5 Technology Requirements for Native Advertising Platforms

The excitement around native advertising has spawned a proliferation of “native advertising platforms.”  The market is ready to move past the hype and choose the best technology.

Here are five key technology requirements to focus on when choosing a native advertising platform, whether you’re building a native ad network, selling native advertising to your own advertisers, managing native ad campaigns for your clients, or looking to join a native ad network. Ask native ad platform providers the tough technology questions and make sure they can deliver.

1. Real-time publishing for brand content

Does the platform support feeds, APIs, and other methods for automatically importing and distributing new advertiser content in real time?

Brands that make big investments in continuously producing fresh content want that content published as native advertising as quickly as possible. They don’t want to pay for the distribution of stale content. Platforms that require uploading each piece of new content manually, as if it were display ad creative, do not support this key advertiser requirement.

A native advertising platform must support dynamic feed management, to automate and scale the flow of content from “brand newsrooms” to hundreds or thousands of publishers.

2. Efficient content management for advertisers

Does the platform enable advertisers to easily choose which content they want to distribute as native advertising, and to assign that content to specific campaigns, specific publishers, and even specific publisher sections?

The more content that brands produce, the more essential that efficient content management becomes.  Agencies need a simple dashboard for managing native ad campaigns as content feeds, to easily populate those feeds with brand content and assign them to publishers.  If the content management process for native advertising is not efficient for agencies, it won’t scale across multiple clients.

3. Editorial control for publishers

Does the platform have a simple interface for publishers to review native advertising content available from advertisers and choose which content to publish on their sites?

Editorial control is essential for publishers to protect their brands.  Native advertising works only if publishers can ensure that they are publishing the most relevant, high quality content.  In that respect, editorial control is also a key mechanism for optimization, enabling publishers to direct finite reader attention to native ad content that they know their readers will engage with.

The only way to attract top publishers into a native advertising network is to give them the control that they need to scale native advertising on their sites.  Networks built on native ad platforms that don’t provide editorial control will be at a significant disadvantage.

4. Publish native ad content IN the publisher’s CMS

Can the platform integrate with a publisher’s CMS, to publish the content in the CMS, so that it can be displayed as regular article pages, i.e. actually* native*?  Can the platform do more than simply link to the content on another site?

Some native ad platforms are merely linking off to where the content is published elsewhere.   If the content does not live on the publisher’s site, then it’s not native.

Top publishers who are running native ads are publishing the content in their CMS — this makes intuitive sense. To build a network of top publishers, a native ad platform must support backend CMS integration.  That means supporting a full range of content import processes, from RSS feeds to proprietary XML feeds to APIs like WordPress’ XML-RPC (standard on every WordPress site).

It’s a nonstarter to tell publishers that joining a native ad network means they must stop publishing the content in their CMS and instead shoehorn it in on the front end with javascript.

Javascript delivery of native advertising should be a fall back option, such as when a publisher uses a homegrown CMS that has no content import capabilities.  It’s one thing for ads and sidebar widgets to experience load delays when there’s lots of javascript executing on a page.  But it’s always going to be suboptimal to render native ad content with javascript when the editorial content is rendered server side by the CMS.

Bottom line, a native ad platform must enable the content to be served the same way the editorial content is served.

5. Automated content optimization

Can the platform automatically optimize content for distribution across a network of publishers?

If the advertiser is providing content from a blog feed, and the images are embedded in the text, but the publisher’s CMS requires them as separate content assets, can the platform automatically extract the images?

If publishers want links within the content back to the advertiser’s site to open in a new tab, can the platform automatically modify the HTML?

If the advertiser wants additional promotional links automatically added to the content, can the platform automatically add them?

Distributing content is not the same as serving ad creative.  Content needs to be formatted and presented properly, and the requirements vary across publisher sites and even across advertiser campaigns.  A native advertising platform needs to be adept at optimizing content, or distribution won’t scale.

Scott Karp

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