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What are native ads and sponsored content
and what issues do they raise?


by John Bowen


What are native advertising and sponsored content and what issues do they raise?

Description — first in a sequence
Questions of fake news and disinformation arise almost daily. Citizens also face information spread by sponsored content, an approach to storytelling designed to bring needed revenue to news media. The trouble is most readers and viewers cannot tell sponsored news from reported news. This lesson can help students understand how sponsored news developed, how to recognize it and ways to assist non-journalism communities in dealing with it.


  • Students will explore sponsored news and be able to identify it.
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast sponsored news with native advertising.
  • Students will evaluate and analyze sponsored news content.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.


50 minutes

Materials / resources

Blackboard or whiteboard

Teacher laptop and digital projector

Internet access

Rubric for student article summary and statement

Student computers if available

Links used for this lesson:

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Warm-up (5 minutes)

The teacher will ask students if they have ever heard of native advertising or sponsored content, if they could recognize it if they saw it and where might they see it.

Depending on student responses, the teacher will raise other questions and ask for more explanation.

Step 2 — Large group work (45 minutes)

The warm-up should lead to the teacher sharing definitions:

  • Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user platform in which it is placed.
  • Sponsored content is material which resembles the publication’s editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser  or other information provider and intended to promote the advertiser’s product or services.

The teacher would also discuss the differences and similarities between the two. These sites can provide background information:

From there, the discussion could delve into why news media might favor or oppose their use, with the instructor providing background, historical and current.

Links for this question:

Once students understand the rationale for use of native advertising and sponsored content, the teacher could focus the discussion on the plusses and minuses. The teacher should ask a student to note potential plusses and minuses on the board for further discussion. Students could also use the sponsored news and native ads notes form.

With the points on the board, the teacher will ask students to choose one of the following articles on native advertising or sponsored content from the list below. Students will read the article and summarize its content in a 250-300 word statement emphasizing the pros and cons of the article’s focus. The student article should also contain the student’s views of the value of native ads or sponsored content.

List of choices for the writing assignment (and students could also use links referred to earlier):

Students will turn in their statements at the beginning of the next class or share digitally with the teacher.


The teacher will evaluate the students’ summaries and value statements using the accompanying rubric. Students should keep the assignment for future reference.


Students could be given a list of links to read and take notes on as homework instead of reading or referring to them in class discussion.

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