For as long as there have been advertisers, there have been advertisers trying to connect with consumers. And now that technology such as ad blocking allows consumers to choose what ads they do and don't see, many advertisers are using storytelling as a way to cut through the clutter of standard banner ads.
Branded storytelling, most often called native advertising, was a $30 billion industry in 2015, and it's not going away. According to PR Newswire and AdYouLike, industry revenue is set to double, to more than $60 billion, by 2018.
Branded storytelling can consist of any kind of content: written stories, images, videos, infographics, podcasts, white papers, courses, and more. So often, the success of native ad campaigns relies on the content's quality. And when you want to tell quality stories that appeal to a quality audience, you turn to the experts: publishers.
Major publishers, from legacy print companies like the New York Times to digital newcomers like BuzzFeed, have tapped into the opportunity for new revenue by creating specialized teams who create branded storytelling campaigns in the voice of their publication on behalf of advertisers. Some advertisers have even built their own team of storytelling experts.
These teams are typically made up of marketing folks who can design strategic campaigns and trained journalists or editorial creators who can create quality content at the level that readers have come to expect.
The industry, and its growth, means there are plenty of new jobs opening up for content creators. Freelance creators and out-of-work journalists may find that these native advertising teams blossoming inside publishers offer an opportunity for highly paid storytelling and creative work--both full time and on a per-project basis--that's not always available with shrinking editorial budgets.
Even if traditional journalists and creators get past the potential internal struggles of shifting from editorial to branded content, they may be met with other challenges: Because the industry is still new and evolving, it often lacks the uniformity and conventions that typically make job searches easy and effective.
Job titles can vary widely, though they may have similar responsibilities. One publisher's "branded content editor" is another publisher's "content strategist," and both of those individuals may do the same work as a third publisher's "native ad specialist" or "custom content creator."
Be aware of these and other common terms for native advertising when conducting searches on job sites or setting up automated alerts, and inform any allies or recruiters you work with of the possible titles that might be a good fit for your skills.
Oftentimes, native ad jobs will be posted by the internal content studios that do this work-- T Brand Studio at the New York Times or Re:think at the Atlantic, for example--rather than under the main publication's name.
Be sure to learn the names of the content studios at your target publications so you can monitor postings from those employers as well, and not just the publisher's main accounts.
Hiring for these branded content jobs can be challenging for HR teams, as the roles require a unique combination of storytelling and business savvy. Staying up-to-date on the industry will allow you to talk the talk in an interview that very well might emphasize marketing, advertising, and journalism in equal parts.
Read trade publications like AdWeek, AdAge, Digiday, Contently, and MediaPost's Native Insider column regularly to keep up with the headlines. Set up a Google Alert for "native advertising" to get news as it breaks. Subscribe to industry newsletters, such as those from the Overlap League, Brandtale, Content Marketing Institute, and Native Advertising Institute, to get news in batches in your inbox.
By being mindful of the nuanced labeling of branded work, and making an effort to stay abreast of the latest in native ad trends, a creator may be able to expand his or her client base significantly and tap into the growing market for native, branded, sponsored, or whatever else we're calling this content these days.