This week, The New York Times took an in-depth look at the state of Yahoo. Chief executive (CEO) Marissa Mayer has big plans for the company, including turning what was once a straightforward Web portal, search engine, and directory into a collection of digital magazines.
Yahoo Beauty, the latest magazine to launch, boasts makeup artist Bobbi Brown as its editor-in-chief. Additional magazines include Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Movies, Yahoo Food, and Yahoo Tech, the latter led by former NYT columnist and author David Pogue. Through a combination of engaging content and star power – you may recall that Katie Couric joined Yahoo last year as global news anchor and the face of Yahoo News – Mayer’s hoping Yahoo visitors will “linger” on the company’s sites.
Part of her strategy is to incorporate native ads that provide content as interesting as Yahoo’s original articles. These advertorials can be shared through Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or by email. They’re clearly marked as sponsored content, and incorporate useful, contextually relevant information and tips. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Yahoo mag that isn’t currently putting its native ads front and center.
Yahoo Beauty has already attracted such premium advertisers as L’Oreal, which currently owns the home page with rotating Splash Ads that dwarf the site’s content. On Yahoo Food, native ads mimic the “Sponsored $” format of ads on Tumblr and expand to reveal feature-length advertorials “brought to you by” the advertising brand.
Yahoo Tech features the same Splash Ad native advertising unit for Verizon, along with video pre-rolls of the same ad.
This month Yahoo also began using its Yahoo Gemini ad platform to distribute Tumblr Sponsored Posts throughout its assorted sites – another form of native ad. Again, these are incorporated into its digital magazines. “Studies show that native ads seamlessly integrated with compelling content can increase purchase intent by 52 percent,” Yahoo says on its advertising blog. The brand has advocated native advertising for some time now, even offering free native ad webinars and articles to advertisers on its Yahoo Advertising magazine.
Mayer spoke to marketers at the recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, encouraging brands to go beyond conventional banner tactics for reaching consumers online. According to reports, Mayer emphasized that digital is the only form of media that hasn’t “fully embraced” the idea of native ads.
This may be true, but brands are certainly on their way. It’s been estimated that native advertising on social media will rise to $5 billion by 2017. A flurry of articles have touted both the benefits and dangers of native ads, but according to new research, Internet users might be more accepting of them than we realize. “Users display lower ad skepticism toward native advertising as compared to banner advertisements, and find the content less irritating and more informative and amusing,” one report says. Indeed, The New York Times reports that on Yahoo Food, a Unilever-sponsored native ad about breakfast options was the digital magazine’s most popular story for two days in a row.
All of this is coming together to make native an appealing option for brands – and here’s Yahoo, front and center, leading the native ad charge. The company’s Splash Ads and Tumblr Sponsored Posts bode well for advertisers that continue to seek out engaging placement opportunities, but they’re also moving the needle on the native ad concept as a whole. Yahoo remains a Web behemoth, as well as an early adopter of progressive ad initiatives like the IAB’s Rising Stars units. By campaigning for more native content, Yahoo stands to convert more brands into native ad believers…whether they spend their budgets on Yahoo or not.
In an industry that sees more change than a Millennial’s Tumblr news feed, brands need pioneers to blaze a trail on their behalf. Yahoo isn’t just providing a platform on which to experiment, but inspiring native campaigns that marketers can use as case studies to pitch the ads to agency clients. Ms. Mayer may want consumers to linger on her sites. It’s the media buyers, though, who are about to make an extended visit to native advertising.