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.


Will mobile commerce steal Black Friday?

Online retailers like Amazon and Gilt Groupe are set to sneak behind enemy lines en masse on Black Friday this year, and there is little brick & mortar retailers can do to defend themselves. Bored shoppers waiting in long lines for a chance to pay will naturally pass the time by playing with their smartphones. Online only retailers are looking to exploit that opportunity, offering the same products for less in mobile-only deals targeted to the times people are expected to be in those long lines. Result? Frustrated shoppers put their purchases back on the shelf, having ordered the same thing for less on their smartphones.

While this may not have a huge impact on share this shopping season, it does begin training consumers that maybe camping out for 2 nights in the Best Buy parking lot is a stupid idea. That will not be good for traditional retailers who count on the amped-up bargain hunting frenzy they’ve managed to create over the years.

If traditional retailers want to survive long-term against companies like Amazon, they’d better crack the code on an in-person shopping experience that trumps the convenience and low prices of online retailers. If Nordstrom can’t do it, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Best Buy. As for me, I think I’ll bargain hunt from bed next Friday morning. My iPhone is always close by.

iPad nirvana for B2B media: Get serious

Last year I read an assertion by a well-regarded digital media thinker that the iPad and its eventual competitors represent a “huge opportunity for B2B media“.  The article then goes on to give a series of unremarkable examples of how B2B media is leveraging the iPad, which pretty much prove my contention: A successful B2B iPad app solves a significant reader need, period.


Which mobile platform should you focus on?

With five major mobile platforms in the US market, where should publishers place their bets? Here is some data to help you make the right decision.  Of course, before you invest in building mobile apps, you should ensure your website is optimized for mobile browsers. If users have a good experience using your site from their phone, they are more likely to consider downloading your smartphone app.