Let's start by agreeing that the terms Native Advertising and Content Marketing are terribly misused. Defining the difference between the two is splitting hairs: Content Marketing vs. Native Advertising. According to the article: "The main distinction [between the two] is that content marketers are aiming to build long-term trust, consistently providing value for readers without asking for anything in return, while most often the goal of native advertising is to have the reader purchase a product or service before obtaining this valuable content."
It seems the fundamental misunderstanding of what Native Advertising is all about is the fact that it is a paid form of content distribution, so people automatically assume: "If I am paying money for it -- I might as well plug in my sales pitch". Wrong!
At this point I think most marketers would agree that Native Advertising is a channel for content distribution -- be that sponsored content integration on a publisher's site, or in-stream native advertisements promoting branded content that is hosted on an advertiser's web property. And if we are talking content, since when is it okay to make some content 'salesy,' while keeping other content 'more authentic and less self-interested?'
The same consumers engage with the content, regardless of where it is placed. So why jeopardize a brand's voice and consumer trust by treating content quality differently, depending on whether it reaches consumers through a paid versus organic channel? The perceived need to push an agenda if content goes through a paid channel is erroneous.
"If you expect your customers to spend time with your content, you must deliver them amazing value. The more you talk about yourself, the less people will value your content." (Pulizzi, Joe. Epic Content Marketing) In fact, as Joe points out in his book, promotional posts deliver 25% social engagement rate of normal value-adding posts.
In one of Joe's recent posts he calls out WSJ for mistakenly using content marketing terms when describing native advertising. I agree with his suggestion that the two should work together. I personally believe that the two terms will merge in the coming years. Once brands realize that native advertising is not about masking a sales pitch in a publisher-like format, but rather about a new channel to deliver valuable content, the terms will really become one.