Catching the native advertising wave

Native advertising (aka content marketing) programs are getting a lot of attention. eMediaVitals’ Rob O’Regan wrote a great piece on the need for “brand editors” to ensure publishers rushing to embrace this new revenue source don’t end up driving away readers with spammy content.

Content quality is indeed the crucial issue. Let marketers pollute your brand with naked promotion and you’ll quickly train readers to ignore this content as instinctively as they ignore display ads. Back to square one.

Instead, approach this opportunity with a longer view, and don’t put your sales team in charge of it. I’d recommend thinking through these steps before diving in:

  1. Define a clear set of rules for any sponsored content to be sure advertisers understand what they can and can’t do, and why. These rules should also address how sponsored content is presented, by platform
  2. Run a pilot to confirm user acceptance, make adjustments, and gather data to illustrate your value story
  3. Hire a brand editor, separate from your editorial staff. Build this into your pricing, and as the business scales, hire more. Use a freelancer if investment dollars are scarce.

Need another reason to consider offering a native advertising program? Well-executed native advertising is an excellent approach to monetizing your mobile (especially smartphone) presence. It makes a whole lot more sense than display ads that get 40-50% clicks that are “fat-finger” mistakes.

Dan Greenberg has a good overview of the landscape on TechCrunch. I don’t know if he paid for the placement, but it’s also a great example of native advertising in service of his own video advertising ad network. The big obstacle he raises for marketers is scalability of content production; that’s precisely where publishers can add value for marketers.


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