Now that I’ve left NPR and work full time in digital content marketing, I am often asked to explain exactly what I do. The world Scribewise inhabits is somewhat mysterious. With a dual background in journalism and marketing, ScribeWise lives in a gray area, inhabiting both at once.

The work we do is not too far from the concept of native content, which made headlines this week when The Atlantic ran what appeared to be a journalistic piece about the Church of Scientology. Despite its appearance, which was perfectly in line with the look and feel of any other article on the site, it was paid, not editorial, content.

The ad/article falls under the umbrella of native content – AKA advertorial – and it set off a storm of response. Adweek came down on the side of creating native content that feels more native, commenting that the Atlantic Scientology ad is an example of “the kinds of growing pains one can expect when traditional publications tinker with established business and editorial models.” Native advertising is estimated as a $10B+ market, according to Sharethrough founder and CEO Dan Greenberg writing in TechCrunch.

Author Charlie Warzel remarked in his Adweek post that while many are reluctant to weigh in on a still emergent process, the twitterverse is on fire with the debate. Some feel that the issue is not with native advertising itself, but with the advertiser, calling the Church of Scientology bizarre, and comparing it unfavorably to McDonald’s or other more mainstream paid content providers. The Atlantic rapidly removed the article from its site and issued a statement that began, “We screwed up.” But did they?

Banner and online display advertising in general is pretty much a dead end for securing leads. According to Marketing Journal, click through rates for display ads have plummeted, now averaging 0.13 percent.And that means brands are going to pay less and less to media outlets for this type of advertising, and look for other marketing solutions.

On the other hand, click through rates for Google search results are relatively high, at nearly five percent. Indexed content is currently the only reliable way to attract interest. The problem is not advertising or advertorial per se. The real problem is quality. Forbes blogger Alex Kantrowitz tweeted, “Maybe scientology ad sticks out b/c they wrote an old school advertorial as opposed to something worth reading.”

Here at Scribewise, our goal is to produce just that: content worth reading, in service to honestly and ethically attracting leads to our clients’ websites. It’s gotten to the point where we hear on a daily basis that content we’ve generated is producing traffic, increased interest, and ultimately new business. All without black hat tactics or gaming the system. Well written, thoughtfully targeted and useful content, no matter who pays for it, is worth putting out there, both for your business and for those in search of answers – those information searchers will ultimately discover that your business is a credible source, and that makes them more likely to buy from you.

The Atlantic’s mistake was not in running sponsored content, but running content that appealed to exactly zero of its readers.