“We try to tell as authentic story as possible that aligns with the brands’ objectives but doesn’t feel heavy-handed or like they’re watching an infomercial,” Sussberg said.
Brands receive feedback on engagement from Salon’s web analytics tool Adobe Analytics, which shows metrics like time on site.
While Salon guarantees impressions for a post, its draw is access to its audience, not massive scale. However, the publisher promotes the content within its networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but it doesn’t amplify campaigns via content recommendation networks. “We want [traffic] to be organic to Salon.”
That may limit the amount of reach an advertiser can achieve, but Sussberg said those who prefer reach will look to other native solutions.
It even runs sponsored posts from other native ad exchanges on its own sites, a practice some publishers with custom content shy away from. Last week, it brought in native ad exchange Yahoo Gemini, which runs in the same home page feed as Salon’s sponsored posts.
The sponsored posts from Yahoo Gemini appear in Salon’s news feed only when Salon doesn’t have a campaign of its own to run. But that’s mainly so the feed isn’t clogged with ads, not because they would conflict with each other, Sussberg said.
Ultimately, Salon lets advertisers run both high-end, bespoke native programs and advertising through native ad exchanges. Sussberg insists these aren’t competing interests, since each fulfills different advertiser goals.
“Those advertising through a native advertising network are looking for mass reach, not the curated experience that Salon wants to create,” Sussberg said.
Running both custom native and native exchanges is imperative because it performs well on mobile.
“The challenge is to monetize mobile, at as fast a clip as possible,” Sussberg said. “That’s not just a Salon issue but an industry issue.”
At Salon, mobile now accounts for 55% of traffic.
“The more traffic grows thorough mobile, the more value native advertising has,” Sussberg said. “Native advertising is worth the same because it’s content, and there’s no difference between reading an article for Panera or Lexus on your desktop or your phone.”