Well, blow me down. Maybe sponsored content isn’t that new-fangled. A reader writes:

I was up at our cottage on the north shore of Massachusetts and came across a 1941 issue of The New Yorker, three months before Pearl Harbor. I was thumbing through it and found an article ipadthat had carried over from the previous page … except it hadn’t. They’d crafted it to look exactly like the other articles in the magazine, and wrapped the supposed jump text (about bread) around ads for the bread. In microscopic print at the bottom is the word “Advertisement.” Take a look at the attached screenshot I took of the archived version (it’s the entire upper left quadrant of the page).

It struck me, both because it was in The New Yorker, which we never associate with that kind of behavior, and because it was from so long ago, in what we like to imagine as the Golden Age of publishing, unsullied by today’s mercenary tendencies. But of course, it was ever thus …

Anyway, I don’t know if this fits with your general theme – it may be distinguishable because anyone can buy a quarter of a page and make it look how they please – but still I’ve never seen anything like that today except where it’s been explicitly approved by the publisher. I’m curious what you think of it.

I do notice, I must say, the word “advertisement” right there. That makes a difference. But it’s at the bottom of the page – not the top. And then I notice that the ad is both a classic one – with different font and background – and made to look like the regular font. I’d say it’s sponsored content all right – and deliberately confusing for the reader. But how many sponsored content articles have the word “advertisement” written on them?