Online publishers have increasingly recognized that traditional advertising - especially in the form of ads and banners - doesn't translate well to the new media environment. As a result, branded advertising in the form of native advertising has become much more popular. Branded advertising includes product-focused pieces that blend naturally with the organic content around it, whether that's a sponsored blog post or a brand produced video. But it's important that publishers think through native advertising and how it's presented - to maximize returns, stay honest with their readers, and ultimately increase the ROI for their advertisers.
What works about native advertising?
The appeal of native advertising makes perfect sense, when you consider it from the user's point of view. As a reader who might visit an online newspaper, you're ultimately there to read articles. Any content that's well-written and thematically appropriate would be welcome. Flashing ads, banners, and things that ultimately distract you from reading and enjoying the site are not.
Native advertising in this case study could be sponsored coverage of a company in the paper's business section, op-eds by thought leaders in the opinion section, or a paid review of a restaurant in the food or lifestyle sections of the publication. Even though the pieces are ultimately advertisements, readers are more open to checking them out and seeing if the content is of interest.
Transparency and clear labeling is key
One of the misconceptions of native advertising is that the goal is to trick readers into viewing the ads. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both in terms of your integrity as a publisher and compliance with federal communications regulations, it's important that advertising be labeled as such. Instead, native advertising actually focuses on ways to deliver value to readers through advertising.
When advertising is unobtrusive and flows with the rest of the experience, users are much more likely to be interested. But every advertisement - native or not - should be labeled. It's important that these clues be clear and that there be no confusion as to the context of any sponsored piece.
Quality and context are the keys to success
When considering native advertising, it's helpful to publishers to think about the linkages between their readership's interests and the content being proposed. Typically, publications try to solicit ads from companies that are going to interest their demographic; in many ways, advertisers self-select because they want their products and services in front of people likely to by them. In the world of native advertising, it's important that publishers exercise that same level of oversight and thinking.
Is the topic of general interest to your readership? Does the proposed slant and content make sense and is it consistent with your brand promise and editorial values? Finally, is the quality of the proposed content high enough whether that's decent writing, well-thought out ideas, or videos with a reasonable production value?
Native advertising is representing a growing revenue stream for publishers. But there are special considerations that publications need to bear in mind when accepting native ads, from how to label them to specific guidelines on quality and content. When handled correctly, native ads can yield big returns for you and your advertisers while delivering real value to your readership at the same time.