What the hell is ’native’ content?

June 20, 2016

Written by Richard Wilson | CEO and CO-Founder | CLICKON Media

One thing I notice more than anything is how, as an industry, we always charge ahead with new terms, acronyms and any other new idea that best attempts to explain the meteoric changes media is undergoing.

I think this comes at a price to the agencies and brands we work with on a daily basis who are not always able to sit and think about the new opportunities available to their brand.

Native advertising is technically nothing new falling previously under a semi-guise of ‘advertorial’. However in a world where content has truly become ‘king’ its use as an effective marketing tool has brought it straight onto the front page agendas of every global top 100 brand.

Things are showing no signs of slowing down as habits and tech evolves. Video is growing faster than ever, Facebook is attempting to become the next internet and display / print advertising is a model now consigned to the annals of history. Re-enter content and the advent of native advertising.

So what is native, where is the confusion, what are the challenges and how can it help brands in 2016 where other advertising formats are beginning to fail?

So what is native?

I can safely say I’ve heard 10 different explanations – each no more convincing than the next with explanations generally geared toward the commercial opportunity presented.

I define native from the view of our 25 million fans we reach every month whom without we would have no business and no opportunity to sell ‘true native’ to our brands and partners.

The most robust definition for me goes like this: ‘True native is branded video or article based content that fits the context, tone and voice of a publishing platform where a branded message is weaved into the context of a story developed by the editorial and creative staff of that publication. Native is placed within the existing content structure of the site creating a uniform, unobtrusive and rich experience for the user.”

Where is the confusion?

Native gets confused with sponsored and featured content placements but there is a far more concerning mix-up. In 2016, the decline of the programmatic display market is fueling the emergence of businesses seeking to replace the display portion of the business with native content. ‘Programmatic native’ companies are taking third party branded content and serving it ‘at scale’ into websites dressed up as content created by the editorial team. Is this deceiving users more than display adverts ever did?

What are the challenges?

The greatest challenge is agencies and brands mis-interpreting the meaning and effectiveness of true native. As a publisher, only we understand the content our fans love to engage with, not a computer, an algorithm or cookie crunching programmatic network. Only the publisher understands its audience from years of direct engagement and analysis.
Brands using Programmatic Native at scale are in danger of serving content to audiences who really aren’t interested. Publishers run the even greater danger of being completely distrusted by their fans.

How can native help brands?

Traditional display advertising is a failed model for publishers trying to build a business based on awesome content and audience trust. It’s also a waste of money for brands who get zero engagement for their ad-dollars.

Native is all about creating content WITH the people who communicate with fans every day. We see our job as partnering with brands and integrating them into the conversation their fans are having online in a format they know and trust. This guarantees healthier engagement.

The creation of original high quality content is the medicine to many modern advertising problems. With display delivering 0.1% CTR at best, programmatic native 0.5% CTR and true native 6.5% CTR – the power of true native content speaks for itself.

Say no more. If you want to do native, do it direct with the publishers who know their audience. Anything else is a smokescreen.