Search for native advertising on the Guardian and you'll likely find this article.

The irony is almost unbearable. As Doug Kessler pointed out at FODM 2014 (all credit goes to Doug), he didn't find the Guardian's point of view on native advertising. He found this article in a paid-for position.

What does this mean for publishing and advertising? Keep reading and you'll find my rules for succeeding with native advertising.

Well, what it means in Doug's eyes is that the reader will eventually revolt.


This one of Doug's key trends in content marketing at the moment. The blurring of ads and content, the blurring of motivation behind a celebrity tweet, and the blurring of brand posts with your friends' in the Facebook newsfeed.

Are publishers selling trust and selling it too cheaply?

guardian native advertising

Is there a solution?

Publishers could of course take the radical approach of increasing the price of native inventory and its visibility, whilst decreasing its frequency. The bottom line is that readers have to be absolutely clear this is content that should not be judged by the same standards as the rest of the publication. That's not to say it shouldn't hit that standard.

The BuzzFeed model of effectively creating an agency in-house to produce native advertising with the same values as BuzzFeed content has to be the approach taken. In effect, this means that the content is no longer advertising (if advertising is defined as content with no artistic merit).

This Purina video we've featured before is the perfect BuzzFeed example.

The Telegraph has been doing similar stuff with video advertising.

See the excellent example below about the making of a Steinway Piano that was created in-house.

This video was hosted in the Telegraph's luxury design section. I've copied the whole page at the bottom of this post, so you can see how it's done (click through). The design of this part of the Telegraph differs from the other sections and this is something publishers should take on board when considering native. If you make the site feel different enough in sections where native advertising is accepted, the reader may be less confused or disappointed. Perhaps the Guardian doesn't quite achieve this?

The point here is also that the Telegraph Steinway article that accompanies this video is fairly factual, though also with a certain style. When it comes to fashion and design, native is easier than, for example, giving opinions on the future of business (traditionally a beat for senior journos and an area that shouldn't be merely dabbled in).

The answer lies in defining native advertising for your publication

This is what it comes down to. What is acceptable for you and your readers? Be stringent, protect your journalists, look for other revenue streams. It's hard to turn down ad bucks, but more and more will start to do it.

If we look at the fashion industry and a magazine like Vogue, its adverts aren't what we would call native, but we should do. They are as much content to readers as the other parts of the magazine. Vogue is comfortable with this relationship, and so it should be.

Some rules I've made up

  • Stick with specific formats e.g. the subheaded short article, as below in the Telegraph.
  • Steer clear of opinions.
  • Manage it in-house.
  • Use your own writers and editors, with raw material and research from the brand.
  • Collaboration is key.
  • Don't think of it as an easy buck, more good money for good work.
  • Sell native advertising to brands that 'get' publishing.

And if you're a brand, Doug suggests, you may as well get on board now to make the most of this very valuable inventory before reader scepticism overrides.

Look out for Econsultancy's Native Advertising Best Practice Guide, due for publication soon.

steinway native on telegraph

Ben Davis

Published 25 June, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

1244 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (1)


Jonny Rose (from idio)

Hi Ben,

As we (idio) wrote in the Econsultancy back in May - the problems with native advertising go well beyond mere concerns about ethics or aesthetics.


Fundamentally, brands have no idea what effect native advertising on their bottom line. It's (in most cases) untrackable, the metrics of success are unstandardised, focus is on 'engagement' not 'conversions', ROI models are (as yet) nowhere to be seen.

Publishers are making money. Ad-tech companies are making money. Content agencies are making money. Brands....not so much?

Everyone knows this. No-one wants to fix it.

Jonny Rose
Head of Content, idio

about 4 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.