Are Native Ads & Content Sponsorships Your Next Monetization Strategy?

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One under-leveraged monetization strategy that can allow you to run a clean blog without intrusive ads (which badly disrupt the reader experience) and earn up to 10x more than the marginal ad revenue that the majority of blogs collect is called native advertising or “advertorials.”

Native placements are where you essentially run sponsored posts that subtly promote the brand or blogger paying for the placement.

The sponsor pays you for space on your publication and for the distribution the blog makes to your opted-in subscribers. The post could be written by the sponsor or by you.

WHY NATIVE ADS ARE TAKING OVER

Other bloggers or brands whose audience overlaps with yours are looking to get in front of a new pool of consumers they would not otherwise have access to.

Interruption marketing is a thing of the past. “Banner blindness” continues to pervade all markets as consumers are sick of being “sold” in typical ad formats. I don’t know about you, but I have my finger ready to push “Skip Ad” on YouTube pre-rolls and interruptive mid-roll ads as soon as I’m able.

But what about when your audience is not expecting it? What about when it doesn’t feel like an ad?

Attention of a trusting audience is the most valuable resource you have. That means you can’t soil it. But it also means, done with tact, you can arbitrage that attention to sponsors and leverage your blog as the vehicle to facilitate that connection.

Unlike traditional display ads, native campaigns are not interruptive at all; instead, they appear indistinguishable from your regularly-published content — the only difference being they’re paid for by a sponsor.

On Instagram, they appear “in stream” and ideally the content is no different than your typical style and format.

And that’s the big difference between static display ads and this new method. With native ads, your sponsor actually needs to provide long-form value.

I’ve included a few examples of native ads below so you can see what I mean.

SAMPLES OF NATIVE ADS

Brand: New Earth Knowledge (my page)
Sponsor: Aubrey Marcus

Note how I featured a sponsor who’s already aligned with my audience so the content feels natural and in-line with what I post — it still adds lots of value even though it’s an ad.

More:

Brand: BuzzFeed
Sponsor: Taco Bell

Brand: Forbes
Sponsor: Capital One

NATIVE ADS FIT IN NATURALLY

Even though native ads are being run as a promotion by yourself and an advertiser, it’s a much more natural approach than other busy methods like invasive pop ups, display ads, and the like.

Your audience will also be receptive to the messaging — which should be packaged as a story, not a sales pitch — since their guard will be down when consuming the content of a creator (you) they already like and trust.

Therefore, it’s important that you set clear guidelines on the kinds of sponsored content you’ll allow. You should only publish material that adds something of value for your audience. No blatantly promotional messaging, no heavy sales pitches. At most, allow your authors to include one or two hyperlinks back to their website and a single call-to-action at the end of the post.

This is a pull tactic. The idea is that your audience should feel compelled to check out your sponsors because they brought so much interesting value within their spot that they earned some attention from your viewers.

Now, here’s the key to scaling your native ads to potentially make a good chunk of change…

You have to nail the offer for advertisers (so you can charge more) and get more than one high-paying sponsor — all without compromising the quality of your content while continuing to build your subscribership in the process.

Let’s talk about how to do that.

HOW TO PACKAGE & PITCH

One trick to get the most bang for your buck is to create irresistible promotional packages for potential advertisers.

So, I’ve kind of divvied up the pitching process into two phases that I want to explain.

➤ Step 1: Create a multi-part promotional package for sponsors

Your job is to help sponsors understand why they’re wasting their money doing a single post when they could invest in a package for a lot more impact.

On my niche-specific blog newearthknowledge.com, I put together multi-pronged packages for other creators looking to borrow my audience to gain visibility.

I could’ve played small and pitched one-off placements to advertisers but instead I offered multiple advertising options they could choose from, all of which went beyond sponsored posts.

For example, you can offer all of the below as a single offer:

► 3x placement on my blog (1 native article/mo for 3 mos)
► 3x instagram story promos per article (9 total story s/o’s)
► 3 static instagram posts promo’ing ea article to live on my grid permanently
► weekly distro in my e-newsletter (200k subscribers)
► I interview you on my podcast for 30 minutes (~30000 listens)

I’d have two or three options just like the above, ready to go. If the advertiser wasn’t ready to bite off that big a chunk, I’d downsell them on a single paid promo just to get started as a benchmark for future partnership.

The best part is that these more robust package options allowed me to legitimately create more value for my client but also to command premium prices considering all of the ad space included. If you can ask maybe $150 for a single sponsored article, is that going to change your life? Probably not. But add in 3–5 other “products” that allow your sponsor to increase their reach and command long-term attention of your audience and you can jack that price up tenfold. Yes, you’ll have to do a little more work to really incorporate their messaging into your content strategy, but it’s well worth the endeavor if you really want to build long-term relationships to make this pop.

Now the cool part about having these pre made packages in the hamper is that you can leverage them to upsell anyone who submits a paid inquiry to you across the board.

If people balk at your upsell offer, tell them you’d be happy to run a one-off post, but that a sustained and differentiated sponsorship campaign will yield more impact and offer them exponentially greater exposure over time than just one post.

Let’s say someone DMs you asking if you do paid shout outs or paid Instagram posts. You can ask what their goal is then explain why a more holistic campaign might make more sense before creating a custom plan for them which you can and should do based on their unique goals. You can bait larger advertisers with the opportunity to reach your niche audience they’d never have access to then reel them in and unleash a massive upsell with a “tailored” comprehensive package.

And once you start to get people biting on your ad package, make sure to get them results – by whatever means necessary (even if you have to add in extra promotion). Why?

For one, you want to retain their business. Two, you’re going to use the early success of your initial sponsors to tweak and adjust to find the perfect combo of promotional products that yield the best results for clients, then you’ll be able to actually say, “when we did X, Y, and Z, other clients like you have seen a corresponding X% uptick in traffic/boost in conversions/net new customers from the campaign.” Third, more success will give you proof of concept and help justify your rationale for pitching more expensive packages.

➤ Step 2: Seek multiple high-paying sponsors

Instead of waiting idly by for people to come knocking at your door, I recommend making a list of 100 influencers and companies who serve a similar or overlapping audience as you that might have interest in piloting a campaign.

To begin, craft a pitch template. Then, customize it for each recipient and send it out to all of them from your personal email or account.

Do not position your pitch as though you’ll accept any old Joe with a few bucks to spend, but rather that you’re seeking just 2–3 more premium sponsors to fit a few slots you have left for next months edition of your top-tier blog and industry-leading newsletter with a circulation of X subscribers.

Based on response, you can identify how to best fit in all viable candidates without over-saturating your platform.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU MAKE RUNNING NATIVE AD CAMPAIGNS?

Obviously the more engaged your audience, the more valuable your ad spots become. And remember, it’s not always about number of subscribers. 100 highly-active subscribers are worth infinitely more than 1,000 fake followers when monetizing.

Let’s do some basic numbers. If you can land even 10 premium sponsors out of the 100 pitches you make, and close those ten people on $500/mo each that’s $5k/mo income from your blog in high-quality, handpicked sponsors.

Those numbers are conservative. Top-tier content publications are charging a lot more than that for “silent sponsorships” as I sometimes call them. A recent podcast I saw charges guests upwards of $8k for their package. Wow.

The best part of it all?

Running a native ad-supported blog operation is actually a double win for you. You’ll be getting paid for other people to write your content for you (and you get more quantity of content than you could do on your own because your advertisers become writers who work for you and who pay you to provide great content for your blog).

If your sponsors understand how to craft value-additive content that caters to a trusting audience in this format, you’re going to get really high-quality articles to run.

MAKING THE SHIFT FROM BLOG TO BUSINESS

Once you scale up, you’ll find you’re no longer in the blogging game. You’re in the information curation and dissemination game — hooking up brands and organizations that need to get their stories in front of the right audience with a pool of subscribers whose attention you own.

This is all doable in a very authentic way, too. To keep integrity with your publication as you bring on more sponsors, you can take measures to ensure maximum transparency, including:

► Add a ‘sponsored’ or ‘ad’ tag atop articles
► Email your audience and tell them you’re going to be running sponsored content but that you’ll be doing it to increase diversity of viewpoints on the blog.
► Add a banner to your website with a short message promising you’ll be increasing journalistic integrity as the gatekeeper of all contributed content to ensure quality and truth
► Share why you’re partnering with the companies you’ve chosen to in a story format
► Include a self-recorded video of you reviewing each post from your sponsor and embed it at the very end of each article so it doesn’t appear as though the advertorial is separate from you, or that you’re just using the blog as a vehicle to sell out and make money

Whether you’re an established global enterprise or just someone who started a blog for fun one day and wants to get a little something out of it, you can use native ads. This will work best with unbiased blogs that exist to genuinely serve their community without product pushing, but it can be done by anyone.

→ Please consider subscribing to my LinkedIn newsletter ‘Monetization & Growth’ and my podcast if you found value in this post.

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