Being Candid about native advertising
This is part 1, of my 2 parter on how I’m going to design what will hopefully turn into a multi-million dollar website; pull up a chair, we can do it together!
Let’s set up an online business, and call it MyFaves.com. It’ll be targeted at “Social Publishers and Influencers”. We’re aiming to sell something that’s currently called “native advertising”.
What Is Native Advertising?
A good question! Native advertising is advertising, dressed up to not look like an advert. At the bottom of various articles you’ve seen on the internet, you’ll have noticed things like this:
This is a screenshot from a page on ShemWorld. These are other articles on this site that you may be interested in. It gets added to the bottom of articles, in the hope you’ll remain on the site, after reading an article. Obviously, I want you to remain on my site to a) read the content, and b) be exposed to the three Google Adverts at the bottom of the page, the Amazon advert on the right, and the Green Man Gaming advert on the home page. (These are correct as of 7/10/2016, but obviously may change with time.)
Above is an example found at the bottom of a random Jezebel article. Some of those may be traditional “articles”. Some of them are “advertorials”. They will look very similar – both will be text-heavy, usually showing the featured writer, to give it that human touch. But one of them is simply an advert. An advert, disguised as an article.
From the list above, the nice safe bet is the PPI link, so let’s follow that.
This is an advertorial. Here’s an archive of the link. And it follows disclosure rules, by adding to the small print of the page “THIS IS A PROMOTED STORY (ADVERTORIAL) AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE or BLOG.”. They are trying to sell you something. It is designed to look like an article, and sound like an article – but it is an advert. A full page advert.
Back in the Jezebel screenshot, you can see I circled “Sponsored Links By Taboola”. Taboola is a… well… this is where it gets tricky.
They describe themselves as “the world’s leading content discovery platform”. Content is good, right? Websites know that producing good quality content isn’t easy. And it usually isn’t cheap. But Taboola will “hook you up” with content.
Imagine an advertising agency, a link exchange, and a “Give me an article” service, all rolled into one. You can imagine how publishers would love this. It makes it trickier to tell where one article finishes, and one advert begins. It allows us to sell adverts in an ad-block world; no one really knows if it’s an advert or an article they’re clicking on, until they click through.
This is what I want our business to be. MyFaves will sell this, in this grey area between advertising and content. You can usually spot these kinds of business, as they don’t call themselves advertising affiliate programmes. In fact, it’s rare that you’ll see adverts mentioned anywhere in their brief; content is king. And content is a beautiful, blurry mix of adverts and articles.
Tune in for part 2, where we’ll build a messenger platform to work alongside MyFaves, that we’ll be calling Candy. We think we’ve found a way of dealing with “online trolls”, so we’ll be creating a Twitter-style platform that will let us sell our grey-market “content” via “Social Publishers and Influencers”.