Native advertising has a big problem. It’s not that readers aren’t clicking on it; they are. The problem is once they click, they don’t read it. The majority of native advertising doesn’t engage, and readers are bouncing from it, fast.
According to Chartbeat data on native ad engagement, one quarter of readers stick with native content for more than 15 seconds, compared to 71% of readers who engage that long with editorial content.
And yes, 15 seconds is a long time in Internet years. Simply stated, readers are glancing and bouncing from native advertising. They know it when they see it, and they are not amused.
Yet publishers like The Wall Street Journal continue to insist that their readers want, and like, native content. That’s causing some serious cognitive dissonance.
Asks Rob O’Regan in eMedia, “Native ads are shaping up as the equivalent of trees falling in the forest: If no one views sponsor-generated content, does it make a sound?”
To help combat the issue, big-name publishers like The New York Times and Hearst have launched their own creative studios to develop native advertising that is worth the time of day, according to O’Regan. And some, like WSJ, are being more selective about whom they partner with, to hopefully ensure better relevance with their audience.
As all this unfolds, those sacrosanct lines between editorial and advertising continue to ooze.
“Discussions about the quality of sponsor content inevitably lead to questions about what role, if any, a publisher’s editorial staff should play in native ad programs,” says O’Regan. “The WSJ clearly states that its news team plays no role in the creation of brand content. Publishers such as Forbes are hiring ‘brand editors’ – experienced journalists that report to sales or marketing and work directly on brand content.”
Other publishers, Hearst for example, “sees its magazine editors filling a role as a type of content consultant,” according to O’Regan.
The public’s weariness with banner ads makes native advertising an attractive alternative, says Alex Attinger in The Guardian. Attinger asserts that magazines must be unmistakably transparent when placing native content, so readers know immediately that this is sponsored, not editorial.
Still, is that enough to get the audience’s attention, when they’ve already tuned you out?