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Journalist's Views on Native Advertising and What This Means for Your PR Business

Blog post   •   May 25, 2016 15:24 BST

In the rapidly changing worlds of journalism and advertising, one of the fastest-growing trends is native advertising. While this development has created new revenue opportunities for publishers and advertisers, it has sparked some controversy as well.

What is Native Advertising?

Native advertising is content that's sponsored by brands and looks like regular editorial or featured content. According to Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute,  native advertising is when brands pay for content on media they don't own. It is usually high-value content intended for a specific audience and made to look as close as possible to the publisher's regular subject matter.

The blurred lines between native advertising and traditional advertising have raised some concerns by journalists, editors and communicators. In Mynewsdesk's "Journalism Trends" report, journalists had a wide variety of opinions on whether they would be comfortable creating native content, also known as advertorials. Thirty-four percent answered yes, 26 percent said maybe and 40 percent responded negatively.

How PR Pros Can Use Native Advertising

The benefit of native advertising is that readers and viewers trust the content. You "borrow" the credibility and integrity of the publisher. You can leverage this advantage if the brand you represent is likewise trusted by users. That's why when you create branded content, it must be high quality and appear seamless to the reader. The client's brand and the host publisher's brand should match in tone, voice and style.

Engaging with Consumers

Native advertising should be added to the communication mix to provide clients with a new method of engaging with consumers. It allows brands to communicate quality and integrity with useful information and captivating entertainment. In turn, PR professionals add value to the client relationship and show they are on top of changes in the industry.

However, care should be taken to make sure sponsored content is useful for the audience, not another commercial advertising message for the client. Some brands insist on talking about themselves incessantly, an approach that will ruin the effectiveness of any advertorial.

Stretch Media Dollars

A survey by  Adyoulike revealed that 88 percent of executives at leading PR agencies in the UK feel native advertising is a good opportunity. Although they worry about transparency issues, they feel they can use advertorials to stretch media dollars and tap into content budgets that have not been fully utilised.

One of the main considerations you should keep in mind is context. Even if your client has a good article in mind, it must be published alongside content that is appropriate for the brand. That's one reason why high-quality publications like the New York Times and The Atlantic are successful with native advertising.

Make Native Advertising Clear

However, be careful. The Atlantic ran into some problems when they published  native advertising endorsing the Church of Scientology. It was labeled as sponsored content, but many critics considered it to be too close to outright propaganda, and the article also didn't offer much value to The Atlantic audience. The publisher ended up retracting and apologising for the effort.

In 2017, native advertising will expand to £3.2 billion, up from £1.1 billion in 2012, according to a report from BIA/Kelsey. Handled correctly, it is a golden opportunity for you to add value to clients, publishers and consumers.