Ask three people for the definition of native advertising, and you’ll probably get three answers. Some say advertorials qualify, while others strongly disagree. Ask the supposed coiner of the term, Dan Greenburg, and he’ll say that it’s ”a form of media that’s built into the actual visual design and where the ads are part of the content.”
Confused yet? Don’t be.
Successful native advertising is meant to slip into the content of the page seamlessly. It catches the eye and draws in the reader or viewer without standing out as an ad. It sounds like a perfect way to draw in readership, but there’s a fine line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t. At least according to Google.
Google Speaks Out
Online journalism has listened to all of the buzz about native advertising, and in some cases it’s latched on. Google isn’t thrilled. On March 27, 2013, Richard Gingras, Sr. Director, News & Social Products warned at the Google News Blog that ”… if we learn of promotional content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.” Ouch.
How can an online publication take advantage of native advertising and stay off Google’s doom radar? Christopher Zara for International Business Times says it’s not that complicated. Don’t try to fool the audience into believing an ad is real news.
Adweek has a slightly different idea, although they don’t control which websites show up in a Google search. In February of 2013, Charlie Warzel wrote, ”For native advertising to succeed, its practitioners need to be mindful that it’s not yet universally accepted, and traditionalists need to unmoor themselves from the idea that native is a corrosive practice that undermines great journalism and see that it could even be its savior.”
Forbes Leads a Distinguished Herd
Known for respectability, Forbes and its native advertising model stands out. Examine this content, Artistic Entrepreneurs Fuel the Creative Economy — It Takes a Community…, and judge for yourself whether it’s distinguishable from news.
Part of what makes this ad work is the fact that it’s posted on Forbes’ BrandVoice page. Jeff Mignon for RevSquare calls it ”brand journalism.” Using the Forbes’ model, the content is clearly marked with a logo and brand signature, and the content isn’t promotional.
Washington Post Also Keeps it Clear
The Washington Post has a similar model as Forbes, called WP BrandConnect. Native ads aren’t deceptive, as the brand logo and signature lets readers know the stories are not news. This is one example: Mobile Revving up Rural Economies.
The Post was recently purchased by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. It will be interesting to watch how this publication approaches native advertising under its new leadership.
BuzzFeed Treads the Fine Line and Brings in Revenue
A story about native advertising wouldn’t be complete without mentioning BuzzFeed. Staunch promoters of native advertising, seemingly regardless of how it’s defined, BuzzFeed does know how to promote material with viral potential. One example is 12 Truly Amazing Animal Accomplishments.
This is clearly not a news story. You’d never mistake it for such. But did you notice the Beneful name at the top? This is a Beneful ad, even without product placement.
There’s no denying the potential that native advertising carries. Journalists know that ads, not subscriptions, are what keep the pulse somewhat steady. And that is far from a new concept.
Revenue development is critical for any publication, and native advertising might just be the next big thing.