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How to Determine Native Advertising Pricing

Advertorial, native ad, sponsored content, custom content—tomato, tomahhhto—it’s all a similar scenario: a publisher creates and/or publishes content paid for by a sponsor. Regardless of how we refer to it, we’ve been doing it since publishers started selling ads on paper, and it’s come into vogue over the past few years now that ad dollars are being spent more online.

In today’s Strategy Spotlight, Don Nicholas, Chairman & CEO of Mequoda explains where native advertising came from, and how you’ll know when your native advertising pricing is too low.


Quick Strategy Tip of the Day from Don

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In 1980 when I worked at Sacramento Magazine, native content was included in the “special advertising section” and we referred to them as “advertorials.”

As a young sales rep, my territory for this section was Napa Valley. I learned quickly that I could put together 16-20 page “special advertising sections” and get companies to create the content for us. I was the cream in the center of the Oreo. I had wineries, hotels and restaurants on one side supplying me with copy, and on the other side I had an editor-in-chief telling me what I couldn’t do.

The standards for native advertising are what they’ve always been: Make the sponsors who pay happy to be there, make the editors happy to publish it, and make the subscribers happy to read it.

So it isn’t a surprise to me that when you fast forward to current day, you have big publishers like Time Inc. weighing in on this format, trying to replicate it for themselves. A good direct response copywriter can tell you that good copy and a good lede will sell more products; that if you want to sell a product, you have to give them what they want: more words.

Blogs and email spotlights are the perfect medium for this. Time Inc. and the New York Times have only just discovered this, but at Interweave when we first started selling native ad slots, it was like selling candy to a rich first-grader. I remember John Bolton dropping me an email a matter of weeks after we started sending them once a week and him telling me that they had sold out for 45 weeks, approximately 10 months!

If you’re following the Mequoda Method for multiplatform publishing, sponsored content is low-hanging fruit. They’re easy to create and they sell like wildfire. Your biggest concern should be to not undersell them.

When it comes to pricing, consider a few examples.

A leaderboard ad might be $10 per M, but an email spotlight / native ad would be in the $30-50 range per M.

In a good example of a case where one of our clients underpriced, they were selling leaderboards for $2 per M to $6 per M on the web, and $30 per M in email. They sold out at lightning speed which told us they may have been a bit underpriced.

As a rule, native ads should cost three to five times more than your leaderboards. And whatever CPMs you’re getting for a full-page four-color ad, an email native advertisement should sell for the same.


If you want to chat more about creating robust advertising packages that sell, let’s chat.

If you’d like to discuss how native marketing can fit into a larger online business plan, let’s chat. Our complete planning process includes an audit of all existing revenue streams and a gap analysis that compares your current revenue streams with the 30+ documented digital business models that our clients use in conjunction with our software platform. Schedule a 30-minute call with Don to ask your most pressing questions.

Posted in Multiplatform Publishing Strategy

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