Home' Local Media Today : September 2015 Contents 14 | LOCAL MEDIA TODAY | September 2015
CONT. FROM PAGE 2
— meaning we own the service offering from start to finish on this particular product
Q What are the absolute mainstays of a successful native advertising program?
A Most will admit that we’ve struggled, as an industry, to have consensus on
native’s definition and implementation, so this is a common question we
receive. We have organized a handful of elements that define successful native ad
campaigns into something we call ‘The 5 Pillars of Native Advertising.” I explained the
pillars in the July edition of DDM’s Innovation Wire as follows:
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, en-
tertains 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
3. Matches form. The native ad should also matches form of your website (look and
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 mer-
chandising, 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.
For example, 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 our partners to discover
where their audiences come from (home page, social, email, etc.) and then make sure
native articles are available in those places.
Q Assuming a local media company is seeking a DIY approach, what is your view on
the best framework for producing the content and selling the services? Existing
team? Editorial division involved? New hires?
A We decided the DIY approach was best for us, which led us to create our own
content studio. I don’t think that has to be the end result for all media organiza-
tions who want to pursue DIY, but it does seem like the natural progression.
If you go the DIY route, I firmly believe your editorial team should not be involved
in the brand & content strategy, or the creation of the content. You need a separate
group, or maybe initially an individual, that can sit apart from editorial, but who has the
autonomy to create and publish native content directly to your website. This idea likely
gives your editorial team some heartburn, but I think it’s critical to success. One tool
that helped us come together was creating a styleguide for our branded content. The
styleguide clearly states what branded content is and what it is not on our sites, and is
used as a guide for all of branded content we create. We worked with, and received buy
in, from our editorial team in creating the styleguide, and the tool has helped ensure all
of our teams (editorial, sales and native) are all on the same page. If we ever violate a
principle contained in the styleguide, our editorial team can call us out on it.
Q Can you comment on the content guidelines that should be followed when
creating branded content? Critical do’s and don’ts?
A Absolutely. Let’s start with the do’s. Do focus on the reader. Do create awesome
content! Do produce content that is valuable for your audience — this could be
content that’s educational, humorous, inspirational, or motivational. Do treat the
content as you would your editorial content. Do measure it against your editorial
Don’t create a blatant sales pitch. Don’t create an advertorial, or a press release. The
second you start to pitch a product and service, you will lose your audience. Our readers
are smart, and they can sniff that out so quickly, which doesn’t help them, your adver-
tiser or your business.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to leverage your advertiser as a thought leader. And this can be
done without creating a sales pitch; in fact, you might be surprised at the interest your
audience has in hearing from the experiences and expertise of your advertiser. A great
example of this is a story we did with Comcast here in Salt Lake City. The story was titled,
“10 ways you might be killing your home wi-fi signal.” We leveraged Comcast’s expertise
to produce a story that provided really valuable insight for our readers, and it turned out
to be one of our top performing native ads.
Q How do you measure results? What are the key metrics that should be tracked?
A Right now native advertising is very much positioned as an upper funnel
marketing opportunity (branding, awareness, thought-leadership), and tradi-
tional display advertising and editorial analytics have been the table stakes for measur-
ing success (impressions, clicks, CTR, page views, time spent reading, et cetera). But
moving forward we need to find better ways of measuring and communicating the
upper funnel impact native advertising has for our advertisers. It's a challenge, and
something we, and many others in the industry, are currently working on.
Q How should native advertising be priced?
A I don’t think there is only one way, or one correct way, to price native advertis-
ing. Three common models have emerged, sponsorship, CPM, and a mixed
model. Each has its pros and cons and ultimately it depends on the individual publisher
and their market to determine what will be the best fit. For us, the sponsorship model
has worked really well. We’ve bundled all of our services (strategy sessions, content
creation, publishing, promotion, reporting, et cetera) into a simple package, and sell
each article as a flat-rate sponsorship. Regardless of which approach you take, it’s
important to remember that native advertising is a premium offering. You are renting
out precious real-estate on your website to an advertiser, so don’t be afraid to charge
Q What are the sales hurdles typically faced when selling native advertising? And
solutions for overcoming them?
A A common hurdle comes in educating the advertiser. For many of your local
clients, native advertising may be unlike anything they’ve ever done before. They
are likely more familiar with a direct response rather than a branding campaign, so it’s
crucial your sellers educate them on what native is and what it isn’t. When you set the
right expectations with regard to the type of content and campaign you will execute,
your advertisers will have more appropriate expectations for the type of results they can
expect. Things run smoothly when everyone is on the same page from the start.
Q Finally, put yourself in the shoes of a small media company seeking to get a native
ad program off the ground (or re-energized). What are some tips you can share
from your experience so far? Best practices? Pitfalls to avoid?
A First, you can't violate your brand’s promise to your audience. Your advertiser
will naturally want you to produce content that blatantly promotes its products.
Don't do it! You must respect your readers. Your content must be as good, or better, than
the content coming out of your newsroom. Otherwise you're not building a sustainable
or valuable product for your readers and advertisers.
Second, you need a winning team. Creating campaigns and producing quality
content takes time, effort and strategy. You need the right talent and that talent needs to
be organized correctly. Again, that's one of the main reasons we created the BrandForge
team (both for us and for the media partners we serve). Our team coordinates with our
editorial folks, but they sit separate and have autonomy. Also, they don't report directly
to anyone from the editorial side. And if you don’t have the resources internally, partner
with those who can help you.
Links Archive August 2015 October 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page