Politico Enters the Realm of Native Advertising

Political news site also plans to test metered paywall

Politico, chronicler of all things Washington, D.C., made a foray into native advertising on Thursday with a sponsored post from the National Retail Federation displayed prominently on the site's homepage. And in another attempt to up its revenue base, the political news organization also announced that it will experiment with a metered paywall starting next week.

First, the sponsored post. The company had been discussing sponsored content for a couple of months, and everything got squared away with the business and editorial sides of the operation last month, said Jim VandeHei, Politico's co-founder and executive editor.

"Obviously our business side feels very strongly that this is a trend that's here to stay in the advertising space," he told Adweek.

Other more traditional news organizations have entered the native ad space in recent months to varying degrees of success. The Washington Post announced a native ad program in March to little hoopla, but The Atlantic ran a spectacularly ill-received native ad for Scientology in January. The New York Times, meanwhile, doesn't seem likely to run native ads anytime soon.

VandeHei said there hasn't been much fuss from readers over the sponsored post, adding that audiences are pretty accepting of this type of advertising as long as it's clearly labeled. So readers can expect more of the same in the future, he said.

Politico will also begin testing a metered paywall starting late next week in Iowa, North Dakota, Vermont, Mississippi, New Mexico and Wyoming, and overseas, according to a blog post by Politico's Dylan Byers. 

"We will experiment with a few different price points and page limits to find the sweet spot for our readership. We chose smaller states, spread across the country, so our experiment captures any regional trends and also limits any potential loss of traffic to the site. This will last at least six months, so we have a large enough sample to appraise the results," wrote Politico bosses VandeHei, John Harris and Kim Kingsley in a memo to staff.

Like native advertising, VandeHei said readers have grown accustomed to paying for editorial content. And it appears Politico wants to jump on both trends. 

But don't expect a Politico paywall to come to the Washington, D.C. area anytime soon. The memo touted robust advertiser interest in the D.C. market, and Politico doesn't want to lose any traffic in the area. "We want and need that traffic in D.C. because the desire of advertisers to reach our elite audience here is exceptionally strong. For you nonbusiness folks, that is a very good problem to face," the memo stated.

Read the company's full memo at Politico