Native advertising is inevitable. Sadly much of it will be dreadful.

It is inevitable because the biggest names in the local media industry are already behind native advertising. There is no question most media outlets will follow their lead. As they do, however, it is equally clear that many will do a terrible job of realizing the potential benefits of sponsored content. Why?

Effective native advertising needs three qualities to guarantee success for the sponsor:

  1. The content must be a good read. A boring story won’t get out of the starting block to influence a reader to do business with the sponsor. Native advertising must be interesting.
  2. It must be truthful and accurate. Pandering to the advertiser, exaggeration and embellishment will hurt the sponsor’s credibility and ultimately their business, rather than help. Misleading native advertising is the kiss of death.
  3. The content must original and valuable. Repetition of popular search terms to assure Search Engine Optimization may deliver eyeballs to the native advertising, but SEO of worthless content will turn off consumers and demean the sponsor’s image. Useful content has the opportunity to turn on readers and transform them into buyers.

It goes without saying that Native Advertising or Sponsored Content must be clearly labeled as advertising or paid content. Done right, native advertising has huge upside for local media companies. However, if the execution fails to deliver on one or more of the three promises above, the results will be dismal. Worse, the harm done to solid brands could be irreversible.

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