This article is part of a series of interviews that NAI has conducted with the directors of publishers’ Native Ad Studios around the world.
Please reach out if you want to add your Native Ad Studio to the series.
Today we speak with Atle Bersvendsen, Head of Adresseavisen Brand Studio — a part of Polaris Media with a portfolio of 34 newspapers and 95 Million monthly page views.
Adresseavisen is Norway’s oldest daily newspaper. It was first issued on July 3, 1767. The largest shareholder in the newspaper is Schibsted.
Why did Adresseavisen decide to establish a Native Ad Studio?
I 2015 we conducted a survey on possible new streams of revenue. Content marketing and native advertising were mentioned as new areas to try out.
The survey was followed by a long internal debate about whether commercial content would jeopardise our journalistic credibility. So we spent almost three months discussing how we could make sure that our readers wouldn’t feel deceived. In early 2016, we decided to set up a content studio, which I was asked to manage. I was previously a journalist and an editor.
How do you recruit for Adresseavisen Brand Studio and which skills do you look for?
When we were looking for a content producer, we got applications from internal and external journalists and decided on a journalist from our own media group who saw a possibility in this new area as journalism is going to have a hard time in the coming years. She has a big drive for learning about native advertising and at the same time she knew our CMS and our editorial products.
It’s important to have an editorial foundation, but you also have to have an interest in Google Analytics, SEO, distribution and the commercial side of things.
Who is in contact with your clients?
We both meet with clients together with the sales staff. We help develop and plan the campaigns and we are totally integrated into the sales process, which is important to achieve good results.
Is the editorial staff that normally writes for your publication involved in creating native advertising solutions?
So far no. As a condition for accepting the new native advertising offering, the Editors-in-Chief demanded that it would not be produced by our own journalists or freelancers. This does make it a bit challenging to find good freelancers to do the work.
We label native advertising by using a different look and feel regarding colour and fonts.
Do you have editorial guidelines?
We stick to the guidelines of our media company regarding labelling and the types of clients we accept. Of course, we also follow all laws related to marketing and labelling.
We label native advertising by using a different look and feel regarding colour and fonts. We also show the advertisers brand. Furthermore, we are not allowed to use regular journalistic components such as captions and fact boxes. We also use fixed spaces for sponsored content.
Have you hired native sales specialists or do you use the existing sales staff?
Our sales staff sell all our different advertising products.
Do you have a separate native budget for native advertising?
Yes, and our budget for 2017 is three times as large as in 2016.
How do you price native advertising?
The price of content production is on the level of agencies, but the price of a whole campaign depends on its scope.
We consider how costly the production will be, how many hours we plan to use and if distribution on social media and Google is needed etc.
How do you measure native advertising?
We mostly measure page views and time spent. We would like to use pay per click but this is mostly relevant for our national clients, not the local ones.
We are not copywriters. We are content producers with journalistic backgrounds.
How do you see the role of your Native Ad Studio compared to advertising agencies and the media buying agencies?
We are approaching an agency role and that is a strategic goal for us. In our experience, clients prefer having only one point of contact. Since we can advise on content as well as marketing and have several local media brands and platforms, many clients find it easier to work directly with us rather than with an agency. We are also contemplating to offer products such as events, PR and production of newsletters for clients.
Which learnings or takeaways do you have from the process of building Adresseavisen Brand Studio?
Though we use our existing sales staff for selling native advertising and content marketing, I do worry that it will be a challenge for them in the future to sell all the different commercial products that we are going to offer. My advice is to have a dedicated sales force if possible.
Regarding the ethical issues, it’s of vital importance to maintain a good dialogue with the editorial side. I think it’s an advantage that I’m a trained journalist. That’s also a selling point when we contact clients. We are not copywriters. We are content producers with journalistic backgrounds who are working with angles, storytelling and case stories.