In native advertising, the church and state divide is heavily debated. Where is the line between editorial and commercial content? Is there a line? Should there be a line?
According to several native advertising professionals, there definitely IS a line, but at the same time, they believe that it is crucial to include some editorial resources and journalistic standards in the native production. Here is why.
Who is king of content?
Ana Plisic, Editorial Director at Hanza Media Native Ad Studios, is convinced that it is important that the head of the native team has a strong editorial background for one simple reason.
“Content is king and who is the king in creating content? It’s the editorial team. I believe that only someone with a strong editorial experience can do native, but you also have to have a business understanding. you have to understand the advertising landscape, you have to understand the brands fully, and you have to understand the new models that arise in the digital era and the new customers,” says Ana Plisic.
Content strategist and Founder of the Overlap League, Melanie Deziel, agrees that the editorial team is king of content, which is why she has set out on a mission to bring the tools, tactics and best practices of journalism to branded content.
Melanie Deziel’s take on native advertising is — in line with other experts and the definition of the term — that it has to take on the form and function of the surrounding content so that it offers the same level of value for the readers.
“Journalists are very skilled at this: they focus on making the story appealing to readers, filling in gaps in reader knowledge, and adapting their writing style to fit the various publications where they work,” she says.
And according to her, brands should approach their content in the same way. One important thing, that one should learn from journalism is: “Show it, don’t tell it”, which means finding examples, people and stories that show the point, one is trying to make.
How to make successful content
And if you get it right, native advertising can, indeed, be very effective. Your native advertising just has to be as good as you would normally produce your editorial content. Then it will be successful, says Pete Wootton, MD of Digital at Dennis Publishing.
“Because then consumers will want to read it, the editorial team will want to promote it — may be as well on their own social channels — and so will your users,” says Pete Wootton.
This is why he believes that the editorial team should be involved in the production of native advertising.
“You get [native advertising] right by making sure that your normal editorial team works on the content. It’s quite controversial and I know there’s this idea of Church and State for a lot of publishers where they try and keep the commercial editorial team and the normal editorial team separate.
But the way to produce the best possible quality content — particularly in the vertical markets we work in — is to get the people who normally write this stuff to do it for the commercial teams as well,” he says
The editorial team has useful knowledge
Not all publishers, however, share this point of view that the editorial team should be involved. But they still do believe that there are lessons to learn from the journalistic forces in the house.
As Tim Cain, Director of Digital First Media, says, the editorial team shouldn’t write the content, but they can provide ideas, inspiration, and maybe some creativity.
“The editorial team of any media brand knows its readers, it knows its audience, it’s obviously a highly skilled professional group of people, so it’s got a lot to offer in terms of being able to help a commercial proposition based on the knowledge that it has.”
Armando Turco, General Manager of Vox Creative share this opinion.
“I like to say that our editorial staff makes Vox Creative better, but they don’t make Vox Creative content. One of the biggest advantages of working with Vox Creative is getting access to an aggregate of audience insights and trends from across the portfolio of brands. It’s at that level that we’re most connected to editorial,” he says.
And this is exactly why Anna Arvidsson, Head of Bonnier News Brand Studio thinks that an important learning for the brand studios is to spend a day in the newsroom.
“Gather insights, learn the editorial approach and implement on your commercial editorial, so that your native product becomes true native,” she says.
So, maybe it is time for you to take a look into the newsroom and get some tips and tricks from the editorial team to make your native advertising as great as possible.