The New Republic steps up its native advertising game

Upon entering The New Republic’s website today, I was greeted by the top story featuring a beautiful portrait of the Irani president, Hassan Rouhani.

But underneath the top story are several categories, ranging from public health to TV.  However, the first category is one labeled “sponsored content“.

There are several names floating around the internet for this kind of marketing (like “branded content”) but the concept, no matter what you call it,  is the same: advertisers are developing advertisements to look like news articles to lure in viewers.

While the “articles” are clearly labeled (most likely for transparency purposes and to keep some part of their dignity in the news media world), it is easy for the average skimmer to confuse an advertisement for a news article.

The New Republic's Sponsored Content page. (PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEW REPUBLIC)

The New Republic’s Sponsored Content page. (PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEW REPUBLIC)

It seems that The New Republic is starting to experiment with native advertising even more.  Of the five advertisements on the sponsored content page, three of them were posted in the last three weeks. Another is from July. The very first one is from last March.

The latest ad, titled “Bionic Grandparents“, is aimed at the elderly demographic and it encourages prosthetic joint and valve replacements to senior citizens whose bodies are not responding well to the wear-and-tear they have been put through.

(PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEW REPUBLIC)

(PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEW REPUBLIC)

According to an article from The New York Times, “well-known online publications like The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Business Insider all use some form of branded content.”

But rather than marketing a product, advertisers pay to market a certain topic or idea that is frequently written about on the editorial side of the news site.

But this practice is not uncommon. “The Huffington Post has struck partnerships with brands like Johnson & Johnson and Cisco Systems to sponsor a topic, like women and children or the impact of technology, for Web pages that pair content written by the brand and content written by Huffington Post reporters independently,” The Times said.

For many news organizations, ads are a solid source of income. But since The New Republic doesn’t really have the usual banner ads or  predictable pop-ups like other sites, perhaps this is their way of playing financial catch-up.

But the sponsored content comes at an interesting time for The New Republic. On Sept. 20, Politico reported that TNR’s advertising team conducted a survey and found that 80% of its readers are men, meaning “advertisers have to buy offsets in women’s magazines.”

The editor of TNR (and the author of one of my favorite books!), Franklin Foer, told Politico that “journalism as a profession has a deep seeded gender problem. It’s an obligation of editors and publishers to try and overcome that.” But this doesn’t address why women aren’t reading the magazine.

However, I’m very interested to see how this will play out. As a fan of The New Republic and Franklin Foer, I want to see what editorial strategies they deploy to win over more women.

One of the sponsored content articles, titled “Stopping Violence Against Women Starts With Men“, seems like the beginning of what’s to come. Rape and other forms of violence against women are such hot topics today that anything that blames men is sure to catch at least one woman’s (and hopefully more) attention.

I know this because when I saw the ad, I clicked on it and read it.

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