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What is the big deal with native advertising?

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Last week, the FTC held an all day long workshop to talk about native advertising. Lesley Fair, staff attorney at the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection put the day’s focus in historical perspective. “'Blurring' of the lines between brand-driven content that is meant to influence a consumer’s decision and otherwise unbiased editorial or journalistic content has taken place since, well, forever."

If you don't happen to know what native advertising is, you're not alone. Many marketers and publishers tend to describe it in a number of different ways. I personally think of it as any content published on a website that was written to promote a brand or product, where money was exchanged for that content to be published.

I have spoken to a number of different ad networks, publishers, and industry executives and the consensus seems to be that all of them like native advertising, for a few reasons.

One reason publishers like native ads is that the content is written by someone else, and the publisher doesn't have to pay a writer for that content. Another reason publishers like native ads is that they get paid to simply publish content that fits within their editorial guidelines anyway.

Ad agencies like native ads because they can pay for content to be published that is clearly labeled as an ad, but it still looks and reads like high quality news coverage. And the tracking ability that comes with most native ad platforms is a boon to marketers and ad agencies.

Advertisers will usually be able to control the banner ads surrounding their native advertorial content, in which they can generally install their 3rd party scripts for retargeting purposes.

Forbes.com for instance has a 'BrandVoice' native ad product that fits seamlessly into the editorial of their online content, and is very high quality. The cost for an advertiser to use BrandVoice is in the 6 figure range, so it's not something most small businesses can use.

DeseretNews.com also has a native ad product they call 'BrandView' and uses a similar model to Forbes, but their prices are much less (they have about 1/10th of the traffic that Forbes has as well).

And finally, there are services like ContentBlvd.com that allow advertisers to select from among a pool of 2nd tier sites that aren't household names, but still have hundreds of thousands of pageviews and readers. And the price for these type of native ads are about 1/10th the price of DeseretNews.

So the marketplace is starting to mature, the prices are starting to get more standardized, and the tracking capability is there for any advertiser or marketer who wants to take advantage of it.

I have no doubt that there will be more to come in the native advertising debate. One thing that some publishers are concerned about is how Google may look at their site if they have native ads being published all the time.

No sites have been penalized by Google for publishing sponsored posts/native ads as far as I know. But there could be an algorithm change that would either help or hinder sites that post sponsored stories. With Google you never know.

One thing is for sure. Native ads have been around in some way shape or form for a long time, and they're not going away in the near future.

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