Future's Ngin Drives Native Advertising

by , Dec 13, 2013, 3:00 AM
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A few weeks ago, I wrote somewhat cynically about the world of native advertising. My view was (and it’s one I still hold) that it’s rehashed sponsored content sell that publishers are being driven to offer as banner blindness and ever-decreasing yields hit their traditional display business.

Sadly, it seems that the world of digital media has ignored me again and is intent on plunging headlong into this murky world. Pretty much all the 2014 predictions include the growth of native advertising as a revenue stream for publishers and a way for brands to engage with audiences. So if it’s going to happen, let’s look at how it can be done well.

One more of UK’s more digitally savvy publishers are Future. They are the AOP and PPA Digital Publisher of the year for 2013 and claim to reach a combined audience of over 58 million. Like many other publishers, they see the value in native advertising but are coming at it from a slightly different angle. They are setting up an in-house agency to gain greater editorial oversight of sponsored content as interest from advertisers in the medium continues to grow.

This initiative will be called Ngin and will consist of editorial teams separate from those of its titles. Members will work on advertorials, promoted posts, ad formats and videos tailored to specific magazine brands. Ngin will work on more strategy-led projects including audience insight, dedicated editorial, content marketing, project management and results analysis.

Nial Ferguson, managing director, Future UK, says: “The creation of Ngin combines the strength of Future’s brands with the insight and expertise within the business to look beyond advertising. We can now offer our partners an end-to-end multi-platform content marketing solution that works with conventional advertising to create a more cohesive and an impactful story”.

It is a growing practice among many publishers – IPC, Dennis and Conde Nast are all working on similar projects — but Future says that Ngin’s USP will be that it sits within its commercial division. Editors will work closely with both sales teams and advertisers in an attempt to circumvent what the publisher claims is the “church and state” attitude towards branded content that exists in the print world.  Whether you think that circumventing that mind-set is a good thing or not probably depends on which side of a media company’s office you sit. 

What I particularly like about the Future approach from an advertiser’s point of view is that Ngin will also be able to provide real-time results analysis to adapt the campaign while it is live. The mix and match of the old and the new ideas in digital publishing looks a good one to me and will have to be the way for publishers to move in 2014.

Native advertising formats that fit into the flow or stream of editorial content are naturally mobile friendly (look at promoted tweets or posts) but they are almost a revisiting of the much-maligned magazine advertorial. That being said, whilst branded content is nothing new, this style of treatment is enabling publishers to do what they do best and apply their core skills in content creation just in new and different ways. Despite my initial cynicism, the interesting thing about what Future are doing is that they are experimenting, developing learnings along the way and, who knows, perhaps even creating a format which has good scalability and repeatability. And that’s got to be a good thing.

This might even be a whole new ad platform or this might be an old one with a new name but if it’s working for publishers, then I’m happy to see how it plays out. Native might not be the saviour of publishing or even the future of advertising but I think it does create new opportunities and for that reason I'm sure we'll see a lot more of it.

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