Of all the topics that get bounced around the industry these days, few generate the polarized reaction that "native advertising" does within the digital news cycle.
On one side, native advertising has been hailed as the savior of the publishing industry. On the other side, it has been called the scourge of the marketplace, leading a movement to destroy the journalistic integrity of our most cherished editorial voices.
But savvy marketers and publishers aren't at either extreme. Based on their experience, they know that mastering the art and scientific precision of native programming is an effective and creative way to reach and energize key audiences.
So what does native programming mean in its purest form?
Put simply, native programming is highly engaging, culturally relevant content (vs. advertising) that is thoughtfully curated, programmed, and ultimately designed for the "feed" experience. When executed flawlessly, the content is both memorable and shareable (i.e., Ben & Jerry's Comical Salute To Colorado); when not, it can be questionable and disruptive (i.e., Church of Scientology in The Atlantic).
Of course, we've already been witness to how quickly this domain has evolved, and recent industry maneuvering suggests greater innovation is on the horizon. That includes Twitter's recent enhancements to its timeline canvas, suggesting a new generation of creative richness and interactivity that has the ability to further invigorate the intersection of brand content and commerce.
In the world of native programming, multilayered content distribution is increasingly gaining importance in driving predictable reach and engagement. Of course, the impact of social discovery and search will continue to be significant. A recent Outbrain study analyzing more than 3 billion page views via mobile and desktop revealed that discovery-sourced traffic delivered twice as many page views per session compared to search and more than 2.5 times that of social traffic.
Publishers are also embracing the concept of native programming as a highly effective revenue stream. But no matter where opportunities exist, marketers should make sure to add value to the content itself, and not just talk about the ultimate end value of the product or service it is related to.
In addition, it's clear the pathway to content discovery and engagement continues to evolve, and marketers have an increasingly expanding and effective toolkit to reach new audiences at scale. As brands continue to scale programming efforts, the role of data and audience intelligence will become even more critical in designing an optimal distribution mix.
Ultimately, the pressure to create memorable, authentic native programming that emotionally connects, converts, and energizes will only increase -- and the most nimble, creative, and opportunistic brands will be best positioned to thrive. That's why killer content matters so much, now and in the future.
This post was originally published here on CMO.com.
This post is part of series produced by The Huffington Post for Advertising Week 2014, in conjunction with the Advertising Week conference (New York, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2014). To see all the posts in this series, read here. To learn more about Advertising Week 2014, read here.