2 ways to maximize the value of native advertising with standout content

Morgan Jones | BrandView Content Manager, DDM | @mojo7795 | July 1, 2015

We have had two questions written in the top left-hand corner of our office dry-erase board for the last two and a half months.

“Would you want to read this if it wasn’t your brand?”

“Would you share this article with your friends?”

These questions have helped guide our native advertising team as we have tried to improve the quality of our content. If the answer to either of these questions is no, we know that there are some changes we need to make in order to improve the content.

When I made the switch from our editorial staff to native advertising, I quickly found that in an effort to communicate their desired message, clients tend to create dry, unappealing content. This is understandable because clients have been conditioned to craft press releases and to pay for traditional advertisements. It is sometimes difficult for clients to grasp the fact that a native advertisement is neither of these things.

Native advertising should be as good, if not better, than the editorial content that surrounds it. Why? Because native content teams, in theory, have more time to strategize and craft the messaging and visuals around specific articles and overall campaigns.

All in all, a client is paying for an article that should benefit the client's business while providing something extremely valuable to the publisher’s audience. This is what makes native advertising a completely different beast than any other form of advertising, journalism or public relations.

It is our opportunity and responsibility to help the client get the best ROI while also producing compelling and interesting content for our readers.

If our clients and sellers don’t understand the vast possibilities attached to the investment they are making, they are wasting an opportunity. However, taking full advantage of the opportunity requires understanding what native is, how it ticks and what KPIs constitute a successful campaign.

There are two things we can do as publishers to ensure that our clients are maximizing the content value of their native advertisements:

1. Know your audience

I’m involved with the production of native content for two sites, ksl.com (a TV/radio website) and deseretnews.com (a newspaper site). Both are based in Salt Lake City and produce online content. You would probably assume, as I did, that the audiences for the two websites are pretty similar. In reality, the on-site behavior for the two audiences is completely different and their response to content is sometimes entirely opposite.

It is for this reason that I have learned the importance of knowing each audience individually.

One example of a publication that is an expert at knowing its audience is BuzzFeed. Known for its entertaining, image-heavy articles, BuzzFeed has managed to create a new kind of online journalism that has been wildly successful.

BuzzFeed got in on the native advertising party early and established itself as a thought leader in the field.

Initially we thought we needed to be just like BuzzFeed but soon realized that while we may adopt certain practices, our audience has different wants and needs. We have different messages we are striving to communicate.

Aiming to please our audience as opposed to BuzzFeed or anyone else’s audience has produced incredible results. When you understand your audience and who they really are, you are able to evoke emotion and invite them to act. They will recognize, even if only subconsciously, that you care about their interests.

The same is true for your publication. Regardless of whether you are a small-town newspaper website or The New York Times, you know your audience best.

2. Be the authority

Native advertising provides the advertiser with an opportunity to show their target audience how much they know about their industry. In a traditional advertisement they would simply talk about their product, but in a native advertisement, they are given a chance to teach the consumer and build their trust.

What does building this trust look like in real life? Here’s an example of E*Trade teaching readers about stocks on theatlantic.com. Here’s an example of Voya, a financial investment company with a focus on retirement, educating readers about how to prepare for retirement on nytimes.com.

If you follow these two tips, you will find that the content you produce will be so good that you would read it even if it wasn’t your job (or your brand) and you will want to share it with your friends. When done right, your audience will feel the same. It will be content you can be proud of, native or not.