Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gawker's Erin Pettigrew Talks Native Advertising at NewsCred

Last Thursday brought yet another great event in the city, this time with the Content & Cocktails NYC Meetup group. The event was hosted at the NewsCred headquarters in the Flatiron District, and featured a short and meaty presentation on native advertising - a.k.a., paid posts, sponsored content, 'advertorials,' etc.

(And, yes, I know I need to get back to my Walkabout series, there's just so much to write about, and so little time!)

Back to Content & Cocktails... after a boisterous pre-presentation networking session, the co-founder and CEO of NewsCred - Shafqat Islam - sat down to discuss the evening's topic with Erin Pettigrew,  exectuive director of business development  for Gawker.

Approaching the topic of native advertising requires a delicate touch. For media companies that survive mainly off of ad revenue, and for brands that want to draw in potential clients, the idea of "presenting products in a way that people find more familiar and engaging than typical ads" is certainly an attractive prospect. However, as Erin put it, "it's editorially not cool" for brands to pay media outlets for exposure, without clear disclosure that the provided content is a paid collaboration between the publication and the sponsoring organization. Readers are very sensitive to being lied to or tricked, and it would be brand suicide (not to mention of dubious legality) for any company to squander the currency of earned trust in this way.

The answer to the conundrum, as it turns out, isn't really that complicated. Tell the truth - let readers know that content is brand-sponsored - and make sure that sponsored content is every bit as entertaining and valuable to the reader as regular site content.

Of course, it's not only the readers who can be resistant to this new way of advertising. Companies seeking to inform, educate, and engage new clients and customers have a high level of understanding of the traditional web advertising structure. The ROI for native advertising isn't always as clear-cut or easy to prove analytically as that of traditional advertising, and so it can be tricky for digital media outlets to convince brands that this really is the product exposure wave of the future.

But the writing is clearly on the wall for traditional advertising methods (which is one reason that social media is becoming such an important part of modern marketing strategies). "Banner blindness" leads to the decreasing effectiveness of online ads, and more aggressive types of pop-up, sliding, and expanding advertising can easily annoy users and make them decide to peruse content elsewhere. In addition, Erin mentioned that analytics seemed to be indicating that readers who approached brands after being exposed to native advertising were likely to engage more deeply with the brand than readers who simply clicked on a traditional ad spot.

So, how can this affect your work as a freelance writer or other type of content producer? It's evident that both digital media companies and brands are ever more in need of people who not only produce clear, concise, and convincing content, but who know how to tell stories, and how to really meld the goals of organizations with the desires of users, readers, and potential customers. The advertising revolution will favor those who can think - and create - in truly high-quality, entertaining, and illuminating ways.

To learn more about Erin Pettigrew, follow her on Twitter: @superfem

To learn more about Shafqat Islam, follow him on Twitter: @shafqatislam
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