As native advertising continues to grow in prominence, becoming an even more integral part of marketing strategies and bringing in larger chunks of advertising revenue for publishers, the question arises, how can we measure and truly prove the worth of native?
This question becomes all the more imperative to answer as spend on native becomes commonplace. Brands will increasingly insist on harder metrics, proving ROI and ultimately justifying spend.
A recent report by the Native Advertising Institute showed that in 2018, while performance metrics—such as audience engagement and time spent seemed to be on the rise, harder metrics—such as using sales numbers to measure effectiveness seem to be on the decline, at least in the news media industry. 2018, for example, saw a fall in the number of publishers using sales as a metric, dropping from 32% of those surveyed in 2017 to 24% in 2018.
The magazine industry, according to another NAI report, seems to be shifting slightly more toward the harder metrics, with sales as a metric becoming more prominent among magazine executives—lifting from 26% in 2017 to 28% in 2018. Along the same lines, purchasing intent as a metric is being used more frequently—17% in 2018, up from 10%. The fact of the matter is, though, traffic (a metric used by 67% of magazine executives) and audience engagement (a metric used by 73%) are still by far the most popular KPIs.
Perhaps these sorts of measures have cut it up to now, but industry experts predict this won’t be the case for long.
“ They are simply prerequisites for success. Advertisers, though, are often times looking for ‘harder’ conversion metrics,” states the report in response to the overwhelming reliance on these softer metrics within the industry
A call for harder metrics
In a recent ebook put out by NAI, 39 native advertising experts gave their predictions as to what 2019 would hold for the industry. A topic that seemed to be on a lot of minds was how we measure the success of native advertising. More specifically, the need for better performance indicators, more in line with client business objectives.
“Good native advertising must, at least, be measured on what kind of relevant content it attracts and, more importantly, on client KPIs,” explains Pierre Wingren, Head of Native Advertising & Programmatic at N365 Group. He continues:
“In 2019 there will be no such thing as a “great piece” if it’s not delivering on the agreed upon KPIs. Whether it’s sales, B2B leads or just engaging and relevant traffic is, of course, up to the client. For years we’ve been talking about this and we can now see a trend where more clients are becoming aware.”
In other words, as native advertising continues to become a more formalised practice, we can’t get away with just trying to produce great content pieces, we need to drive specific results and be looking at the proper metrics for proof that we are.
“Native Advertising is maturing and with this growth, advertisers will demand a data and insights-led approach, across all project phases. The data and insights spotlight will require proof that the right content is being planned, that the correct optimizations are being administered in flight and that KPIs are being measured to determine ultimate success….2019 will be the year of ‘prove it,’” predicts Dan Rubin, Executive Director at Studio M, Meredith Corporation.
Brands will need to step up too
These ideas seem to be a call to action, not only for publishers or creators of content but also for the brands that commission it. Because as Melanie Deziel, Brand Storytelling Keynote Speaker and Founder of StoryFuel, explains “Those brands who get distracted by shiny new objects in the form of formats or social platforms will find themselves chasing vanity metrics and short-term goals without long-term satisfaction and meaningful impact on their marketing goals.”