Posted on September 12, 2013by itz1013
better part of this year trying to define what native advertising is, or frequently, what it is not, as well as where it fits relative to other buzz-phrases such as content marketing.
Fahad Khan, a Rutgers professor and CEO of a digital marketing software company called One Public, is the latest to call for a better definition of native advertising. “The definition of ‘native advertising’ that is loosely or tightly associated with content marketing is flawed and misguided,” Khan wrote for Huffington Post.
Instead, Khan offered an alternative that he said is universal in that it extends beyond digital to include traditional advertising channels such as print and radio:
“Native ads are ads in a format that is native to the platform on which they are run, bought or sold. Native advertising is the activity of producing, buying and selling native ads.”
That doesn’t exactly clear things up. Others, meanwhile, don’t like to use “native advertising” at all, arguing that the term is overly broad and thus meaningless. Ad Age’s Tim Peterson offers several more specific designations for content that’s generally accepted as native: advertorials (he cites Forbes’ BrandVoice as an example), sponsored articles (BuzzFeed), custom ads (Vox Media), in-stream ads(Yahoo), promoted tweets (Twitter) and search ads (Google).
Khan and Peterson, like many others who have weighed in on the topic, are focused on the design, format and presentation of native ads. But format is largely irrelevant in attempting to define a native ad – it can be a blog post, a video, a slideshow, a microsite or virtually any other asset that a publisher would consider “content.” When those assets appear on a brand’s own website, they’re called branded content. When they appear on a media site, they’re native ads.
These emerging definitions of native advertising generally ignore an important element: the content itself. Being “native” means integrating with the look and feel of the publisher’s website, but it also requires aligning brand content with the publisher’s own style and voice. If you’re commingling editorial and marketing content, any subpar offering from an advertiser will be quickly dismissed – or worse, ridiculed, along with the publisher for posting it.
If the content in a native advertorial is not authentic and credible – think of your audience hearing nails on a blackboard when reading or viewing it – then the campaign will bomb, and no one goes home happy. Exhibit A: The Atlantic’sScientology post. Others have followed.
(While alignment is critical, the ad content still must be clearly labeled to distinguish it from the editorial content.)
Publishers can’t risk losing trust with their audience by running crappy content that dilutes their own premium assets. All native advertising should be put through an editorial filter to ensure that it is consistent with the publisher’s brand and editorial content. I’ve written before about the growing importance of “brand editors.” Forbes seems to be embracing the concept by seeking a managing editor – with 10 or more years of digital journalism experience – for its BrandVoice service line. The position will be based in Forbes’ digital ad products group, which is part of the sales organization.
The quality issue escalates when publishers seek to address the other big challenge of native advertising: scale. As native ad-serving platforms such as Nativo and Sharethrough gain more traction as a way to automate native ad campaigns, the quality issue may become more pronounced.
Native ads delivered across a network can adjust to an individual site’s design, but can they accommodate the editorial checks and balances required to ensure the content aligns with the site’s editorial quality?
Justin Choi, CEO of Nativo, said branded content distributed through his company’s platform is filtered for contextual relevancy and also reviewed for quality. The participating brands understand that it’s in their best interests to create compelling content, Choi said. The best judge of quality, he added, lies in the data that Nativo tracks during a campaign.
“The platform will tell you very quickly what’s working and what’s not,” he said. Publishers that want more control over the native content, he added, can sell their own inventory through the Nativo platform.
Nativo announced this week that several premium publishers, including The Street, Readers Digest, Kiplinger, Entrepreneur Media and Source Media Interlink, have signed on as customers. It will be interesting to see if these publishers are interested in setting a bar for quality or simply grabbing a few extra ad dollars at the expense of the user experience.
For native advertising to succeed, quality must trump scale. Any definition of native advertising that doesn’t address quality in addition to format and presentation will fall short. Publishers accepting native ads must add processes to preserve the integrity of their editorial, while brands that really care about engaging with an audience must commit to creating content that people actually want to read.
Check out the original post at http://www.emediavitals.com/content/when-defining-native-ads-where-does-quality-fit.