When a term is as hot and hyped as “native advertising”, it’s inevitable that everyone will want to appropriate it to describe everything they are doing. Which means the term will be widely misappropriated.
While it’s still open for debate exactly what native advertising is, it’s useful to agree on what native advertising is NOT. Here are 5 types of advertising that are not native advertising:
1. Advertiser content that’s a poor fit with a publisher’s brand
- “15 Crazy Dance Crazes” on a financial news and commentary site
- “Men Only: The Case Against Exercising” and “2 Metabolism-Destroying Foods to Avoid at All Costs” on a high-end real estate site
- “Rare plant may increase muscle growth 700% — but is it an unfair advantage?” on a state capital news site
If it makes the editorial staff cringe or quake, it’s NOT native advertising.
The problem for the publisher’s brand is an issue of both relevance and content quality. Many publishers have tolerated low quality content that’s a poor brand fit when it was just links on their site. But when the content actually appears on their site, the potential for brand damage and alienating readers is much greater.
Ensuring the brand fit that makes the advertising native can’t be managed by an algorithm, it requires editorial judgment.
2. Link to advertiser’s site that takes you off the publisher’s site
If you leave the publisher’s site to engage with the content on the advertiser’s site, you’re off the reservation. Literally. The key to native advertising is the value of the publisher’s BRAND, and the value to the advertiser’s brand of appearing in the context where the publisher’s editorial content appears.
The value of the publisher’s brand and the editorial context is lost if you leave the publisher’s site.
Brands understandably want to build their own destination sites, and there are plenty of effective ways to buy traffic with links. But that’s NOT native advertising.
3. Advertiser content that isn’t in the publisher’s CMS
But there’s a reason why publishers like BuzzFeed and Forbes, who are leading the charge on native advertising, have given advertisers direct access to their CMS on the backend. These publishers want to give advertisers access to the same content tools used by their editorial staff.
Only by publishing the content IN the publisher’s CMS, just like the editorial content, can ad content be truly native. Native advertising doesn’t need to simulate the publisher’s template and styling if it’s in the publisher’s CMS alongside the editorial content.
For a native advertising platform, the ideal integration with a publisher’s site, where possible, is on the backend, directly into the CMS. The larger, more sophisticated publishers, and advertisers, will ultimately demand this approach.
4. Fixed position above or below the content stream
Native advertising headlines need to appear dynamically WITHIN the editorial content stream. That’s what makes, for example, Twitter’s Promoted Tweets so native — they are IN the stream.
A fixed position above or below the content stream is just a display ad position that happens to have content in it (which has been around for a long time). It may be advertiser content, but it’s not native advertising.
5. Advertiser content that’s not in a feed
When publishers and editors talk about the flow of editorial content, they talk about FEEDS. Feeds are fundamental to news, and they are fundamental to mobile, where the optimal user experience for content is a feed, i.e. a stream.
If advertiser content must be added to a native ad platform as separate, disconnected items, then it’s not a FEED , and therefore it’s not managed in the same way as the editorial content. If advertiser content is not in a feed, then it’s not a continuous flow of value, like a publisher delivers — it’s just a one-off ad, like a display ad.
Native advertising isn’t flighted, it flows continuously. It’s iterative. It tells a story over time.
Truly native advertising requires “feed management”, whereby feeds of advertiser content are integrated with feeds of editorial content to create a seamless user experience. That’s how brands can achieve the continuous engagement that they want from native advertising.
For brands to truly go native, and for native advertising to scale, advertisers must manage and distribute their content via feeds, just like publishers.