What is native advertising, and how is it different from contextual advertising? These are the questions keeping me, and other tech B2B marketers, up at night in 2014. Thanks to a great webinar hosted by our friends over at Vocus, I recently got a little more clarity. Turns out, native advertising is really just a form of contextual advertising, but with more layers. It’s a response to increased available content, but no increase in space for earned content.
In other words, the available space for earned media has not expanded at the rate in which new content is being created. As a response, more publications are offering paid forms of content coverage. Paid, earned and owned media are now starting to overlap. That, coupled with the success marketers have seen with contextual ads (think Twitter and Facebook), is driving the demand for more contextual options.
Native advertising is essentially a modern form of the advertorial, but its increased availability has lead to the development of three different forms. First is paid syndication. This is what we’ve referred to as contextual marketing in the past. A line or two of text, followed by a link on a targeted site. This is accompanied with a clear call out to the content as sponsored. Next is paid integration. Our most prevalent example here is Buzzfeed. If you visit this site as frequently as I do, you’re familiar with the stories that are presented by a specific company. These companies paid for the piece of coverage appearing in the editorial feed. The third version of native advertising, and the one I’d bet most tech B2B marketers are most familiar with, is paid co-creation. In this instance, advertisers work with publications to generate the content housed on their site. This reminds me most of the eBooks and webinars we’ve used in the past, just served up a little differently.
Now that we know a little more about native advertising, the next logical question is: what’s the impact on earned coverage? If everyone is paying for coverage, will earned suffer? Is it still viable? Will there be any editorial content left that’s not sponsored? It’s enough to give us PR pros serious anxiety. But don’t worry! Our beloved earned media is still alive and well. However, this may lead to a shift that sees paid content and earned content more closely aligned. Combining PR and advertising into one program making your head spin? Makes me think you’d better work with an agency who can offer both. And yes, that was a little shameless self-promotion.