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How BuzzFeed, The New York Times, Hearst, The Atlantic and Quartz define native advertising

April 17, 2017 | By Todd Krizelman, CEO—MediaRadar @ToddKrizelman

Demand for native campaigns and content has never been higher. Thousands of advertisers are purchasing native ads each month, many for the first time. As native adoption and demand have exploded, formats have also broadened – from native “editorial” to programmatic native and beyond.

With so much complexity in this area, how are today’s top publishers defining and committing to native? That internal definition guides their strategies and approaches to working with partners, brands and agencies. It also helps shape the content they feature within their publications.

My company, MediaRadar, recently hosted a panel discussion bringing together some of the top experts in digital media to talk about native’s future. Senior advertising executives from BuzzFeed, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Hearst Digital and Quartz were featured.

Given the abundance of branded formats and wide-ranging strategies across publishers, each executive spoke at length about how their organizations define native advertising.

Here’s what they had to say:

“Native is about building things for the environment therein,” said Brian Dell, Creative Director, Client Services at Quartz. “It tends to be about how we are using the principles and the experience of Quartz’s editorial features to give brands a voice.”

The Atlantic defines native as a sensibility, according to Michael Monroe, Vice President of Marketing & Head of Re:think, The Atlantic’s in-house creative marketing group.

“We think a lot about native as a format – in that we have a magazine and we have a website, so our content lives in those ways,” he said. “But, we think about native more as a sensibility. Our readers come to our brands because they expect a certain caliber of story. So when we’re creating something for a client, we create it with the same sense of ambition.”

BuzzFeed’s Rebecca Scott, Vice President of Brand Strategy, also defined native through the end-user’s perspective, noting the need to simply tailor content to look and feel like whatever platform distributes it – not just the publisher’s site.

According to Scott, “When we think of native at BuzzFeed, we really just think of it as how can we make something that fits in naturally and authentically to wherever someone is consuming content. So that can be native video – meaning someone scrolling through their Facebook feed and they see a great video and it makes sense and it’s not a disruptive experience. It’s really additive and fits right into whatever platform they’re already consuming content on.”

With its legacy and reputation in traditional print news media, The New York Times offered its own take.

“Fact-first, narrative-first. Strong stories, strong characters,” said Adam Aston, Vice President & Executive Editorial Director, T Brand Studio, The New York Times. “From inception, where we were making the simplest stories we could three to four years ago, to today, where a lot of what we’re making is a three-ring circus of interactivity, like VR and AR — we’re still driven by the story, the quality of the reporting, finding authentic people, much in the way that our newsroom is.”

Jason Kleinman, Vice President, Brand Solutions and Global Ad Products Strategy, Hearst Digital Media, delivered a more comprehensive view of native:

“We don’t really use the term native at all. We talk in terms of creating great content.”

In the end, every publisher has their own native strategy that must live in companionship with their editorial approach, their site aesthetic and more. There is no one-size-fits-all definition. And as native spend among advertisers continues to grow, the market will continue to offer more solutions, formats and services.


Todd Krizelman (@ToddKrizelman ) is Co-Founder and CEO of MediaRadar (@MediaRadar). Growing up near the epicenter of technological innovation in Palo Alto, California encouraged him to become an entrepreneur and co-found of one of the world’s first social media sites, theGlobe.com. Krizelman also held leadership positions at Bertelsmann’s Gruner + Jahr and Random House. With his expertise in ad sales and innovation, Krizelman joined veteran web architect, Jesse Keller, to found MediaRadar in 2007.

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