7 reasons to embrace native advertising & sponsored content

July 8, 2014

By Paul A. Camp
Chief Evangelistic Officer | Content That Works

Native advertising—content created for an advertiser, but presented to look and feel like your content—is the work of the devil to some, a forbidden fruit destined to undermine the trust and integrity newspapers have worked decades to achieve. To others, sponsored content represents salvation.

One thing is sure, with newspapers from The New York Times to the weekly Golden (CO) Transcript, The Associated Press and radio and TV stations everywhere getting into the act, native advertising is an inevitable, some would say unstoppable trend.

Can small dailies and weeklies make native work? Or must you have video capabilities and a cast of thousands?

Many say native advertising is nothing more than a fancy new name for advertorial. They are wrong.

Advertorial was about selling a product or service and selling it hard, often with over-the-top claims. That gave some advertorials a reputation as somewhat untrustworthy.

Native advertising is useful, or at least it should be. Although the stories are written on behalf of your advertisers, their purpose is not to directly sell, but to inform, entertain and help readers. Effective native advertising needs three qualities to guarantee success for your sponsors:

1. The content must be compelling, interesting and (hopefully) entertaining. A boring story won’t get out of the starting block to influence a reader to do business with your sponsor. 

2. The content must be truthful and accurate. Pandering to the advertiser, exaggeration and embellishment not only will hurt the sponsor’s credibility and ultimately its business, but also hurts the newspaper. Misleading native advertising is the kiss of death.

3. The content must be original and valuable. Useful content has the opportunity to engage readers and transform them into buyers. It can also help with online search. 

Native stories can and often do appear in print, but without your Internet site and mobile presentation native advertising would not, could not exist. Digital presentation is what makes native advertising tick.

That’s because when your readers need something today they pick up their smartphones or search on their computers first. Good native advertising helps lift your advertisers in opinion leadership in their category of business in your community. Sponsored stories, images and video designed for sharing via social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest amplify your reach. In fact, social media is the secret sauce of native advertising.

Should you get involved? Here are seven reasons to embrace native advertising:

1. Chances are you are already doing it. If you have ever produced a “How-to Guide” with ads for plumbers sold next to the article about how to fix a leaky faucet, you are in the sponsored content business. The leap to native is not as great as many publishers think.

2 You’ve got the power. You are the “BIG” media outlet in your community. Putting an interesting, helpful article about XYZ Heating and Air Conditioning on your website does more good than it would anywhere else, including their site.

3. Your advertisers want it. What advertiser doesn’t want an article about it by your paper? 

4. Your readers want it. We have been surprised about how many YMCAs, park districts and the like buy native advertising programs from our clients. These advertisers tell us native ads give them a great way to inform readers about their programs.

5. You can make a ton of money. Charge a premium price for native advertising packages in print and online. Do not underprice this service. It’s worth gold to your advertisers.

6. It’s the ad that keeps on giving. Archive your native ads on your site and they keep on working in search indefinitely.

7. Did I mention you would make a ton of money? Offer category exclusivity to your advertisers and charge even more. For example, most real estate agents specialize in a neighborhood or type of property. Sell exclusivity in each neighborhood or category.

Done right, native advertising represents a huge opportunity for your paper. Original content that optimizes in search, is compelling, never panders, shows your sponsor in a positive light and provides useful information readers want and need is, after all, what you do.


Paul Camp is chief Evangelist of Content That Works, which has a new division that produces native advertising for a variety of local media companies. You can follow his blog at www.contentthatworks.com/blogs/Pauls/.

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