Generate more revenue: Sponsored Ads

February 16, 2015

By Stanley A. Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers' Auxiliary 

Newspapers need to diversify their revenue outside of digital income if they hope to survive, said Lindsay Jacaman during a session at the National Newspaper Association Annual Convention and Trade Show last October in San Antonio, TX.

She was quoting Dallas Morning News Publisher and Chief Executive Officer James M. Moroney III. “His main perspective is that the decline in advertising is not cyclical,” said Jacaman, the News’ general manager for digital marketing services. It’s something that’s here to stay, and to survive, newspapers should look to non-traditional revenue sources.

Jacaman joined the News in 2012 specifically to hone in on new revenue streams through social media for the metro daily. She had worked for the Wall Street Journal-Southwest before joining the News. Along with some other marketing people, they decided to start a content marketing agency.

The new agency, called Speakeasy, was created to help newspapers understand and work with social media.

“Diversifying revenue will help ensure long term growth,” she said. Jacaman suggested newspaper publishers look at their online presence to see if there is a way to weave in some native advertising.

Many may be wondering what exactly is native advertising. Jacaman said, it’s just Advertorials 2.0. It’s paid content. It’s putting the advertising in the context of the user experience. “There are some creative ways to use this in print, as well,” she added.

For examples, she told the audience, visit the Dallas Morning News’ or look at The advertising is woven organically into the digital presence.

“It’s not supposed to look out of context; it’s supposed to look seamless,” she said.

One audience member was concerned about possible pushback from readers because of scams.

“For small publishers,” she said, “there are some guidelines that the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) has established” to help in this area. (See the article “Native Advertising Rules” on Page 10.)

“Success in Native Advertising hinges on best practices,” she added.

“Think about sponsored social media posts,” she said. “Let’s say the Livingston Parish News has a Facebook page,” Jacaman explained. “You might have a native post that says, ‘Our friends at the MS Antiques in New Orleans want you to know that we have this piece that just came in, and you need to see it—click here.’ That’s it in a nutshell.”

IAB developed Standard Ad Units to cover native advertising, she said, such as In-Feed Units that are used by Forbes, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. There are also Paid Search Units, such as what the search engines Google and Bing use, where the paid ad listings come to the top of the page. For more on the IAB’s SAU’s, go to


Going about native advertising

Jacaman said there are six things publishers should ask themselves when considering native advertising.

1. Form—How does the ad fit with the overall page design? Is it in the viewer’s activity stream or not in-stream? “In a print publication,” she said, “you might have a banner that says, ‘Sponsored by American Express.’ But it has to make sense within the context of that section.”

2. Function—Does the ad function like the other elements on the page in which it is placed? Does it deliver the same type of content experience, e.g., a video on a video page, story among stories, or is it different?

3. Integration—How well do the ad unit’s behaviors match those of the surrounding content? Are they the same, e.g., linking to an onsite story page, or are new ones introduced? “This is important,” she added, “because it will help monetize the advertising.”

4. Buying & Targeting—Is the ad placement guaranteed on a specific page, section or site—or will it be delivered across a network of sites? What type of targeting is available? “Make the pricing easy for people to understand.”

5. Measurement—What metrics are typically used to judge success? Are marketers more likely to use top-of-the-funnel brand engagement metrics (e.g. views, likes, shares, time spent) or bottom funnel ones (e.g., sales, downloads, data captures, registers, etc.)?

6. Disclosure—Is the disclosure clear and prominent?

“Sponsored content, whether it lives in print or online,” Jacaman said, “puts a halo around that advertiser.” A newspaper would not write directly about, say, an antique furniture store, but it would create an interesting article on the resurgence of 19th century furniture in homes around the community. “Things people might find really interesting,” she said. “It’s not about the advertiser. That’s advertorial.”

Doing this is labor intensive, Jacaman added. She has a full-time marketing coordinator working on native advertising.

Native advertising content on a newspaper’s website should be something readers would want to share, she said. “We want people to read long-form journalism, but the problem is most people don’t want to read long-form. So there’s a disconnect there. But you can put out some content that’s good, well written, and smart, but it’s a little bit catchier and more shareable.”

At the Dallas Morning News, Jacaman said they pay outside writers to develop content for native advertising.

“Our main goal was to integrate smart journalism, social media and display banner advertising for an all-encompassing marketing strategy,” she said.

The paper started the project in an area that is already focused on entertainment, she added. The website, GuideLive, is owned by the paper and features at least one native ad client per week.

The page shows the sponsored content in shaded areas so it’s differentiated from the site’s regular content.

“And that’s important,” she added. “People must be able to distinguish between the two types of content.

In order to sell this type of advertising to advertisers, metrics play a big role, Jacaman said. It showcases a boost in engagement across social media. Her staff tracks traffic to client sites, social sites and blogs.

The important metrics to look at, she added, were time on each article, social shares, increased social following, referral traffic, demographics, total page views and unique visitors per article.

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