Is Native Advertising Ethical? (It Depends On Who You Ask)

image of mountainous wilderness with varying shades of light and shadow

Let’s see.

A dubious six-page insert in the Denver Post appears one Sunday.

You flip through it and see articles like “Reclamation helps balance environment and energy needs” and “Colorado environmental regulations serve as model for rest of the U.S.”

The section is labeled “Advertising Supplement to the Denver Post” and looks, design-wise, somewhat different from the rest of the Post, but clearly intended to look like a Post article.

Yet it isn’t.

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The Simple Truth People Forget When Trying to Grow a Business

first person view image of gun aiming at small target off in distance

You want to grow your business, right?

You want downloads of your app, people buying your products, readers on your blog, and evangelists on social media, don’t you?

Fair enough, that’s what we all want.

But you’re missing something essential.

People won’t ever know you, hear from you, understand you, follow you, or engage with you because of one simple flaw.

Your target isn’t small enough.

Seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? It isn’t.

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12 Examples of Native Ads (And Why They Work)

Guinness Guide to Cheese advertorial

Despite all the hype, native advertising remains a fuzzy concept for most marketers.

According to our 2014 status report:

  • 49 percent of respondents don’t know what native advertising is
  • 24 percent are hardly familiar with it
  • Another 24 percent are somewhat familiar
  • Only 3 percent are very knowledgeable

So, given the lack of awareness (and people mistaking it for other things, like sponsorship), we thought it would be a good idea to walk you through about a dozen examples of native advertising — and why they work.

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Agile Content Marketing: How to Attract an Audience That Builds Your Business

Image of Hemingway Editing a Draft

It’s the question I get more than any other, and it’s one of the most important questions you’ll answer in marketing your business:

How do I create a content marketing strategy that actually works?

That will take several thousand words to answer, and then you’ll have to create your own strategy. Yep, ultimately it’s up to you.

The first step is to get your head right.

In other words, you need to begin with the correct perspective to succeed with online content as a marketing tool.

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Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising Report

blog post title image for Copyblogger's 2014 State of Native Advertising Report

Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.

Think Captain Morgan’s campaign on BuzzFeed in general, their 15 Things You Didn’t Know About 15 Captains, Commanders And Conquerors article in particular.

First off, the theme of the article matches the brand’s values: Captain Morgan was a real live pirate who thrived on adventure and raw conquest — a theme not too foreign to BuzzFeed readers.

Moreover, the article matches the editorial standards of BuzzFeed: a list with big images and short, quirky copy — a format their audience expects.

Three important points need to be noted here:

  • The content is clearly labeled “BuzzFeed Partner.”
  • Nothing is being sold. The call to action is to visit the Captain Morgan YouTube page.
  • The Captain Morgan BuzzFeed author page is branded.

This is classic sponsored or branded content. Now let’s look at another example of native advertising, this time a historical one.

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Your Audience Doesn’t Know What it Wants

Close-up image of a horse with its mouth wipe open, appearing to scream

If I asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.

~ Henry Ford

Pretty witty quote, right?

You’ve probably heard it before. (Even if Ford never actually said it.)

I know I have.

But what I’ve been realizing lately is that I haven’t really been applying the essence of it to my own writing, let alone my online business’ product creation.

It’s actually a pretty funny scenario.

My first two posts this year were about starting a blog in 2014 and then asking my audience what blogging help it wanted in 2014.

The latter had over 200 comments.

But the thing that really interested me was the fact that 95 percent of the comments on those posts were about problems my audience was having … but not what solutions they wanted. They simply didn’t know, even when I directly asked them.

Turns out that’s my job.

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