Publishers Lunge For Native Ads

by , Dec 10, 2013, 6:10 PM
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Love it or hate it -- and there are plenty of people on both sides -- native advertising is the hot new trend in online publishing, as demonstrated by a flurry of new native ad partnerships and products in recent months. All this activity is also attracting attention from the Powers That Be, raising the eternal question of voluntary self-regulation versus external control by organs of government.
 
On the positive side, the wins for native advertising platforms have been piling up at dizzying speed. Nativo -- a start-up that helps publishers scale native advertising by automating the process of formatting and distributing native ads across various devices -- has signed deals with over 1,500 publishers, including McClatchy, Lee Enterprises, Gatehouse Media, Source Interlink, the USA Today Sports Media Group, Entrepreneur Media and Reader’s Digest.
 
According to Nativo founder and CEO Justin Choi, in addition to matching the look and feel of the publisher’s platform, one of Nativo’s key features is that it allows publishers to build native ad units and host them on site, thus retaining their audience. On the advertiser side, Nativo offers advertising clients the efficiency of an ad exchange by automating the tailoring and distribution of ads, enabling targeting by demographic and geographic characteristics, among other criteria.
 
However, some publishers are setting up in-house native ad outfits. Time Inc. recently circulated an RFP to enlist a partner for the design, development and launch of a comprehensive new native ad platform for Time Inc.’s brands. Separately, the company announced its first advertising client for Watercooler Live, a native ad product that combines advertiser content and Time Inc.’s editorial content in microsites and ad units. Land Rover is using Watercooler Live to create a microsite and ad units with custom content from the carmaker and Time Inc. editorial content.
 
Continuing the in-house trend, in November The New York Times Co. revealed plans for a native advertising platform, led by Executive Vice President for Advertising Meredith Kopit Levien, who previously helped develop Forbes’ pioneering native advertising push. In November, Levien told Capital New York that it will include a “suite of social amplification and analytics tools to enable marketers to see and scale the value of those stories in real time.”
 
Also in November, the Associated Press announced a partnership with Polar, which operates a native advertising platform for digital publishers called MediaVoice. MediaVoice -- launched by Toronto-based Polar in July -- offers native ad options, including sponsored stories, sponsored videos, sponsored photo galleries and sponsored outbound links, along with a plugin that automatically formats ad content to match the look and feel of the host site.
 
Back in the magazine world, Conde Nast publications are also going native. In August, Wired launched Amplifi, a native ad service that creates branded promotional content for advertising clients, including for example a custom magazine for Cisco drawing on crowd-sourced content. The New Yorker has also introduced native advertising units.

Native is a natural for fashion publications. In September, Hearst Corp. launched its first native advertising campaign on Harper's Bazaar with Nordstrom as its debut client.
 
But inevitably all this activity has resulted in greater scrutiny from regulators.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission fired a warning shot with a workshop where speakers took a decidedly mixed view of the discipline. FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez opened the workshop with a warning: “By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a nonbiased source.”
 
On that note, some publishing industry organizations have already begun issuing guidelines for voluntary self-regulation; some of them address the issue of appearance. In October, the American Society of Magazine Editors released an updated version of its editorial guidelines with new suggestions for best practices surrounding native advertising. Among other things, ASME suggested that native advertising “should not use type fonts and graphics resembling those used for editorial content and should be visually separated from editorial content."
 
Still, much of native advertising's appeal derives from its resemblance to editorial content. By matching the format and appearance of surrounding articles, advertisers hope to avoid the curse of “interruptive” messaging that consumers often reflexively ignore.

3 comments on "Publishers Lunge For Native Ads ".

  1. Anni Paul from BoscoSystems
    commented on: December 11, 2013 at 2:04 a.m.
    I think the saving grace of native advertising is that it will actually deliver content to readers that, while still an ad, provides useful or informative material in the process. In mobile, this is sorely needed, which is why I expect FB, Airpush, Twitter and the other ad networks/social networks smart enough to get into native advertising to succeed with it.
  2. Henry Blaufox from DragonSearch
    commented on: December 11, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
    The "premium" publishers need a way to maintain control of their audience, advertiser / sponsor relationships, and pricing. So native ad platform solutions that help them retain that control will be more valuable than solutions that use third party networks, if the networks drive down pricing the way display networks did. Native ads and content are supposed to be the antithesis of remnant inventory, not another version of it.
  3. Nancy Padberg from Navigate Boomer Media
    commented on: December 11, 2013 at 11:33 a.m.
    We have been integrating informative content effectively for our clients in travel, health, in our Baby Boomer network of sites for over a year stating branded content. The content has to be educational not overly promotional. The consumer is informed, has transparency and client's conversion rates have increased.

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