"Quality And Relevancy To The Content Are Our Top Priorities": How Scripps Networks Manages Native Strategy Across Its Broad Publisher Portfolio

on The Future Of Publishing

For publishers today, native ad integrations are an increasingly large part of their monetization strategies. And when working across multiple site titles, the demands on them to efficiently and effectively navigate this landscape can be huge.

To get a sense of this, we spoke with Brad Flowers, the Director of Mobile and Native Ad Products for Scripps Networks Interactive. He shared his keen insight on how he manages Scripps' ad strategy and integrates their growing use of native across all of its varied brands (which include HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel, among many others).

How do you guys formulate your ad strategy today?

Our ad strategy is constantly evolving as we continually receive feedback from both our advertising partners and website users on what is effective. We make adjustments to the strategy based on that information and monitor for changes to ad performance, site performance and revenue.

How long has native been a part of that strategy?

At Scripps Networks, we started doing “native” in 1997 with product integration into our HGTV Dream Home Giveaway. Since then we’ve been growing our native offerings across all our sites to what I believe are some of the best native integrations in the industry. From the product integration into our annual home giveaways on our home sites, to integrating recipe and travel content into our food and travel sites, we have a wide variety of native offerings.

What are some of the biggest challenges of implementing a native strategy?

Everyone at Scripps was comfortable with the idea of native advertising as it’s been a part of our business for years. Working with a company like Sharethrough, as we looked to add a native partner the challenge was getting the teams comfortable with premium inventory being managed by a third party. Obviously, ad quality and relevancy to the content are our top priorities. As we progressed through the launch process, those concerns faded.

What does your native ad product look like today?

Currently we are evolving our native product to one that will have multiple options, intended to meet the needs of a majority of our advertisers:

  • A high-touch internal native product that is sold to sponsors of our tentpole events and packages, which requires integration into our content library, resulting in highly contextually relevant placements around a specific event or package.

  • Contextually targeted campaigns for endemic advertisers – that will put the advertiser’s native module on relevant pages across a category.

  • Audience targeting for endemic or non-endemic advertisers. Adding this for our non-endemic advertisers is something new for us due to the “Custom Card” feature that will allow us to get “off-topic” campaigns for those advertisers across all pages of our sites to the users who meet their criteria.

How do you package native with other ad offerings?

Right now we are pretty flexible with how native is sold. We’re allowing for everything from stand-alone native placements targeted at the page level to incorporating native into a cohesive campaign strategy for advertisers investing in larger site-wide campaigns. The more important thing to us is getting an acceptable level of contextual relevancy between ad and content while meeting the advertiser’s expectations.

How difficult was it to integrate your native strategy across multiple site titles?

We have a number of brands under our umbrella that cross the home, food and travel categories and finding a single strategy that works across all of them has been a challenge; it’s something I’m still working on. One of the consistent challenges is finding the right placement on the right page with the right frequency that will not burden our users. Our users are fairly diverse from one site to the next and come to each of our sites with different priorities. The challenge is to find the right level of exposure for the native ads, while not hindering the user from getting what they’re there for.

How do your native placements perform in comparison to your other ad formats?

Native has always been a successful product for us and has made an excellent complementary product that performs well for our advertisers. I expect that as we continue to experiment with executing native campaigns, especially in the mobile space, its success will only continue.

How has native advertising impacted the overall revenue performance for your sites?

We do four major native integrations every year with our home giveaways that are quite successful. Additionally we’ve added a number of other native solutions across our home, food and travel sites so it’s easy to say that native has a reasonable impact to our revenue performance.

How do you expect your native strategy to grow and evolve in 2016 and 2017?

We expect that native spending will continue to increase and that native will be leveraged increasingly on mobile over the next two years. Our strategy will evolve to meet that demand while finding a balance that benefits both our advertisers and our site users.