And, more importantly…  good for association audiences.

I replied today on ASAE’s Collaborate to a poster seeking information about sponsored content. Included in her post is this: “I’d be interested to know if anyone has used this model, and possible member reaction or how successful it was.” The “possible member reaction” belies a concern that I think is unfounded. Common within the association space, yet unfounded. Here is my response:

You sound concerned about sponsored content. I think you are not alone in that within the association space, but, respectfully, I think there is no cause for concerns.

Does your organization curate anyone else’s content? Do you have concerns there? Is it just the transactional nature that concerns you, not the content part?

We can all agree that the goal is to attract prospects and make your member readers happy. Yet most editorial teams take no issue with a logo or a banner ad that interrupts reading, takes up valuable space. We are all used to that intrusion, it has been normalized. But – another thing we can all agree on is that – it is not welcome. People will tell you they don’t like it and the stats support dismal performance. Yet those useless marketing tactics persist.

It seems no one is concerned with delivering unwelcome poor-performing marketing tactics, yet selling some of your real estate to better serve your audience makes people nervous.

Let’s rephrase what native advertising, aka sponsored content, is.
Nonmember companies, outside of our audience demographic, want to deliver useful, educational, relevant information to your carefully cultivated audiences and they will pay for the valuable real estate that they use.

I simply do not see any problems with the concept of it.

There are responsibilities that come with delivering a program of sponsored content:
• full transparency to the audience, which is easy. Just don’t pull an Atlantic.
• the person who decides about the content should NOT be the person who decides or negotiates about the money.
• the content must be relevant and useful, judged with strict criteria

Sponsored content, by any other name, is a gift to your audience when done well.

In 2013, Forbes reported 20% of their revenue came from native advertising.
In 2012, the Atlantic reported 59% of the brand’s advertising revenue from native advertising. And, for the most part, both are doing a good job. Aforementioned gaff aside.

Rachel, you’re smart to ask around, but I hope this information helps you to see that what you are really asking about is doing a real service to your members. If I haven’t convinced you yet, perhaps this insightful article from Copyblogger can.

Good luck with your program.

Good luck to you with your native advertising program too, reader. If I were one of your members, I would say: Thank for your ethical, creative programming that delivers useful content to our profession. We trust you and appreciate that you are looking out for us, and are identifying others to contribute to the costs for you to keep delivering value and supporting our profession.

By Monica Bussolati

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