Branded Content
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Average Duration
60+ minutes
Difficulty Level
Lesson Host
Emily Withrow
of the New York Times

Learn the relationship among advertisers, the news media and the public to understand the rise of branded content and debate the ethical implications of new forms of marketing.

News literacy topics

Advertisements; Primary purpose; Social media

Learning objectives

  • I can identify advertising content that has been labeled in some way and explain how it differs from traditional advertising.
  • I can describe some of the major factors that have influenced the development of such packaging, including why it’s desirable for marketers and difficult for news organizations.

Essential questions

  • Why do news organizations sell advertisements?
  • How is branded content different from traditional advertising?
  • Do you think it is important for people to know when they’re encountering an advertisement?
  • Does a news organization’s sale of advertising space compromise the quality of the journalism it produces?
  • How should news organizations manage their relationship with advertisers to make sure that advertising clients do not influence news coverage?


“In this lesson, we’re going to explore some recent trends in advertising. Here’s a quick warmup for you: click through the next few screens of this lesson and see if you can figure out which examples are advertisements. Then I’ll come back and we’ll jump into the details.”