Contributed articles became a very big deal during the Web 1.0 boom. Suddenly, print and online publications had a huge need for new content. Not only did publications start running news releases, verbatim, but they started asking companies to write opinion and analysis about their own industries. Public Relations companies were flying high organizing the rush of opportunities. Then the boom busted. Publications started disappearing, mostly print but several online publications as well and both journalists and PR folks started looking for other means of income.
That did not, however, stop the demand for contributed articles. The publishing world found that they could fill a lot of space, especially on line, with opinion, white papers, technical documents and presentations that they didn't have to pay for and could cut their newsroom budgets even more. When webinars came around, they could actually charge companies to put their crappy power point presentations on the publication websites when they couldn't get them to buy advertising space.
Much of this material was managed by sales/marketing/pr departments and it is considered "earned media" because it doesn't directly sell products or services. It isn't, though. It's still owned media and edges into purchased media more often than not. It is two steps up from advertising, one step up from press releases and it still doesn't reach into the realm of trustworthy media.
Moreover, it probably gets read/viewed less than press releases, according to many senior editors I talk to. Most contributed articles get significant engagement, judging from the comments that follow publication online, but the publications say very vew people are actually reading them. Those that do are mostly the author, the people that work for the author, the PR firm hired to place the article, the marketing department of the company the author works for, and the competitors who want the publication to run a rebuttal.
So to wrap up, before we get into truly trustworthy content, Websites, marketing material, press releases and contributed articles are all owned content, even if they make it to a third-party site. They are viewed as slightly more trustworthy than advertising, but not by much. To be trustworthy, content must be created by and published by a third party that is specifically engaged to be as objective as possible. That will be the next post.