5 pillars of native advertising

Jake Berry | Business Development Manager, DDM Publisher Solutions | @jakeberry8 | August 1, 2015

Native advertising continues to be an important part of our revenue strategy at DDM, both for our own sales goals and also through our partner-facing native ad studio, BrandForge, where we’re helping other publishers create, launch and scale their native ad products. And the future of native advertising looks bright. It’s projected to be a $13.2 billion industry by 2019, according to BIA/Kelsey’s Rick Ducey at Local Media Association’s Native Ad Summit last month.

When done right, native advertising provides quality content to your audience, thought leadership for an advertiser, and a key revenue stream for the publisher – mobile monetization. It’s no secret that as audiences shift to mobile, display dollars are disappearing.

While native advertising provides great opportunities for publishers, it is also fraught with peril. For one thing, in our industry there are many different definitions of what native is. As a publisher pioneering native advertising for more than two years in our market, working with hundreds of advertisers and training hundreds of media executives from 26 countries, we have found a handful of elements we believe define successful native ad campaigns. We have organized them into the following five pillars:

1. Quality, engaging content. Most importantly, you have to provide your readers with quality content. This is not an advertorial. This is not a press release. This is not a sales pitch. Yes, it is an advertisement, but the content (story, video, graphic) must provide value to your audience. This is typically accomplished when the content educates, entertains or informs the audience.

2. Mixed with editorial. Native advertising can't be banished to the right rail or on another page of your site where it is easily ignored. To have the desired impact for your advertiser and with your audience, it must be mixed with your editorial content. Don’t risk losing readers by hiding your amazing native ad articles between display ads and right-rail widgets.

3. Matches Form. The native ad should also match the form of your website (look and feel).

4. Clearly labeled. Your native ad should have the look and feel of your other editorial content, but it should also be clearly labeled so your audience understands it’s branded or sponsored content.

5. Behavior. Native ads should not only look and feel like your editorial content, but should behave like your editorial content as well. They should follow the same merchandising, onsite and offsite promotional efforts too. If social promotion is part of your editorial content strategy, it should be part of your native strategy, as well.

We found when we were only posting native articles to the home page at deseretnews.com, the articles were not performing as well as expected. Once we started to match the behavior of our editorial content – which meant promoting articles on social media – our native articles took off. We encourage partners to discover where their audiences come from (home page, social, email, etc.) and then make sure native articles are available in those places.