Depending on your perspective, so-called “native advertising” is either a bold new frontier or the re-naming of a tried and true form of advertising — the advertorial. But either way, it is a tool that should be in the kit of every hyperlocal publisher because native ads can deliver content from the native (local) perspective that hyperlocals share with their readers.
According to Sharethrough, a Native Ad firm, “Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.” Broken down, the “natural form and function” refers to content on your hyperlocal site, and it can also refer to posts on your social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
According to a study by IPG, consumers look at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads. And according to a recent survey by Macaroni Kid, our readers are 14% more likely try a product based on native advertising than display advertising. For advertisers and publishers, native advertising has clear advantages. If done properly, the consumer also benefits from new and valuable content, along with new and better products to meet their needs.
Having advertisers pay for the privilege of being included in your content is a great opportunity, but it does come with risks. The following are guidelines to set your site up for success.
First: be open about your Native Advertising. Not only is it the right thing to do, not doing so could land you in some serious trouble. The Federal Trade Commission brought cases against undisclosed ads posing as editorial content as long ago as 1917. More recently, the FTC held a workshop on this subject and while they reached no conclusions, it is up to hyperlocal publishers to set the bar and not draw the eye (or ire) of the FTC.
There is no set definition of what makes your native ad transparent, but the FTC standards include the phrase “clear and conspicuous”. In the current environment, a tiny asterisk with a footnote will not cut it.
Next, be consistent. If at all possible have your editing team should write the native ad. This will keep it in your voice and natural or “native.” Put your journalist hat on and write from that perspective, as if you were writing an article for an exciting new product or service, rather than writing ad copy.
Be true to your subject. If your hyperlocal site focuses on local dining spots, don’t accept native ads for a hair care line. When you are true to your subject, your readers will lean in and want to learn more. Pique their curiosity. Don’t stand and shout, open the door to something of interest and invite them in.
Social marketing strategist and author Ted Rubin recently remarked, “native content is not about pitching a product, it’s about creating connection. Remember it is only native to the content consumer if it provides value to them and provides a real solution or makes an emotional connection.”
Go beyond click-throughs for your advertisers. Include other ways for consumers for engage with their product or service. This can be via embedded video, social media link, like and follow options and more.
Leverage your local cred. Go out and experience the product or service as your readers will. It will be more authentic and create a deeper understanding by your readers. That’s the key advantage of hyperlocal, the ability to blend a product or experience into not only the native environment of your publication, but the native physical environment of your readers.
Eric Cohen is the co-founder of Macaroni Kid, a hyperlocal publishing platform focusing on families in 500 communities; speaker, writer and advisor to Good Bag for Kids. He is reachable via Twitter @macaronidad and email, firstname.lastname@example.org