Native revenue 'soaring' for publishers, but where's the proof it works?

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 22 September 2014

As publishers pile into the native advertising as the answer to declining traditional advertising revenue, concerns about how to measure success - or otherwise - are growing. Publishers have flagged a lack of standardisation.

Youth-focused publisher Sound Alliance has claimed that native content and ads now account for almost 30% of its revenues. In February the company said native represented around 17% of total revenues. That equates to native ad revenue growth of 75% in six months and suggests a big shift in marketer budgets.

The company told AdNews the conversation needs to move away from the buzz and into hard metrics of "measurement, proof and results".

Content director Tim Duggan said Sound Alliance measures its native content output the same way a brand campaign would be measured, using metrics including click through rates and how often a piece is shared. Duggan said for bigger native campaigns, Sound Alliance works with research company Effective Measure to survey audiences on purchase consideration.

Fairfax Media APM custom solutions commercial manager Felix Krueger said the success of its Brand Discover hub tends to be measured by engagement metrics but that it also uses content impressions and reach.

“It indicates content relevance, or in other words: how much people care,” Krueger said. “Engagement is a highly valuable currency in a world where consumers are exposed to up to 5,000 advertising messages a day.”

Duggan said that comparing native advertising campaigns is like comparing apples and oranges, unlike traditional display advertising which has a standard CTR of measurement.

“There is no regulation and no consistency at the moment,” Duggan said.

“If a brand works across five different publishers of native advertising they’ll all be presented differently, they’ll all probably have different results and they’ll all probably be measured differently. That can be really confusing.”

IAB Australia is moving to address the issue. It plans to release a Native Advertising Playbook in November, outlining six ad formats that are currently be used in Australia's native advertising market, as well as a guide to metrics.

IAB Australia chief executive Alice Manners told AdNews that the more it can define the structure and framework of native advertising, the easier it will be for brands to incorporate it into campaigns. "Native needs consensus on definitions and structure to flourish further," she acknowledged.

The IAB is trying to broaden its focus from its traditional publisher base and Duggan said that input from advertisers themselves was critical in delivering meaningful, credible metrics.

“As a publisher that is pioneering native advertising, I think its important for us to trying and be there and try to push it from our side. But marketers need to do the same as well. It's a symbiotic relationship – you can’t have one without the other,” Duggan added.

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