Which Native Ad Formats Work Best According to Publishers?

According to a new collection of data from Marketing Charts, online publishers are seeing blog posts, articles and video as pretty effective means of native advertising.

Hexagram and Spada surveyed more than 1,000 publishers, brands and agencies (most from the U.S.) asking their thoughts on which types of native ads they perceived as having the most success online in terms of engagement and monetization, and they found that 58 percent of publishers say blog posts are the most effective form of native advertising. Fifty-six percent say articles work best for their publishing platforms and sponsors, while 53 percent of news outlets think videos are the most effective way for their native advertisers to campaign for their goods and services alongside other editorial content.

Thirty-four percent of publishers report that sponsored Facebook posts are most effective, with infographics coming in at 31 percent, and tweets at 23 percent.

So why have publishers embraced native ads so much? Eighty-five percent say it’s all about the cash — they “feel that native advertising offers them a new revenue stream” and that “an average of 20.4 percent of their revenues derive from these campaigns,” Marketing Charts wrote.

Because publishers are incentivized by the cash flow, native ads aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, I kind of think they’re just getting started. The Dallas Morning News is implementing them. Texas Monthly does it. Slate. The Washington Post. The Atlantic. BuzzFeed. The AP. Forbes. Seriously, just get used to it people.

“While more publishers (62%) have experience with native ads than brands (41 percent) and agencies (34 percent), each group intends to use native ads more in the next year, with the vast majority feeling that the formats add value to consumers,” Marketing Charts reported.

Despite the mixed feelings many news consumers have about native ads and whether they compromise the editorial integrity of a news outlet, according to Marketing Charts’ study, eight in ten publishers say they haven’t gotten any flak from their readers regarding native ad campaigns — probably because 64 percent of them say they “clearly label” paid branded content with the tagline “Sponsored.”

In this weird, transitional period digital news is going through, native advertising continues to be a decent solution for keeping publishers afloat. Maybe not a long-term solution, and it might be something we’ll point to later as the demise of the once mega-strict church-and-state-type separation of editorial and advertising and the beginning of journalism’s corruption, but for now, it’s working for a lot of media organizations. And it’s opening up a world of opportunities for their advertisers. These entities desperately need a built-in audience and a place to tell the stories behind their business/institution/brand, and the accommodating publishers generate the kind of traffic they would never have access to otherwise. Plus, they’re just less annoying and generally work better than traditional, blah banner ads.

Granted, this particular data was extracted from a relatively small sample set, and Marketing Charts said men, as well as participants working for small companies might have made up too much of the sample (no surprise on the men front). Still, I think they’re meaningful stats and shouldn’t be ignored by publishers continually experimenting with the best solutions for generating the revenue they need to keep producing quality journalism.

So let’s all put aside our impassioned opinions for or against native advertising for just a moment and look at what the numbers say. Do any of these numbers surprise you? What forms of native ad content are you more likely to gravitate toward on your frequented news sites? Text or visual content?