Native advertising is having its moment of truth in the nonprofit news sector as organizations figure out new ways to be sustainable in the digital age.
The practice of disguising advertisements as editorial (journalism) work is becoming a center discussion in newsrooms that see the value of sponsored content as a source of revenue. And two major efforts to follow those discussions inside nonprofit newsrooms are already under way.
One of those efforts is going on here at INN. As one of the grantees of the INNovation Fund, Southern California Public Radio is experimenting with native advertising. Our job is to document their process and the internal discussions as they debate how to successfully give corporate sponsors the ability to advertise without compromising the integrity of the organization and its independence.
The second is going on at NewsBiz, where Texas Tribune Fellow Jake Batsell is documenting innovative business models in the nonprofit news sector.
In his latest blog post, Batsell highlights some of those experiments to bring native advertising to nonprofit news, as well as the discussions and decisions occurring at places like the Tribune and the Voice of San Diego. The latter recently launched a native advertising program called Partner Voices, he writes.
Partner Voices is aimed at fellow nonprofits that want to get their message across in ways other than banner ads. He spoke with Mary Walter-Brown, VOSD’s vice president of advancement and engagement:
The promos, which carry a monthly fee of $1,500, are clearly labeled as sponsored content. Voice of San Diego’s editorial staff has no role in producing them.
“This was our way to approach native advertising in a fresh, new way that we felt was more in line with our mission,” Walter-Brown said.
Walter-Brown said the sponsorship option gives Voice of San Diego a new way to cultivate revenue from corporate clients who want to publicize their support for civic initiatives. For example, she said, San Diego Gas & Electric is sponsoring 12 Partner Voices promos over the course of a year.
You can read Batsell’s full blog post here.