Explaining Native Advertising to Publishers

Despite all the hype about native advertising, many publishers are still unclear about what native advertising is and why they should run native ads on their sites. Publishers need to understand the value of native advertising for their publications and for their readers.

Here is a primer on native advertising for publishers:

Valuable Advertising

Native advertising makes advertising valuable again for readers.

On the web and in mobile, readers do not value display ads. They do not value distractions and interruptions. They value high quality content, and they value control.

Native advertising is content produced by and for advertisers that is sufficiently interesting, relevant, and engaging that it is worthy of being presented in the same place as editorial content. Publishing advertiser content where editorial content is published is what makes it “native”.

Enhancing the Reader Experience

At its best, native advertising can enhance the editorial stream, not diminish or detract from it.  Native ad headlines and images, while clearly labeled as paid, fit well within a list of editorial headlines and images because the content is genuinely good.

Native advertising enhances the reader experience, rather than degrade it as display ads too often do.

Native advertising puts readers in control by earning their attention instead of trying to force it.  Readers choose to click on a native ad headline the same way they choose to click on an editorial headline.

Native advertising works well on desktop websites, but it works especially well on mobile devices, where readers are typically browsing streams of content.  High quality native ad content, inserted into the mobile content stream, is a much better reader experience than a tiny, illegible, interruptive display ad.

Publishers in Control

Native advertising also requires that publishers be in control.

Publishers control the flow of editorial content, ensuring that only high quality, engaging content is published. Publishers should be able to do the same for native advertising content, to curate and publish only the most relevant, highest quality content from advertisers.

Publishers should have a simple, efficient way to choose native ad content to automatically publish in their web CMS, or use in print. Publishers should be able to manage native ad feeds the same way they manage other syndicated content feeds.

Premium Pricing for Premium Value

Native advertising is a significant revenue opportunity for publishers because native ads are much more valuable to advertisers than display ads.

Advertisers value native advertising because they want to be more valuable to consumers. They don’t want to be ignored, as most display ads online are. Advertisers want their brands lifted by close association with the publisher’s brand.

CPM prices for display ads are dropping because the value is dropping. Consumers ignore display ads. They don’t click.

Publishers can charge a significant premium for native advertising precisely because the content is valuable to consumers. Consumer click on native ads because the content appeals to them.

Pricing for native advertising is still being determined by publishers, agencies, and advertisers.  Some publishers are charging flat fees, which may include helping advertisers create content.  Publishers are justifiably trying to avoid the CPM pricing associated with display advertising.

One national business publication cited a “cost per engagement” of $1.  That works out to a $1,000 CPM.  While pricing that high likely won’t last, it is indicative of the premium that advertisers will pay for readers actually engaging with their content, as opposed to loading a display ad that most readers ignore.

Ultimately, the better native advertising performs as content, the more publishers can charge for publishing native ads on their sites.

Native Advertising Metrics

Metrics for native advertising are simple — great advertiser content should perform like great editorial content. So the performance of native ads can be tracked the same way that the performance of editorial content is tracked:

  • Article page views — the consumer clicked on a headline and chose to view the content
  • Clicks on links within the article, e.g. back to the advertiser’s site
  • Social shares (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Time spent on the article
  • Number of advertiser articles read

By publishing native ads in their web CMS along with the editorial content, publisher can track the performance of native ads alongside the editorial content. The editorial content can actually help benchmark the performance of the native ad content.

New Business: Helping Advertisers Create Content

Native advertising can only succeed if advertisers have high quality content to publish on publishers’ sites.  In addition to the significant revenue opportunity of distributing native advertising, publishers can create a new business helping advertisers create content.

Creating great content is what defines great publishers.  If publishers can adapt these editorial skills to the business side, they can create a new revenue stream further up the “value chain” of publishing native ads.  With a business that creates content for advertisers, publishers could start hiring journalists again.

Scott Karp

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