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Your Native Advertising Sucks and Why Content is Still King

Your Native Advertising Sucks and Why Content is Still King


In today’s marketplace, we have had recommendations to make changes to our format for bigger profits, cuz you know, “print is dead”. With the way some print vehicles are acting, they might just deserve to die— and this is coming from someone who loves print.

Anyway, here’s the latest round of advice being given to this Independent print media:

  • Do what the “competitors” are doing, sell “advertorial” aka Native Advertising (cuz that’s a lot easier to sell than real journalism).
  • Focus solely on digital to “keep up”
  • Cut your circulation: stop mailing to homes because it costs too much and just throw a huge ole stack in racks and claim four readers per copy, like everyone else.
  • Create a formula for the ads so it doesn’t cost so much to produce.
  • Be Cheap.

This is actual advice we have gotten, but we think these pointers are from people concerned with the bottom line more than developing and engaging an actual audience.

The number one reason people buy is trust. Audiences aren’t stupid. Audiences are your wife, husband, neighbor, the teacher, the fireman, YOU.  

Right now “Native Advertising” is the hottest trend. Everyone is doing “it”. Sales are going bonkers. Jump on the gravy train right?

From my perspective, after 30 years in print media, I will quit the business before I sell one advertorial.

I simply do not want to be in publishing if that is the kind of publisher I am. I am an artist and I drank the Media Role & Responsibility Kool-aid. I know what my job is and it is to deliver an audience. Anything else I am just selling you space and not really delivering anything for it.

If it doesn’t have substance, it’s for show.  

Dangerous blend: how lines between editorial and advertising are blurring


When readers start in on one of these “articles”, they realize it’s selling them something, so they lose trust of the outlet. They turn the page (or scroll on by) because they feel tricked, leaving a negative impression of your brand instead of a positive one. At least print ads aren’t offensive and if done well they are newsworthy. Additionally, most content writers have little journalism experience. When was the last time you saw someone post “Wow! That cliffhanger on that infomercial I watched last night just kept me spellbound!”?

There is a reason NPR and HBO believe high production values matter.

In 1999 HBO launched The Sopranos. The premise was High-Production Values. Great screenwriting, great acting and great production that changed television forever. We are now in the Golden Era of TV.

At the same time, greedy Hollywood Executives decided remakes were the cheapest way to make movies, therefore big profits. All this was fine and dandy, at first. It was cool to see Spiderman in CGI. But after awhile we got Zoolander 2 and Bachelor 4. Audiences got bored and stopped going to the movies. In 2017 Hollywood hit an all time low in sales. Executives ignorantly blamed TV because we all got big screens and spend time streaming instead of going to their crappy movies.

Their problem is, it wasn’t the size of the screen. I am not going to watch crappy TV on a big screen anymore than a crappy movie. It is that TV is producing quality programs.

Along comes digital and print is now said to be dead. Mostly because the newspaper is dying on the vine. Why is the newspaper dying? It is because the 24 hour news cycle changed how we get information and personally I don’t think the newspaper should die. In fact I want to save it. BECAUSE THE WORLD NEEDS REAL JOURNALISM. However, if they go to Content Writing and refuse to adapt, they deserve to die too.

(My secret plan to save them: Stop printing daily-it is much too frequent, deliver for free, hire back real journalists and be Slow News. I want a million dollars for helping them.)

Since the onslaught of digital marketing (which is actually on a downward trend right now), media has become this crazy mix of jumping on the latest new thing, resulting in advertisers further exacerbating the Pray and Spray model that is so common among businesses desperately trying to make their advertising work. Ridiculously, digital and direct marketers are the ones promoting pray and spray by pushing the latest trends, all while pulling a Trump on us and stating brand marketing is the problem.

It’s not the platform that is your marketing strategy. The platform is how you execute that strategy. And too many businesses don’t have a real strategy for how they are going to grow or why the consumer will shop them, at least not in their messaging.

Bad advertising is one of the top reasons businesses fail.

And here is a little shocker. The HOT “new” trend of 2019 is Digital companies are investing in making print magazines and direct mailing them to homes. I just got my AirBnB Magazine in the mail the other day. Even more ironic, the online companies making these magazines are being rated on the quality of their content.

So let me get this straight. Digital companies are producing print magazines, direct mailing them, and are valuing real content presence, while traditional media is resorting to advertorials to sell advertising?

There is nothing more constant than the mailbox. We all know what we read from our mailbox is dependent on how interested we are in what is being delivered. In ALL communications, everything pivots around Interest.

Book sales are dramatically up. Millennials are reading twice as many books as boomers and digital companies are even turning to print. The Future of Digital is Print.

New apps like Augmented Reality are being developed for PRINT. Of all the trends out there, this is one we think has incredible promise. The marrying of digital and print!

The fact remains, 20 years after Google people are not reading books ormagazines or newspapers online. They read an article of interest or worst a headline and scream “Fake News”. We surf the web, we swim in print.

There are many reasons print is seeing this “comeback” (it never went away – it just changed). It is trusted more. You remember more. Scientific American has reported on studies that shows that reading in print creates 7x the recall of digital. It is high-touch vs high-tech. We linger on it. We like reading it. However, to engage an audience just like TV, movies or digital, print needs to be interesting. We don’t need 10 fashion magazines, we don’t need a newspaper everyday, it’s just too much saturation. We need it to be special.

YS has no shortage of readers. In fact, the nicest things we hear from readers are “It’s the only thing I look forward to in my mailbox.” and “You are like a national magazine on a local level.” (Shhhhhh…it’s because of journalism standards.) Our drivers tell us people will chase them down the street to get a copy because we run out so fast in stands. We don’t have a problem engaging readers. The hardest part about what we do is getting advertisers to realize we have this readership and why it matters to them.

YS could resort to the “tricks of the trade” and it would get us more advertisers. We don’t think it gets more readers though. People tune into NPR, not the infomercial.

We invest in our journalists, mail to homes directly, and equally important  the design of your messaging. A good ad has 7x the impact of a bad one. You know what makes an ad good?

The copywriting. It’s all about those writers.  If your story is boring, dry, and cookie cutter than you will lose the interest of the audience. Are you Charlie Brown’s teacher or Ted Talks?

Advertising is not magic. It is merely a form of communicating a sales message to your potential future customers. Most media outlets put the responsibility on the advertiser to produce the ad. Most media outlets have what we call production ads. Not crafted. They slap your logo on there with some bullet points. You might buy it because you think the advertising is cheap – but really it is the most expensive and wasteful advertising you can do. This is why along with being the only local publication that mails to homeowners, we are the only publication able to offer agency-quality, strategic branding and marketing.

Which of these spreads grabs you more? No, not all advertising is the same and not all print is the same.

What got YS to 19 years in business as a self-financed Independent media outlet, was not compromising journalism, design or distribution standards, but instead pushing ourselves more. To produce even higher quality, relevant content people enjoy reading. We actually help our customers with High Production Design and spend more to land it in the mailbox.

We would rather be smaller and make a little less profit than sell out the pages. This is how we will make it to 20 years in 2020.

You can learn more about the services Yellow House, our in house agency offers here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17IEyzw2jMjYvBnS9WqicatJQ9lHwei9hKRLTJHNBYtk/edit

Download our Media Kit and Marketing Guidebook: https://yellowscene.com/advertise

Watch our Marketing Seminar: http://www.youtube.com/c/YellowSceneMagazine


Shavonne Blades grew up on the West Coast but moved to Colorado in High School. She left for California after school and returned to Colorado in 1990. She got her start in media at the age of 21 in Santa Cruz, California as an advertising sales rep. Having no experience and nothing more than a couple of years as an art college attendee she felt the bug to work in media at a young age. She learned that by helping her customers with design and marketing, their campaigns would be far more successful and has made a 30+ year career in design, copywriting, and marketing for her clients. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPy4MMdcfLg.She has always chosen to work in Independent Media and believes deeply in the need for true, authentic Community Journalism. She is proud that YS has never compromised journalism standards in its 20+ history and continues to print YS on paper monthly while also expanding web coverage. She has worked at 3 Alternative Weeklies and founded Yellow Scene Magazine in 2000. You can learn more about Shavonne's adventures in the YS 20th Anniversary issue: https://yellowscene.com/2020/10/08/the-yellow-scenes-red-tornado/

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