Earlier this week I presented at Europe's first Native Advertising Conference. During my second session, I was part of a panel discussing the current state of the marketing and media landscape and how the distribution and promotion of native content fits into the marketing mix in the age of digital. Other panelists included the head of content at Politico and the managing director at Sharethrough.
Here are a few of my contributions and what I see in the future for native content.
1. Why do we have native advertising at all? What is the rationale?
The ROI of outbound marketing is eroding--Adobe found that 54 percent of people think "banner ads (simply) don't work."
When Fractl asked 1,000 consumers "How do you learn about a company?", a whopping 93 percent said they used online search to learn more about a company within the last week, and about 90 percent had read an article about a company.
By using content as a platform to educate, entertain, and provide value, we no longer need to rely on intrusive and ineffective outbound tactics to build brand awareness.
2. What is the biggest pitfall in native advertising and how can we avoid it?
Currently, native advertising isn't as cost effective as content marketing paired with digital PR. Earlier this year I gathered native advertising cost data provided by 600 publishers. I then ran a survey of over 30 leading content marketing agencies.
I found top-tier sites such as BuzzFeed are charging $100,000 to engage in a minimum of three campaigns, and even mid-tier sites charged $30,000 per campaign. Oftentimes you're paying for the ability to publish content solely on the site you're partnering with. In addition, "sponsored links" are not allowed to pass value, so they're not increasing your organic search rankings.
On the other hand, some of the best content marketing agencies were charging $10,000 per campaign. Across 140 different campaigns Fractl executed between 2013 and 2015, we earned an average of 90 original publisher stories and 10,000 social shares per campaign. In addition to generating brand awareness and engagement, all of these links also passed value.
I think the way publishers and brands can avoid links not passing value is by dedicating additional budget to digital PR for their campaigns to increase original content syndication.
3. The threat from ad blockers--how do you see it?
The only logical solution is that native content will have to become a complete value add that people want to engage with--and not something that is simply a press release.
According to Ben Williams, head of operations at Adblock Plus, native ads can indeed be blocked. However, Adblock Plus has an independent review board to determine whether ads qualify as "acceptable" and are allowed to pass through its filters.
Adblock Plus's current requirements for "acceptable" advertising state that ads must not be "annoying," must not disrupt or distort content on Web pages, are transparent about being paid placements, do not "shout" at users, and are "appropriate" to the sites on which they appear.
4. What do you see for the future of native advertising?
Right now native advertising is in its early adoption stage, but I predict in the next one to two years that it will become the core strategy across all industries, and we'll see an explosion in data journalism and innovative content mediums that truly engage and educate consumers.