Google search “native advertising”, and you will receive about 206,000,000 hits. The term streams all over the Internet and is currently being hotly debated in the world of digital journalism. This New York Times article provides a well-worded definition and summary of the controversy:

“Native advertising… is information provided by marketers that is designed to look more like the articles it appears alongside. It has led to controversy in the journalism industry because it blurs the line between editorial content and advertising. But it has also been viewed as a valuable new source of revenue for news organizations struggling to make up for the decline of print advertising.”

During “The Great Debate” session at the International Advertising Bureau’s annual business convention, where digital advertising leaders from around the world converged to discuss emerging and contended business trends, expert debaters took on various points and counterpoints about native advertising (directly quoted from IAB):

1) Banner blindness will become stream blindness

2) Agencies cannot create the volume and quality of native content necessary to populate every native ad

3) Pressure to lower the wall between editorial and advertising will erode consumer trust

4) Native advertising will not only implode, but it will kill social media as well

5) The most effective native advertising is by definition custom, which must be hand created and cannot be automated

These issues are certainly controversial, and I do not claim to have arguments to these complex counterpoints. I have, however, developed my own list of native advertising pros and successes based on thorough research and exploration of various articles on the Web:

  • Native advertising enhances the user experience by informing and engaging.
  • Marketers and buyers are especially interested in native advertising. Solve media’s survey reveals that 59% of media buyers say native ads are very important, and 49% of them would purchase native advertising.
  • So far, native advertising has proven successful for companies such as Buzzfeed and the New York Times and has huge potential for Facebook and other social media sites.
    • Buzzfeed’s sponsored post titled 25 Places That Look Not Normal, But Are Actually Real has over 1.3 million social interactions.
    • The New York Times revealed its new advertising model on January 8. The native ads are unobtrusive and clearly marked, so users can easily distinguish between news and sponsored content.
    • On February 3, Facebook introduced Paper, a new app with the appearance of a digital newspaper. Though no one yet knows what native ads will look like on Paper, they will surely come into play, a Contently article claims.

Although these early successes are exciting, they certainly do not provide enough evidence for an accurate prediction for the future of native advertising. What is your opinion on native advertising? Have you introduced native advertising on your websites? What are the pros? What are the potential problems? Please feel free to share your thoughts via the comments section below.