Effective marketing is all about communicating the right message to the right person on the right platform. Many brands and PR agencies use both advertorial and editorial content to reach their target audience but each type of content is unique and can serve very different purposes and client objectives.

An advertorial is purchased through the advertising department as a paid spot in a print or online publication. The content is typically controlled by the brand with some editorial input and may be written by the media staff. Advertorials have distinct cues to make them feel different from the rest of the paper and inform the reader that they are engaging with an advertisement. However, in some publications they may closely imitate the look and feel of an editorial article to help the advertising content “blend in.”

An editorial is unpaid and must be vetted by a publication’s editorial team and deemed of enough use and informational value to be worthy for publication. It looks like any other article published by the media outlet or as a syndicated column. An editorial often has more credibility and reliability, because it has gone through journalistic vetting processes. The underlying message is that this is trusted information backed by the publication.

To give you a quick guide and at-a-glance understanding, we’ve outlined the key differences here:


  • Funding: Payment is made directly to the advertising department of media outlet for placement.
  • Visual presentation: Looks like an advertisement; is separate from the publication’s articles and editorial content.
  • Credibility: Does not go through the journalistic vetting process that editorial content must follow.
  • Author/byline: The author of the piece is clearly identified as the brand or its spokesperson.
  • Creative control: Development and final control over content is retained by the brand.
  • Imagery: May include a promotional image, such as a branded photograph or product shot.
  • Legal disclaimers: May include footnotes, references and legal disclaimers. Can also include copyright and trademark symbols.


  • Funding: Unpaid; the media outlet receives no money for running an editorial. Therefore, it must provide real value to readers in order to be selected for publication.
  • Visual presentation: Looks like the publication’s regular articles and editorial content.
  • Credibility: Has sign-off from the publication’s editorial team – after any research and vetting they may apply – which makes the piece more credible and reliable to audiences.
  • Author/byline: The author may be identified as a journalist or editor employed by the media outlet. It can also be the media outlet’s editorial team or a wire service.
  • Creative control: Development and final control over content is retained by the media outlet’s editorial team.
  • Imagery: Any accompanying image must be neutral and unbranded; lifestyle photography works best.
  • Legal disclaimers: Follows the format and style of a newspaper article; no footnotes, references, disclaimers or copyright/trademark symbols are permitted.

At Fifth Story, we recommend that clients wanting to reach mass audiences through newspapers and community publications prioritize earned editorial content. This pathway offers increased credibility and reliability for your brand and messaging. It is also a more cost-effective option than paying individual publications for paid placements, and it results in higher impressions overall.

To learn more about how we can help deliver your key messaging through engaging and valuable editorial content, contact info@fifthstory.com.