By The Drum Team, Editorial

February 11, 2016 | 2 min read

The secret to surviving the “adblockalypse” for publishers lies in offering fewer but more premium quality commercial messages and formats, according to Guardian Labs managing director Anna Watkins.

Speaking to The Drum at DigitasLBi’s What’s Next in Media 2016 event, Watkins expressed confidence that branded content can be insulated from the threat to digital advertising because of the way that it is served natively through a publisher’s CMS.

But she acknowledged that given the proximity of editorial and branded content, more transparency is therefore required to distinguish paid-for content from editorial and in the process, preserve the integrity of the publisher.

She said: “We recently launched two new types of labelling to ensure it is absolutely clear and transparent for our readers what is paid-for content and influenced by a brand and what is editorially independent.

“So we’ve launched the terminology of ‘supported by’ for independent editorial that a brand funds and we’ve got new labelling called ‘paid content’ which signifies that it is influenced by a brand in some way.

“Our belief is that native advertising at its worst can hoodwink readers into thinking commercial content is editorially independent."

Despite pointing to the virtues of publishers’ own platforms for branded content, Watkins suggested that for outfits like Guardian Labs, the future will progressively involve producing content and taking it elsewhere.

“Increasingly [we are] distributing our content off-platform, whether that’s Facebook Instant Articles, whether that’s AOL On, whether that’s any of the other big tech players. So clearly, that therefore means the formats are changing. There’s much more of an investment in video. Interestingly for us there’s an explosion in podcasts so again that’s something else we’re looking at.”

You can hear more of Watkins’ views on the future of branded content, including her thoughts on why metrics must change, in the above video.

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