It Is Time (Inc.) For Native To Take A Bow In A Mobile-First World

Listen to the Bloomberg interview with Joe Ripp, Time Inc.'s CEO, and count how many times the word native crops up, either on its own or as video native. It kind of ends up becoming another word for advertising, doesn't it? As the interviewees talk over the usual issues surrounding all print publishers going digital, Ripp continually points to native and native video as the way forward as print sales and revenue decline. Clearly for a publisher of such high repute, native (i.e., advertorial) is a very attractive proposition for any advertiser looking to rub shoulders with articles and columns from top writers.

It is either by chance or planning, then, that Yahoo publishes a report today with Enders Analysis talking up the prospects for native advertising in Europe. Last year the medium saw a 156% increase in spend, and in the UK spend is forecast to more than double to GBP2.8bn per year between 2015 and 2020. The report obviously serves Yahoo's purpose well of pointing out what a massive channel it can open up to advertisers.

So, regular MAD London readers will know that Yahoo and Joe Ripp are pushing on an open door with me. My only question was why native hasn't gone up more. It might sound self-serving for a journalist to point this out, but what better way is there to reach out to people than through a channel that rubs shoulders with the content they're consuming, rather than screaming out from around the edges? Given the huge rise in ad blocking, viewability and fraud, I'd suggest that native is possibly the Holy Grail and that it is little surprise it is showing such huge growth.

Put it another way. I was talking with an agency executive the other day about the reasons that so much budget still goes into digital display when it's clearly not well suited to the smaller screen of a mobile-first world. What's more, it strikes me that if research study after research study can suggest as much as half of what is pumped out may never be seen by a human, then there should be far more of a question mark over the channel's viability, particularly in reference to other channels. We moved on to how display is great for awareness -- but again, how can it be if up to half of what you send out can't be viewed by a human?

Isn't it dangerous to assume you've spend x amount on "awareness" only to find it might have actually been half that amount when the metrics are complete? OK -- so you may get a rebate, but that doesn't make up for all the awareness you thought you were generating, and I rather suspect, that rebate can only be put back in to the same trading desk buying the same display through the same sources?

The unavoidable lesson of modern digital marketing, with its move to the mobile accompanying a rising tide of ad blocking that is only going to get worse, is very simple. You have to be a part of the message. You have to be front and centre for at least a good proportion of your digital marketing effort. Whether it's promoted posts on social media or native text and video advertising on content sites, unless you have a compelling message and are willing to pay to put it in the editorial flow, you'll find your voice diminished by ad blocking, fraud and viewability issues.

If there is one reason why Time Inc is joining in the line of potential Yahoo suitors, it is because it realises the shift to digital is now the shift to mobile -- and the winners in that world will be those who offer native opportunities and those who take them up.

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