BuzzFeed Changes Labels on Promoted Content

Sponsored material gets simple yet clear designation

BuzzFeed is revamping how it specifies sponsored content.

The site will now label branded content with a small, bold yellow box stating it is "promoted by" a particular marketer, and brand pages will be labeled "brand publisher" instead of "featured partner."

BuzzFeed previously designated sponsored content with a "presented by" tag and placed it on a light yellow background, similar to how Google used to promote its ads. However, the pale color was difficult to distinguish on BuzzFeed, especially on mobile screens.

The move is in line with social networks like Facebook and Instagram, which designate sponsored content with less pomp and circumstance than publishers such as The New York Times. Branded articles on the Grey Lady are surrounded in blue and have bold disclaimers everywhere, from the URL to the kicker at the bottom of the page, proclaiming that editorial no part in creating the materials.

Meanwhile, Facebook puts "sponsored" directly under an advertiser's name, and Instagram stamps an arrow logo with the "sponsored" label across from the brand name. Twitter shows that a tweet was paid for with a yellow box and an arrow, followed by the word "promoted."

Marketers tend to be wary of content boldly designated as non-editoral, but as long as the content is high quality, most readers don't care, said MEC's managing partner of digital content marketing Gian LaVecchia. Brands should not be afraid of having their content highlighted as promoted, as long as it's good, he said, adding, "It's all about transparency and authenticity."

BuzzFeed's reputation affords it a little more leeway, LaVecchia said. After all, when you're writing about cats and the problems of millennials, people don't always take your content that seriously. "The essence of their brand gives them liberties other brands don't have," he said.