LION Webinar 10: Native advertising for small news organizations

By Doug Hardy | Feb. 11, 2016

Native advertising is too valuable for independent publishers to ignore in today's independent news marketplace, where display advertising faces a slew of growing challenges.

That was part of the message from Jaci Smith, a former Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow, and Scott Brodbeck, publisher of ARLNow.Com in Virginia and a LION board member. The pair offered tips and best practices for native advertising during Thursday's LION webinar, the 10th in the group's monthly series.

Brodbeck's opening message was specifically directed at publishers who have been on the fence about whether to offer native advertising, also known as sponsored content, as part of their revenue portfolios. The gist of Brodbeck's point was to "stop kvetching and starting making money."

Brodbeck provided several examples of how his publications are generating revenue through native advertising as simple as a sponsored "pet of the week" post for under $100 to other strategies like sponsored columns and other regular features for higher dollar values.

He also suggested, among other things, that budgeting $10-$15 to boost the Facebook posting of a link to sponsored content is better than depending on the social network's own algorithm for exposure.

Check out Brodbeck's slides here.

Smith, who is now digital planning editor for Gannett's DelawareOnline.com (The News Journal), also stressed the need to create opportunities for engagement within native advertising posts.

Smith said she uses quizzes and other embeddable options as engagement tools and has found great success with sponsored listicles that cross pollinate with community events.

Of note, Smith said she had a close rate of 75 percent on more than 100 pitches as they built their native advertising program, and found that average time spent viewing native advertising was 1 minute, 15 seconds with a clickthrough rate around 5 to 7 percent, rather than the few seconds viewing and fraction of a percent in clickthroughs that many display ads provide.

Smith's step-by-step approach to building a native advertising program: 

  1. Gauge demand and form a task force. Create timeline.
  2. Develop a mission statement and guidelines for display, transparency, ownership of content, definition of terms.
  3. Identify platforms to use and prepare technology infrastructure.
  4. Determine resource allocation and training.
  5. Set limits: How much is too much?
  6. Determine pricing, analytics.

Check out Smith's slides here.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE WEBINAR REPLAY (you will need to register)

• Questions? Reach Scott by email here or on Facebook. Reach Jaci by email here or @delawarejaci.