News UK’s move into native advertising required an “editorial u-turn” for the publisher, according to the unit’s newly appointed head Tiffanie Darke.
Speaking to The Drum after the announcement last week of a new commercial content unit, Darke - who will step down from her role as Style editor to drive the launch - admitted that News UK had moved into the space a bit later than other publishers, but said the advantage for the publisher was the ability to learn from mistakes already made in the space.
Previously, the publisher has focused more on its paywall subscription strategy to fund its digital offering.
“I think News UK’s strategy is always to watch everybody else go into the space and learn from their mistakes and follow up the rear and do it a lot better,” she said. “So that’s what we’re doing.
“There’s been a big church and state thing going on at newspapers since time began about editorial and commercial space and the two sides of the company have traditionally not really worked together very functionally.
“Dare I say it, advertorials that have run in the past have often been made to look inferior to editorial or to make sure that the reader is aware that they’re in ‘inferior’ space. We realise that actually that’s not a great strategy going forward and nobody’s a winner there, least of all the reader.
“And so in thinking that,” she went on, “it really involved an editorial u-turn and strategy, and we decided to set up a creative agency that would be charged with doing it.”
While Darke is in the process of recruiting a team specifically for the agency, some of the commercial content offered will be written by journalists from News UK, although Darke added that content will be clearly marked to avoid any confusion over whether articles are straight editorial or paid for.
“There are certainly examples where native advertising has been taken way too far and has deteriorated the editorial that sits within it and destroyed the trust between readers,” she said.
“That’s obviously something we’re keen to avoid. What we hope to do is to educate commercial clients and say, look, if you hand it over to use we are the ones that know best how to talk to our audiences,” she said. “We can get your brand awareness and your message and everything else you need us to get across perhaps better than your advertising agency can.
“We will use journalists from the newspapers themselves because the best kind of content is the content that’s driven by editorial. Newspapers are full of frustrated journalists and editors who are desperate to do more things but they don’t have the space to do it.
“They have the best ideas. It’s about linking up their ideas with commercial partners.”
Darke cited a campaign running in the Times over the last year with Santander as an example of content performing more successfully when brands allow editorial to take more control.
While editorial content in the Times and the Sun sits behind a paywall, Darke added that commercial content would instead sit in front of the paywall, giving commercial partners the ability to reach audiences beyond News UK subscribers.