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Media


Advertisers love the idea of “native ads” — marketing messages that sort of look like “real” content — because they think that Web surfers who ignore other ads will pay attention to the new format.*

This sounds interesting in theory, but less convincing when you actually look at the stuff native advertisers are creating, which often resembles lousy versions of “real” content — stiffly written advertorials that no one except the person who paid for it would ever willingly look at.

And, sure enough, very few people are looking at this stuff. Or, more precisely: People who look at this stuff can’t wait to stop reading it.

So says Chartbeat, a Web traffic analytics used by lots of big publishers (Re/code has a Chartbeat account, too). Writing for Time.com, Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile says that while 71 percent of surfers will stick with a “real” article for more than 15 seconds**, that number drops to 24 percent for native ad stuff.

“What this suggests is that brands are paying for — and publishers are driving traffic to — content that does not capture the attention of its visitors or achieve the goals of its creators,” Haile deadpans.

Uh oh! Haile makes sure to qualify his statement by pointing out people who are doing a good job with native ads (I’m sure that any native ads you see at Re/code will be excellent, too!). But the reason publishers love native ads is that advertisers are willing to pay a premium for them, even as the prices for conventional Web ads keep shrinking.

I’ve always thought that the native ad lifeline was less strong than Web publishers have hoped for, chiefly because they seem impossible to make work at scale. While lots of people will tell you otherwise, it sure seems hard to make a “native” ad for more than one website, because then they’re not really “native,” right?

But if advertisers conclude that Haile is right, then the scale issues won’t matter to advertisers — they’ll just conclude that native ads aren’t worth their time, period. Which will leave Web publishers scrambling for the next big thing.

* Which is really a really old format, but whatever — no time for history when you’re on the bleeding edge, man.

** Yes, that’s right, 15 seconds. That’s a long time on the bleeding edge, man.




9 comments
damcinnis
damcinnis

I think the bigger issue is lack of editorial. Abuse of the medium with spammy content is and will cause consumers to develop a blind spot for these native ads. Publishers accepting native advertising should work with their advertisers to develop better content.


We have found success if the native space, but I worry that bad content will kill the opportunity for everyone.

Jason Thibeault
Jason Thibeault

Of course people aren't paying attention. What people want today is content that is genuinely helpful. This kind of "fake content" approach is from old-school marketers who can't get past the idea that they don't have to talk about their company or their product in every way they engage with their audience. When marketers insist on approaching every chance of engagement as an advertisement (instead of just generating content that helps establish their expertise and voice within their industry), it becomes just part of the noise. They lose credibility and authenticity. I pity any marketers using this strategy of "fake content." It's a lose-lose situation.

jggnyc
jggnyc

Where did our bored 15-second readers go next? 

Tracking that could prove insightful, especially if (optimistically) enough readers continued to the brand's landing page or website. Not tracking that fails to gauge the actual value brands are getting out of their native advertising efforts.

FF22
FF22

That 15 seconds number says nothing negative about the efficiency of the ads. Firstly, because 15 seconds might be well enough to get the message through - and in the end, that's all that matters for efficiency. And secondly, because maybe there's nothing more to a native ad than 15 seconds. Maybe it's just 4 lines, which can be very well read in full in 15 seconds by anyone without dyslexia.


I'm wondering why this metric was chose, because 1. it says nothing about the actual efficiency of the ads, 2. the time range chosen seems arbitrary, and even if the author could not measure actual efficiency, more samples for different time ranges could have established a more thorough analysis, which wouldn't have seem to want to prove a pre-defined agenda.

ouriel ohayon
ouriel ohayon

Then someone needs to explain how Facebook native mobile ads are so efficient. By the way native ads are not just a form of paid editorial content by ads that blends somehow in the content....


Ouriel Ohayon

Appsfire.com 

Josh Schwartz
Josh Schwartz

@FF22  Great points. Let me clarify a few things:

1) The data pulled about native ads was all in reference to ads that were full articles, not 4 line pieces / promoted Tweets / etc.


2) We use time because it's been an incredibly powerful metric on the editorial side and captures well the notion of "how much did our readers consume this article?" — which obviously is critical for those who are writing editorial content. I'd argue that if you're writing a native ad that takes the form of editorial content then you'd probably benefit from looking at the same metrics that are used for editorial content. 


If you wrote a 2,000 word article and people only saw the first 300 words, clearly something was wrong. You point out that time doesn't measure the actual effectiveness of the native ad, and that's definitely true: time measures the opportunity that an advertiser had to speak to their audience. Whether their creative effectively used that opportunity is another question. That doesn't make measuring the opportunity any less useful.


3) You're definitely right that 15 seconds is only a single data point — there are only so many numbers you can put in a piece. We'll be producing a number of further looks into native ads over the coming months, as, I'm sure, will countless others. I hope this data was the beginning of a discussion, not the final word on it.


Best,

Josh Schwartz

Lead Data Scientist, Chartbeat

RS9
RS9

@ouriel ohayon  Before Facebook native mobile ads, Twitter had promoted tweets which are pretty much similar. My friend, you are forgetting one critical point here both Facebook and Twitter has extra information (Facebook dedicated brand pages, Brand based tweets). Those "Likes" and "Tweets" makes these native ads more valuable, without which they don't command good eCPMs. Ask Marissa Mayer how those native ads are doing in Yahoo! Mail app vs Yahoo! Answers mobile web site.

ouriel ohayon
ouriel ohayon

@RS9 @ouriel ohayon  of course they are also about data...native means integrated, blended in the code, the experience and the context. The fact that yahoo native ads don t work could be related to tens of factors including data, including poor execution, including poor ux integration.....

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