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Native advertising spending in 2012 was relatively low at $1.5 billion compared to$8.6 billion for banner ads. However, that is expected to change as native advertising continues to grow in popularity.
Native advertising is a broad concept, but what all successful versions of native advertising have in common is high quality brand-sponsored content in the format (articles, photos, videos) natural to the site that it appears on. Here are 5 examples of successful native advertising platforms.
1. The Onion
Onion Labs has proven to be a great choice for brands trying to reach the coveted young adult (ages 18 to 30) demographic. For brands that aren't uncomfortable poking fun at themselves, The Onion is a great fit. What Onion Labs does is create branded entertainment, including video series, as well as other types of native advertising, like this hilarious example of the platform making fun of itself for being beholden to web advertising. Onion Labs does a great job of seamlessly integrating products into their content, and could be a great choice for the "serious" brand that wants to show that it doesn't take itself all that seriously after all.
Posting anything on Reddit is a gamble. While the site has hosted plenty of content that may have been submitted by brands (it can be really hard to tell.), if the Reddit community thinks a submission is "staged" without being open about its origins, they can be ruthless, down-voting a post into oblivion in no time. That said, movies, bands, television shows, and even political parties will often have one of their stars participate in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on the site. Nick Offerman of NBC's Parks and Recreation did one where he answered questions while in character as Ron Swanson. It got over 7,000 comments and brought the show plenty of young adult demographic attention.
Forbes has more of a "grown-up" reputation among native advertising platforms from its many years as a print publication. It now produces native advertising in conjunction with partner brands under its BrandVoice program. BrandVoice allows advertisers to publish or curate sponsored content. One example of native advertising with BrandVoice was an article about the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which was sponsored by enterprise software maker SAP. Over the past year and a half, Forbes has added writers, editors, and designers separate and apart from the site's original editorial team to staff BrandVoice, and it played a big role in giving Forbes in 2012 the highest revenues in five years.
Mashable's content consistently gets healthy levels of social traction, and advertisers can tap into this with sponsored articles on topics ranging from why dogs are man's best friend (sponsored by Purina and shared over 12,000 times), to profiles about hot London startups (sponsored by British Airways with nearly 7,000 shares in a week). You won't see these articles on Mashable, or on many other sites, if you have an ad blocker turned on. Perhaps a good indicator of sponsored content being of high enough quality is that it prompts readers to turn off their ad blocker in order not to miss it.
Few sites have embraced native advertising as enthusiastically as BuzzFeed. Examples of native advertising on BuzzFeed includ a supercut video of LeBron James "flopping" on the court, sponsored by Uproxx. BuzzFeed's stock in trade is its scannable, shareable, usually lighthearted content, and the site has worked hard to make its native ads indistinguishable (except for required labeling under Federal Trade Commission disclosure guidelines) from its regular content. If your brand can be represented by funny videos or adorable animal pictures, you're BuzzFeed gold.
Native advertising is still experiencing some growing pains as brands work to find their "voice" and use it on various platforms. But budgets for native advertising are expected to grow as many websites devote one or more writers and / or editors exclusively to developing this type of content.
Native advertising can be an important revenue stream for web publishers, but other forms of web advertising aren't going away. Web publishers also diversify their revenue development program through other means, such as with recruitment advertising solutions customized to digital publishers' audiences. RealMatch helps digital publishers and trade publication websites develop a strong revenue stream with white label job board solutions, and invites you to explore these possibilities.