Delving into native advertising? Stick with print

February 16, 2015

By Ken Blum
Black Ink 

So what is this thing called “Native Advertising”?

Is it advertising from the Native American Community?

Is it a name that implies the advertiser has deep roots in the country, like Mayflower Moving?

It is a relatively new term for a type of media advertising these days, and frankly, I was a little confused and perhaps behind the times as to its meaning.

I even read a couple articles about it where there were definitions, such as:

“A form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. The word “native” refers to the content’s coherence with other media on the platform.”

Well, that cleared things up.


But after much study, research and deep thoughts, I think I know what it is—it’s essentially advertising on TV, the Internet and in print that looks a whole lot like news reporting/photography.

Check that—it looks almost exactly like legitimate journalism, but readers/viewers are expected to be able to tell the difference because it’s so positive and fawning about the product or business that it must be advertising, and there usually is a teenie-weenie disclaimer somewhere in a written format or presented at some time in a visual format that explains it’s advertising.

It can be in the form of a talk show on TV, a Facebook post on the Internet, or special advertising pages or a section in a newspaper or magazine.

To me, it’s analogous to “advertorial,” a term that has been around a long time and means: “An advertisement in the form of editorial content.”

I guess the “native advertising” term seeks to expand that definition to mean it’s advertorial content blending in with the form in which it appears—i.e. a Web page, a TV talk show, or as editorial-like advertising content that appears to be part of the flow of a newspaper or magazine.

Call it advertorial or native advertising—either is fine with me, with one caveat.

I don’t believe in tricking readers into thinking that either is news content. That’s crossing the line.

A good example is the prestigious Time magazine where, for example, you may be reading about Obamacare or the Ebola epidemic, flip the page and then you’re reading a section about the wonderful places and things to do in a foreign country. The pages look remarkably like the rest of the pages in the magazine with a tiny (I would guess six point) “Advertising Section” at the top of the pages.

In 2015, how does native advertising (advertorial fitted to a particular medium) apply to community newspapers?

Here are a few random thoughts:

• In 2015, 90 percent or more of a community newspaper’s revenue comes from the print product. If you’re going to use native advertising to create a new source of plus-revenue, the best place to do that is still print. This doesn’t mean you can’t use it via the paper’s website, Facebook, etc., but print remains the place where the money is.

• Native advertising typically requires good writing and photography.

It takes time and payroll and competent employees.

Where do the writers and photographers come from? Do you assign the news staff to prepare the copy and photographs, and if you do, will that affect the volume of material they’re producing for the news product?

Another issue: Does a typical news writer realize he needs to change the style of writing from straight news to promotional?

• The content for native advertising can be expensive when hours of labor are not only needed for writing and photography, but for other tasks such as planning assignments and graphic design. In my opinion, these costs must be figured-in for native advertising to be profitable for the newspaper. So charge with the additional costs in mind, not by the rate card.

• If native advertising involves an entire printed section, expand its audience by offering it as a free PDF download on your website.

• Here are a few types of clients that could be prospects for a series of pages or a special section comprised entirely of native advertising:

u Hospitals or a general medical-themed section.

u Annual reports from city governments or school districts.

u All about a major industry in your market, especially when it observes its anniversary or undergoes a major expansion.

u A major business that has undergone a major expansion, such as a grocery store or auto dealer.

u Individual profiles of churches in your market.

• To help sell native advertising concepts, present the client with a spec outline of the proposed project. Include a finished front page, plus topic suggestions and thumbnail sketches for inside pages.

And, again, because my newsman self can’t emphasize it enough—maintain your editorial integrity by making it clear the pages or section are advertising content. © Ken Blum 2015


Ken Blum is the publisher of Butterfly Publications, an advising/speaking/publishing business dedicated to improving the profitability and quality of community newspapers. He puts out a monthly free e-mail newsletter titled Black Inklings. It features nuts and bolts ideas to improve revenue and profits at hometown papers. To subscribe to the newsletter or contact Ken, e-mail him at; or phone 330-682-3416.

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