At the end of 2014, we made a few predictions about where native advertising would go in 2015.
We predicted that…
• Brands would go mobile-first on content creation
• Content cards would become the de facto design unit
• Programmatic native distribution would take shape
• The headline would become the new tagline
For 2016, we're looking at how hot-button publishing and advertising trends from 2015 will take shape in the year to come: from distributed publishing to ad blocking, native video and attention metrics...
Here are Sharethrough's 10 predictions for native advertising in 2016.
Between the threat of adblocking and a surge of fancy new news apps like Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News and Google's AMP project, publishers are finding new ways to get their content to where people are spending time, which is on their phones and in apps. In 2016, publishers should see their owned apps and sites as just one piece of a distributed publishing pie.
Now that the RTB 2.3 spec is fully completed and DSPs are working rapidly to build out this new functionality, native ads will be bought in unprecedented volume in 2016. For publishers, this means making native a permanent part of the ad stack in 2016.
We're skimming a lot more than we're reading these days. Publishers and advertisers will learn to bank on this trend, doubling down on shortform content a la The New York Times' particles project and Digiday's TL;DR button.
As publishers continue to have a laser focus on their bottom line and long term sustainability, they will continue debating about paywalls. But not much will change in 2016. Google Trends shows the popularity of the term in a plateau the last two years after a steady decline since peaking in 2011. Some publishers will make headlines by erecting paywalls, others will garner attention for tearing them down.
Publishers will become more aggressive in dealing with adblocking. In a bit of a technology arms race, publishers will use adblock blockers or “adblocker walls” to make sure ads are shown. Others will try to reason with visitors, asking them to turn off their adblockers or whitelist their site. The adblock kerfuffle will continue in 2016, but the end result will be a more respectful advertising experience.
Publishers who mastered sponsored content in 2015 will find new ways to promote the content on their site in the form of in-feed ads. Single in-feed placements will expand into feeds of sponsored content like The New York Times' "From Our Advertisers" section that pops up on the top of their desktop site or Quartz's section dedicated to sponsor content.
As home page traffic continues to decline, publishers will find new ways to squeeze more time (and ad impressions) out of visitors, going beyond the old "split the article into multiple pages" trick. Some will kill the home page, like Quartz, and others will put articles below their articles, both organic and sponsored, to keep people reading. The tactic is a surefire improvement over content recommendation graveyards promoting belly fat ads and get rich quick schemes.
Attention metrics — that is, measurements of time spent online — became one step closer to mainstream in 2015 with Medium building its Time To Read metric into native ad sales. Despite the increasing importance of capturing attention on the web over capturing clicks, the tried and true pageview will (sadly) stick around for a bit longer.
Silent autoplay videos popularized by Facebook and Twitter have made their way to the open web have become a standard part of the browsing experience. With video consumptions habits shifting, pricing models will shift more toward cost per view and publishers will be inclined to capitalize on increased video ad spend.
OK, so we made this prediction in 2015, but we're keeping it on the list for 2016. Native ads don't need taglines like billboards and display — they need headlines, like the editorial experience they emulate. For publishers, this could mean opening up a content studio or using software to optimize headline engagement. We detailed the the new art of the native ad headline copywriting in this awesome ebook.
Here's to a very native new year. See you in 2016!