Lift Off #14 – Native Advertising

Podcast Notes:

As of 2012, banner ad clickthrough rate was 0.2%. So unless you can afford to put your ad in front of millions of people, display ads are becoming quite inefficient.  What’s the answer? Well, there’s more than one option, but right now I want to talk about native advertising.

The simplest definition of native advertising is “sponsored content that fits the usual content flow.”

It’s a more commercial form of content marketing. An article, a Buzzfeed quiz, an embedded video, infographic, or any content that is commissioned by a company. It reads, looks, and feels like any other blog post or infographic you read or see, but it has a brand name attached to it.

The “native” element means it fits it’s surroundings. The content doesn’t feel out of place. Readers, viewers, and users don’t mind it being there because it isn’t a blatant, disruptive sales pitch. The best native ads are valuable enough to be shared.

It’s advertising because the company paid to have it included with the regular content mix. You’ll often see “Sponsored” or “Advertisement” clearly labeled above the content.

This isn’t just online. Companies can pay to have an article published in a magazine or they can make their full page ad an information rich graphic.

Digitally, companies can pay for content they’ve created to be included in a website’s usual feed. Like Mashable, Buzzfeed, magazine websites, news agency websites or niche blogs. Technically, boosted Facebook posts, promoted tweets, or sponsored linkedIn updates can be considered native advertising. But if it’s going to be truly “native,” then the post has to fit the user’s interests, something they don’t mind interrupting their flow of updates from friends.

The trouble with native advertising is it’s soft sell nature. You can’t outright ask for a sale in an article without damaging the credibility of the companies’ intent. If the reader feels you’re just after their money, it doesn’t matter how useful the article is, you’ve damaged your reputation in their eyes.

Companies won’t focus on specific responses then (clicks, purchases, shares), but on awareness and branding. It’s hard to get a solid measurement of awareness. You can measure traffic, views, time on page, and impressions, but what is that doing for your bottom line?

Marketing is supposed to illicit a response. So how do you know if your native advertising is actually boosting revenue?  Like or not, your ads need to inspire some sort of action. It has to be action that people will want to take, though.

Most companies try and make the content as interesting as possible and hope it goes viral. But not everything is going to be viral and even if content is shared millions of times, how do you measure the dollar value of that popularity? Your content doesn’t have to go viral to be measurable or effective.

Use reader curiosity. Present a fascinating or shocking story. In video, graphic, or written form, it doesn’t matter. Tell the full story. If it’s interactive content, give the user full functionality. But leave some mystery behind a supporting character or key element. Something that, once the reader is finished with the content, they are curious to know more about this character or key element.

For myself, when I’m reading business articles and they quote stats from a report, I almost always click on the report to investigate more.

The advertising is showing up on media space that you have rented. It’s not your website or your publication. So create curiosity about resources or products that you own. Provide links back to your website or app so readers can satisfy their curiosity on your space.

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