The recent announcement that The Sun, The Times and the Sunday Times, in the form of News UK, are making a major investment to ensure they don’t miss out on the incredible momentum of native advertising is great news all round.
The fact that they join the Guardian in recognising that sponsored content is the way forward means that most of the UK’s top influential papers are part of this growing club. That, in turn, means we can expect the rest to be joining in the very near future.
This exactly reflects what is happening in the States, with more and more of the publishers getting on board. Fortune magazine described native advertising as the Holy Grail of digital publishing and their leading papers, such as the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times, are pulling in the revenue benefit of having been native for some time. Fortune says that in 2013 a staggering $2.4 billion was spent in the US on native ads; that is an unbelievable leap of 77% over 2012.
As with any growth phenomenon, some on the periphery are asking whether it will last. Is it just the latest ‘thing’ in an industry still smarting from the wounds received in the financial crisis of the last decade?
The answer is a resounding ‘no’ because this is the great thing about native advertising or sponsored content, whatever you choose to call it. Yes it is trending, it’s trending big time, but it’s not just a trend because people are bored with the ageing alternatives, it’s successful because it’s built on the sound marketing fundamentals of matching benefits to the needs of the customer.
Having proved themselves in the digital marketplace these titles are now starting to charge for full access to their content and, more importantly, readers seem happy to pay. The challenge for the publishers is to keep them happy to pay. One of the problems in the old paper world was that the reader had to plough through so many pages of irrelevant (remember – perception is reality) advertising; advertising that they had to pay for within the cover price. With so many other news media available it wasn’t surprising circulations were falling.
Native advertising is the means by which that mistake will not be repeated in the digital world, because the native content will be as interesting, relevant and entertaining as the rest of the content. The ability of websites to recognise the visitor and tailor the content to them, is something that could never have been done with massive printing presses and print runs in millions. Even today that aspect of digital technology is still in its infancy but it is probably the area where the most investment is taking place. Eventually the person going online will immediately see a digital world tailored to their preferences, and that is when native will be in its element.
The days of trawling for prospects to sell at will be a thing of the past; advertisers will form a bond with the publication and together they will form a relationship with the consumer.
So welcome to the new world of native, News UK.