Is Content Native? Is Native Content? Questions We're All Asking...

January 2, 2014

By Skip Brand, MediaPost

Over the past year, the term "native advertising" has evolved from a simple industry buzzword into a complex, frequently debated advertising strategy being heralded as the future of digital. At the same time, content is considered the number one marketing priority this year, according to eMarketer. The two are often mentioned concurrently. So the question often proposed to me is if there is a difference between native advertising and content marketing. I always reply with the same answer: There is no fundamental difference.

Despite how it’s been perceived, native is not a new concept. One of the oldest forms of native is the advertorial. A favorite of print publishers for decades, the advertorial was the method of reaching readers with advertising disguised as content that matched the look and feel of the magazine’s layout. It was not long before this idea translated itself to the Web in the form of sponsored content within news streams and on web sites — whether it was sponsored posts on Facebook, or, dare I say, ads in pre-roll videos. Even though one was in print form and one was digital, both are comparable in that they were part of open and closed platforms. They were native to the media it lived on. The newest form of native is content living within an ad unit itself.

See the pattern? The definition of native advertising has always included some aspect of content. The primary function of a native ad is to enhance the consumer experience. Whether this is done by seemingly incorporating the ad into a publisher’s site so it does not disrupt, or including relevant content that is of significance to a user, native is all about making the advertising experience more valuable. And content is ultimately what drives value for the consumer.

While brands have wholeheartedly embraced content marketing, I think it will still take some time for brands to get it down to an exact science. There are many elements that need to be better defined when it comes to content marketing. What type of content is best to use — a brand’s own content? Third-party content? Social content? Local content? Plus, how do you best optimize the content so it is the most engaging material available?

What’s more, you must clearly label the content as “sponsored” or “presented by” to make it clear it’s advertising. All too often, especially in recent examples of native executions, advertisers try to sneak their content into a user’s content stream. Not only is this a disservice to the consumer, but it also hurts the publisher’s reputation. If it is clearly defined as a marketer’s content, audiences may be more open to embracing it, especially if it is relevant and not a fluffy sales message disguised as content.  

As I mentioned, the type of content used by an advertiser can vary, and can be written by the brand itself, or an independent third-party publisher. It is a fine line that must be walked carefully. If marketers create all the content they constantly push out to audiences, it waters down the effect Marketers should integrate as much outside editorial content as possible to earn a level of trust and respect with their audience.

Lastly, content as native offers the added opportunity to scale. Let me explain how this works. Native advertising has traditionally been limited to the site for which it's native. Leveraging an IAB standard ad unit for instance, you can integrate content to the unit and therefore make the content native to the ad itself. This unit allows advertisers to reach multiple publisher networks with sponsored content. The use of a standard unit also gives publishers an advantage, since networks and exchanges can include them within inventory. That means the publishers can enjoy all the benefits of native, without the need to build a custom platform.

Native advertising has become such a huge trend for a reason: It drives results. On Facebook, native ads in the News Feed generate 49-times higher click-through rates and a 54 percent  lower cost-per-click than traditional placements in the right-rail sidebar. By making native scalable, the results improve for everyone — publishers, advertisers and consumers. If content is king, native is surely by its side as queen, and the technology that will make it more relevant for consumers is aces.


"Is Content Native? Is Native Content? Questions We're All Asking..." Skip Brand. MediaPost, 12/06/13.

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