Michael Bruh recently wrote a great piece for MediaPost asking who owns native advertising. In his words:
"So the most important discussion for the C-suite is which of its marketing communications teams should own native advertising to produce the greatest ROI. Is it a branding technique that should be treated like other types of advertising and, thus, belongs in the purview of an advertising agency? Should your PR team own it because native advertising is all about highly targeted content? How about your social media team, because publishers make native advertising content very easy to syndicate across Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. so that readers can promote it? And, being a search guy, I know there is powerful SEO value in sponsored content to help brands rank higher and more quickly for their desired keywords and content."
This is a fine list of roles involved in sponsored content, but I'd argue publishers should hold on to each and every one of them for as long as they can. For too long, digital publishing has been bled dry by the display ad pie. Revenue is chopped and divvied before if ever gets back to you – the actual publisher.
Set up divisions in your sponsored content group that address each of these roles. Branding, PR, social media, and make sure you're part of the conversation. We've pointed out before that social networks like Twitter and Facebook are eating publishers' lunch. While this is true for the short staccato messages of posts and tweets, the leap to full native advertising affords you the chance to take the reins and build a brand new, multi-faceted business plan around content creation, branding, and promotion.
You need to brand the service effectively, and there is no shortage of example publishers killing it with this novel approach. Just recently, the Wall Street Journal announced their full service sponsored content division, and even some unconventional players are stepping up their game. Check out National Geographic's Content Studio, an example of a publisher immediately identifying their target audience, making it clear for marketers, and offering an all-in-one solution for creative and promotion.
It's the wild west days of ownership in native ads – now is the time to define how much of the format your publication is going to own. Why not contact us? We'd love to discuss where you're heading with sponsored content in 2014.