simple disclosure solves all conflicts, they suggest. Readers are smart enough to figure it out, and critics don’t give them enough credit.
To wit: “They get the drill,” said Lewis Dvorkin, the True/Slant founder who led the massive expansion of the Forbes contributor network and its sponsored BrandVoice program, at an event last year. Likewise, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has said the native ads on the newspaper’s website are clearly labeled to ensure there are no doubts about “what is Times journalism and what is advertising.”