Is Native Advertising Right For You?

Jan 22, 2014 Tina Cassidy

That buzz around native advertising is now a loud vibration that is difficult to ignore.

Earlier this month, the New York Times became the most significant carrier of native advertising when it officially launched its program to host sponsored content with a six-figure three-month deal with Dell. While sites larger than NYTimes.com (yeah, Buzzfeed, I’m talking about you) and others that are highly respected (Washington Post, Vanity Fair) were already carrying sponsored content, the Times made it seem as if the Rubicon had been crossed.

Then, this week, Forrester analyst Ryan Skinner released a report saying that native advertising is “worth pursuing” -- he meant for those writing the checks, of course, but it’s also worth pursuing for those on the receiving end, as well.

A couple days after the Forrester report, NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen, in an interview with Contently, gave what sounded like a ringing endorsement of native advertising when he said it “is a kind of ad that can compete with the best material out there. That is different from advertorials.”

Rosen is right.  But not every enterprise has Dell’s budget. And not every enterprise needs to. Right now, there are many CEOs, domain experts and professionals who have interesting things to say, whether it’s a point of view about an industry, a solution to a problem, an idea that they want to share or new data that creates insights. If this information, packaged as an ‘article’ or an infographic, a video or a slideshow, can be created in a way that is helpful or even entertaining (without sounding like an advertorial), it can get published, just like real journalism, on legitimate sites such as Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Co., Wired, and many others, even in certain sections of the New York Times, without having to pay.

Granted, native ads have the benefit of landing prime real estate on a web site, which can help the posts go viral. You can see great examples of that happening here. But one needs only to look at YouTube to know that even mediocre content (have you seen Hallway Swimming?) – can draw an enormous number of clicks, more than double what the native advertising leaderboard winners have gotten, without paying to boost their views.

So, where does that leave us? Brands that historically have been only good at talking about themselves, now are hiring journalists to produce content that – for a price -- can live on the website of choice. This is a great gig for many former journalists like me; it’s a refreshing type of advertising for a large corporation with a huge advertising budget to experiment with; and it’s awesome for the Times’s bottom line and potentially its long-suffering shareholders (of which I am one.)

Forrester’s Skinner correctly says that while native advertising is worth pursuing, he doesn’t mean brands should “pour all your advertising dollars into it, ‘go hog wild!’ or any variant on that theme. By ‘worth pursuing’, I would say that it: a) is a very imperfect tactic, b) holds great promise, and c) requires some experience to get right.”

At InkHouse, we'd agree.

Topics: Blogging, Content, Infographics, Marketing, Public Relations, Writing, Content Marketing, Journalism, Social Media, Thought Leadership
Tina Cassidy

Tina is executive vice president and chief content officer at InkHouse. She is a former journalist, the author of three books, and mom of three boys and a dog named Dusty.

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