Back in the days when I worked on a newspaper, we weren’t even allowed to put advertorial – paid for content – in the same font as the rest of the paper. How times are a-changing. As our Diploma Course Leader Chris Tucker discusses here. Seems we are all going native.
Over to Chris…..
This week in the Guardian Bob Garfield characterised native advertising as some sort of Faustian pact. A worrying new development that threatens to destroy our trust in the media for ever. So what is native advertising, should we share his concern and what do we as PR professionals need to know about this new development?
Native advertising is basically copy written by an organisation rather than by a journalist and where money has changed hands in order for it to appear. Isn’t that an advertorial? Yes and no. The interest in native advertising is that it mostly appears in online publications, particularly those such as Buzzfeed that are leading the charge in the digital publishing revolution. But it is spreading now to more venerable titles including The Economist and the New York Times.
So what’s the problem? If you think about what online publications look like on your screen or mobile device they appear very busy so native advertising does not stand out as different in quite the same way as more familiar advertorials tend to do. Also there is no universal agreement as to the ‘health warning’ to the reader – would “from around the web’” make it clear to you the copy had been placed by an advertiser? Like most developments social media-wise the rules are still emerging.
Secondly, native advertising, unlike advertorials, aims to be shared. Like those listicles and endless cute pictures of cats native advertising aims for us to not just read the content but for us to like it enough to send it to our friends and colleagues. You could argue we are doing the advertiser’s work for them. Virgin Mobile was certainly very pleased with its native advertising experiment (and yes it did involve cats) – it was shared 600,000 times.
On the other side of the coin perhaps we are being offered a new way to reach our audiences. One that more readily grabs the attention and creates that illusive ‘water cooler’ moment when we all talk about the same thing at the same time. You have to wonder how this kind of treatment could perhaps have helped NHS England communicate the benefits of its data sharing project Care.data which they have been forced to shelve for six months following a disastrous communications campaign – 25 diseases that have been eradicated by big data and how you can help get rid of the rest?
Have you had experience of native advertising? Have you placed it? Do you feel confident that you know the difference between paid and earned media? Be great to hear your thoughts