Dani Fankhauser is an NYC-based digital journalist interested in the intersection of journalism, tech, and products. She attended Medill School of Journalism and currently works as Assistant Editor, Campaigns for Mashable. We asked her to share her thoughts on the future of native advertising.
What do you think started the rise of native advertising?
Two things: First, the rise of the Internet means suddenly people are able to search and find more information about anything, so we’re seeing ad campaigns get fact-checked and spark backlash. This puts extra pressure on advertisers to not only delight consumers but to also gain their trust. Second, and this is what I think instigated this new vertical of advertising and gave it a name, is social networks needing to monetize. Display seemed like it would work for Facebook at first, but eye-tracking studies and click-through rates show it doesn’t, so finding a way to put ads in-stream—without feeling like they’re violating the user experience—makes sense. Going native, making the ad feel like it belongs there, is the best bet to get action on it.
The continued popularity of native advertising stems from the fact that it translates well on mobile. As screens get smaller, display ads have limited impact, so moving resources to native ads will be an organic switch.
Do you see native advertising completely replacing traditional display advertising?
I don’t, actually. There’s a traditional marketing rule that says that a consumer needs to cross paths with the product at least seven times before they take action, so it’s wise to invest in multiple forms of exposure. I think the trick will be to see what works in each medium. Strict native advertising may work on Twitter, whereas, on a visual platform like Instagram, some phenomenal display creative could actually be ideal.
One caveat is that the space normally used for display ads could actually become more native—tailored to the site it’s on—and drive actions native to the site.
Right now, agencies still need to continue with traditional ads because those are the metrics they’re using. The best metrics to measure native ads are still being figured out.
What are the challenges you see publishers facing when it comes to native-advertising adoption? How has Mashable embraced native advertising?
As a publication, Mashable’s native advertising is what we call “campaigns.” A brand comes to us and wants to put more than display behind an initiative for brand awareness, a product launch, etc. We come up with a series of feature articles that relate to the brand’s values or a theme.
The challenge comes with the production of these articles. Most agencies and brands do not have the talent on staff to produce high-quality journalistic content. This also brings up the issue of scale because brands must ask each publication to create this content for them.
At Mashable, we launched an ad product called BrandSpeak for brands that are creating their own high-quality content. If something is useful or relevant to our readers, we will publish it along with the brand’s byline, as part of their media buy. Finding brands that produce great content is the exception, not the rule; but we’re betting that will change.
What are some of the potential benefits to businesses that adopt native advertising?
The first benefit is maintaining your exposure as people spend more and more time on mobile. Switching from display to native requires a shift in both resources and talent, so developing a strategy early will allow you to prepare. The second benefit is developing a relationship with your target market. Content is a stronger experience, especially when it’s utility-driven and helps readers do something or know something they didn’t before. It’s very memorable, and your brand gets to be associated with that.
What sort of things can companies be doing to start?
The best native advertising will start with content marketing. The brands that struggle with it the most are those that treat it like an ad and talk directly about their own products or company, which misses the point and fails to draw in readers. Instead, brands should begin a content initiative that’s peripheral to their product, follows a theme, and appeals to their target demographic, all to prep for a more successful native ad buy. Then they can look at paid options in StumbleUpon or other social networks and publishers like Mashable to see how they can get that content better distribution.
We know you’re a kombucha enthusiast. How did you get into brewing it?
Kombucha was a big trend among my yoga friends, but I didn’t get into it until I had a roommate who brewed her own. We always had some on hand, so I got in the habit of drinking it every morning. Once we were no longer living together, I did some research online on how to brew it and started my own batch.
It’s actually not difficult. You’ll need a large glass container, and if you don’t have a friend who can give you a piece of SCOBY (bacteria growth that brews the tea into kombucha), you can grow one by using kombucha bought from the store. Then, all you have to do is put a new batch of sweet tea in with the SCOBY and a bit of kombucha. In about two weeks, you’ll have another batch.
In her downtime, Dani enjoys reading, learning to code and visiting Central Park.
And when she’s not writing for Web, she’s enjoying the outdoors. Here she is in Sonoma, California.