“There’s still quite a lot of misunderstandings or unclear beliefs within native advertising for publishers,” according to Lauren Pedersen, the VP of Global Marketing for Cxense.
While there is clear economic benefit for publications, there are concerns about editorial integrity. Responses to the survey found mixed responses to native advertising. The survey shows that 45% of publishers believe native ads offer “great value to publishers, advertisers and consumers,” while 30% said native ads “cheapen journalism by blurring the lines between advertising and editorial.”
This form of revenue raising, which has its origins in the traditional advertorial, is the subject of increasing scrutiny. The World Editors Forum's 2014 Trends in Newsroom Report, asks the question 'Native Advertising: A challenge to journalistic integrity or a viable funding option?'. Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of The New York Times describes native advertising as “shorthand for advertising that looks like editorial content."
Critics object to what is seen as the breaching of the Chinese Wall, a metaphor used to describe the separation between the editorial and advertising arms of traditional media companies. But supporters view it as a necessary development for media bodies to remain profitable.
The topic moved into the broader public realm in recent months. US comedian John Oliver compared advertising and editorial to guacamole and twizzlers in a widely-shared Youtube video. “Separately they’re good,” he said. “But if you mix them together somehow you make them really gross.” At time of writing the video has 2 800 000 views.
High profile publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have embraced ‘branded content’. And Buzzfeed, which has 150 million unique traffic views a month, collects 100% of its revenue from native advertising. In 2013 Buzzfeed's revenue was projected to increase from $40 million to $60 million dollars.
"We think that publishers are starting to understand the opportunities that are there for them with native advertising. They’re starting to get on board and really embrace it," Cxense's Pedersen said. "For us, clearly this is an area of growth and an area of opportunity for publishers.”
Forty percent of Cxense survey respondents were unclear what the term meant. "There’s some misunderstanding when it comes to technology that is being used, and for the requirements for an ad server, for example," Pedersen said.
What then, does Pedersen consider a native ad to be? "Native ads are those that fit the format, content and tone of the site that they lie within."
Pedersen said that the area has potential for the news industry. "We believe there is an opportunity for publishers to embrace native advertising and grow new revenue streams within their advertising portfolio."
Transparency, Pedersen said, was essential to combat any editorial conflicts. "I think that it’s critical that publishers mark the advertising as ads," she said. "That benefits everybody, if they’re clear about it."
"When native advertising is done right, it can benefit everyone. With correct targeting and tone, it makes the content more relevant for users, makes the sites more engaging and drives higher advertising revenue."
Publications have attempted to demarcate their native advertising. Buzzfeed labels their content as ‘promoted by’ or ‘brand publisher’, while the Wall Street Journal uses yellow boxes across the headline of a story.
Native advertising further, is seen as a solution to “banner blindness,” a term describing the ineffectiveness of the traditional internet advertising.
3D advertising developed by Cxense was launched last week and Pedersen claims it has the potential to combat banner blindness. “A lot of people are just ignoring banner ads,” she said. “We’re proposing that 3D advertising and native advertising is to break through that, and make the content relevant for the users coming into the site.”