Native Advertising on the Local Scale

  • Kirsten Ballard
  • 09.21.2016

In 2014, The New York Times ran a 1,500 word article about women inmates. The graphics, video and audio components blended together with strong reporting for a wonderful piece of journalism.

The thing is, it wasn’t journalism. It was advertising, sponsored by Netflix in honor of “Orange is the New Black.” In the age of digital ad blockers, advertisers must find a way to entice and attract viewers. Enter native advertising.

These advertisements match the form and function of the platform they are on, positioning them to perform well on content sites. Because of their appearance and ability to inform the consumer, native advertisements are more likely to be shared than traditional advertising. Publishers should be transparent that the article is sponsored or posted by an advertiser.

Research firm BIA/Kelsey estimates that on social media alone, native advertising spending will grow to $5 billion in 2017, up from $3.4 billion in 2014. A 2013 study done by Sharethrough shows that consumers look at native ads 53 percent more frequently than display ads, and spending increases 18 percent.

But how can you get the dazzle and wow on a local budget?

The Dallas Morning News partnered with Slingshot, a traditional advertising agency in 2012 to create Speakeasy.

The firm primarily focuses in content marketing, social media and digital promotions. When a client approaches Speakeasy, President Mike Orren says the first step is a deep dive into the business and creating a digital strategy for the next year, including a style guide and editorial calendar.

“It’s not all sell, sell, sell, but the goal is to drive people to that content,” he says.

Native advertising is not about a quick payoff. There need to be longer sales decisions. He said some clients start looking for leads within a week. Things that perform best require education and information. High end retail, medical and educational native advertising all perform well.

“It’s not the kind of thing you can throw up a native ad for and think someone would buy tomorrow,” he says.

As native advertising continues to grow, he advises being selective about the type of content you’re producing. There are a thousand listicles out there; writing number 1,001 one won’t differentiate your brand if you are producing what everyone else is.

“We’re not selling the client,” he said. Instead of writing about a home decorator company, he’d write about popular paint colors for fall.

Native advertising can be in the form of content, a video or even social media. Advocate Digital Media is the online resource for The Victoria Advocate. The partnership began by overseeing display ads, but grew to help local business owners with pre-roll, email marketing, native and other advertising services. Sales Director Jennifer Love says the content should entertain, educate and inform.

“It’s not there to deceive the reader, but to engage the audience that is reading it. It’s a great way for advertisers to get their message out there indirectly,” she says.

She says native works well on the local scale. “Create the content, place it on your site, share on your social platforms and run display ads to push traffic to the article. Your readers already see you as the trusted news source; now help your advertisers be seen as a trusted brand.”



  • Kirsten Ballard
Kirsten is the Social Media and Blog Editor at the News Media Alliance.