Mashable exec on why branded and editorial content teams should have the same leadership

This article is reproduced with thanks to Native Advertising Institute, a FIPP member. See the original article here. Jesper Laursen, CEO of Native Advertising Institute, will lead a panel discussion on native advertising at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October 2017 in London, the UK. Meet him there.

The Native Advertising Institute met up with Hannah Meium, branded content director at Mashable, at Native Advertising DAYS 2016. Sign up for notifications about next years’ conference here.

Good native is a matter of trust

“Good native advertising is a mix of the publisher’s voice and the brand’s voice and truly native of course takes on the look and the feel of the publisher. The readers of for example Mashable have come to expect a certain kind of quality, a certain type of content.

So when my team, the branded content team, makes content for brands it’s in that same style, it’s in that same voice but it’s in partnership with a brand. For native to be as successful as it can it needs a really good partnership and brands that will really trust us.”

Don’t be afraid to redesign your website to fit a native campaign

“One recent example that my team created was in partnership with Netflix for the latest season of ‘Black Mirror’. Mashable is usually very bright, white and blue and for ‘Black Mirror’, which is about the dark future of technology and what may happen in the not-so-distant future, we redesigned our website as a big team collaboration.

The website was dark and we created a lot of content that could live in the same time as ‘Black Mirror’ takes place and so it worked really well because it was a such a good fit for our audience with the focus on tech, but it also was very clear that it was a partner content. It’s very important that we’re not misleading our audience but in a way that will be interesting and entertaining to our audience.”

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Readers will know if a brand is trying to shoehorn their message into the content

“Native should be in the voice of the publisher above all. If a brand partner is trying to sort of shoehorn their message into the content a little too much the reader is going to say, “OK, this is this an advertisement I don’t want to read this. This isn’t providing me any value.”

So I think it’s important to keep in mind who your end reader is and if this story is going to be valuable to them and tell the story in a way that’s going to add value and don’t try to you know sort of shoehorn the message in there.”

What to share with brand partners

“When brands come to Mashable to create native advertising it’s because of who our audience is. They want to reach that audience and we’re the experts in creating content for that audience.

When we are developing a program with a partner we will tell them; this type of content performs really well with our audience, this is why we’re recommending this talent to use, this is why we’re recommending this style of an infographic, because we know that our audience really is going to respond to that and they’re going to enjoy consuming content like that.

So we definitely will share those sort of insights and nuggets about what we know to help to create the most compelling content that we can.”

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Why brands come to publishers

“With native advertising I think the real reason that a brand wants to work with a publisher is to get to that publishers audience. As the publisher we know our audience the best, so that’s the real value of working with a Mashable because we have so much data and so much insights on our audience and when they’re consuming stuff, how they’re consuming it, what headline is going to do better and because of that we can really make the best content for our audience.”

Make native content that fits the platforms of choice for your audience

“We really value our audience wherever they we are and not just expecting them to come to We are with them on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Snapchat, on Snapchat Discover.

In the current state of the media it’s very important to talk to your audience where they are. You’re not going to build a shop in the middle of nowhere and expect people to just show up and meet you there. You’re going to build a shop where people already are and where the traffic is. So that’s sort of the same way that we approach native.”

Be clear that it’s sponsored content

“The important thing with native and with making sure that your audience will receive it well is being very clear and upfront that it is sponsored content and that it is partner content. I think the times that the audience isn’t as excited about native content is if they feel like they have been misled.

So we’re always very clear; this is partner content, this is paid, this in partnership with Netflix because we don’t want to mislead anybody and have anyone think that our editorial team is endorsing something because it’s something that the branded content team has made”

Put the branded content team under the same umbrella as the content team

“My team, the branded content team at Mashable, are the ones responsible for our custom content and our native advertising campaigns. We are under the overall umbrella of the content team, so we sit separately but under the same overall leadership.

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I think that’s very important because our content follows those same standards and guidelines as the content team. But nothing that my team is working on should ever influence what the editorial team is going to choose to cover or not choose to cover so we’re careful about keeping that separate.”

Ask yourself: Why do you need to be on that platform? 

“The thing to always think about when adding the social layer to any campaign is understanding what that platform is and the kinds of content that are there. You shouldn’t put a bunch of still photos on YouTube. Obviously. Because people are on YouTube for video. For Facebook videos most people are watching those without the sound on, so it needs to be something that’s audio agnostic.

When you’re thinking about which platforms to expand your campaign to think about what kind of content you’re doing? How should it live on those platforms? And make sure that you have a deep understanding of why you would even use that platform.”

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When not to be a first mover on social

“When it comes to new social platforms that are just launching and whether or not you want to be the first one there, it really depends on your bandwidth and how big your team is. If you’re a one person shop don’t try to be everywhere because you won’t be able to be successful. The bandwidth just won’t be there.

With Mashable we want to be the first to try the new platforms because of our roots as a tech company and as a social company and we have the team to do that. It’s important for us to be out there and even be the ones helping our audience understand new platforms.

When Snapchat launched and when Instagram launched Instagram stories we were right there explaining it to our audience. We were figuring it out too, which I think is also a good way for us to approach new platforms.”

The Wild West on new platforms

“With native on social disclosure is of course important and with some of the new platforms it’s totally the Wild West. There aren’t rules because it’s a brand new platform. It’s always important that you are being clear, that you’re not misleading the viewer of the content.

I tell my team that we make content, we don’t make commercials so if we’re making a piece of content that’s going to live on Instagram it shouldn’t look like an advertisement it should feel just like the rest of the content that we make.”

Watch what your 12 year old nephew is doing

“When figuring out which platform you should be investing in it’s important to know your audience. I would not recommend to a luxury automobile brand to focus on Snapchat because that audience of 13-year-olds girls and boys probably isn’t in the market to buy a high-end luxury automobile. So really understand who you’re after and where they are and meet them there.When we think about the future of social… I have a 12 year old nephew and it’s like, “OK what’s he doing? What are his friends doing?” Because that is what’s next. You see this trend in Facebook. Now that parents are on there and now that grandparents are on there the younger audience doesn’t want to be there anymore. That’s why Snapchat is there. The younger audience wants to be part of something that not everybody is part of.”

The #1 threat to native

“In terms of any threat to the future of native the only thing I would say is if we’re not disclosing. If we’re not being honest with our audience, we will lose their trust and that will make our audience go away, so it’s  important to be clear and to be transparent.”

Jesper Laursen, CEO of Native Advertising Institute, will lead a panel discussion on native advertising at the 41st FIPP World Congress, 9-11 October 2017 in London, the UK. Meet him there.

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