Maybe you’ve typed out the phrase native advertising as many times as myself, but I doubt it. I’m certain I’ll have muscle memory for life, dictating my hand’s position over the keyboard ready to eek out the words again.
This is the case for several leaders in our industry, be it publishers, marketers, tech companies or the journalists. For years, we have used native advertising as a catch-all term for a new trend in advertising we didn’t quite know how to describe.
The problem it seems is we aren’t talking about native advertising at all. We are instead describing the new standard in marketing for digital publishing. It is high time we stopped mincing words: We are talking about modern advertising.
And what exactly is it? It’s relevant to the present and future. It is also relevant to today’s user, native to the experience and mobile-ready.
It’s advertising, but only possible with savvy publishers affording themselves all the tools available to create premium inventory which adheres to three main ideas: the banner-free experience, the elimination of “mobile” and the reader.
What do I mean by banner free?
I know you’re getting nervous. But today’s most (financially) successful publishers with their eyes on the future are not concerning themselves with outdated banner ads. Buzzfeed, Tumblr, Quartz, Time and social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest -- successful household name publications with cutting-edge design that don’t rely on or even touch traditional display banner.
Audiences are barely interacting with the format, and the above brave publishers and content producers are bold enough to drop banners and not look back. 100-billion banners are served, but they are not relevant, especially when more than half of the web’s readership can’t even see them.
But that’s just one controversial step in series of necessarily bold choices.
Publishers need to stop making mobile sites. If I haven’t lost you yet, here’s the other side – publishers need to stop making desktop sites. The most successful publishers create a site that performs seamlessly on desktop, mobile and every screen in between. You solve mobile monetization when you remove mobile from the equation.
Take Slate – the publisher’s site is so flexible that there’s no differentiating between mobile and desktop inventory. It’s all premium inventory, which is seen the same way by readers no matter what device they use. Thus, what’s the point of ad inventory that only works for 50% of the audience? Display is only barely effective on the desktop where audiences are steadily shrinking.
The reader, the user, the audience — they are essential to the success of modern advertising. They are the final piece that makes this new format relevant. As much as programmatic’s advocates claim their algorithm can target the demographic you want, you can still recall the moment in your browsing history where they just got it wrong.
When you put the reader first with your modern advertising, you create value for them, as well. A marketer’s choice of publishing partner is just as important as the content. No amount of automatic targeting will match the bond a reader has with a publication they read everyday.
If a reader glosses over sponsored content as quickly as they do an irrelevant display ad, it’s of continual detriment to the format. As studies with the IAB, Edelman, and the AOP suggest, readers find value in sponsored content that appears in publications they respect and touches on topics they find interesting.
Modern advertising is contextually relevant to the reader and has the potential to raise metrics rather than slide into the irrelevance possible with a network approach. Scale is achieved when content recommendation engines build on a reader’s tastes, rather than a jarringly inappropriate piece of content from a vendor’s far-flung network.
This is what I implied when I said I was in the native advertising business. No shortage of vendors, startups, and marketers inflated the term to encompass too many unfulfilled promises.I’m now in the modern advertising business: relevant, respectful, and no shortcuts. Most publishers want to be in that business, too.