Book Masterclass

Passion content: How publishers can reach niche audiences with native advertising

Aug 29, 2022

In a world where everyone is bombarded with an endless amount of digital content, it is a safe bet to say most of it flies by without even a first, much less a second glance.

But almost all of us have those things that really matter to us. Those things we are deeply invested in or that bring us joy and meaning. 

Joanna Carrigan, the managing director for Women’s Lifestyle at the specialist media platform Future PLC, has a name for this: “passion content”. She tells the Native Advertising Institute that passion content can focus on any of a variety of different areas and subjects, as long as it’s something that people feel strongly about. 

“People consume a lot of content about [the subject] and it actually forms part of their everyday life,” she says. “It’s something that they are really into and really passionate about.”


The value of an engaged audience

She says that a lot of what qualifies as passion content tends to have a subscriber base, but it doesn't necessarily have to. Dedicated subscribers present obvious benefits for the scores of publishers under Future’s umbrella, both in terms of direct revenue and appealing to advertisers who want to reach niche, engaged audiences. 

The platform’s portfolio includes over 240 websites and magazines catering to their own niche. Titles run the gamut from Horse & Hound to History of War and Guitar World, and nearly everything imaginable in between. 

Future says that its total content reaches every second adult online in the UK and one in three in the US. It is also the largest magazine publisher in the UK, with a total circulation of more than three million.

With so many titles serving a variety of interests, Carrigan says that Future has a lot to offer brands that want to do native advertising on its platform. 

“When it comes to native, for us the biggest value is having that super highly-engaged audience and also editorial [staff] who can advise and give us pointers on what people who are interested in their area or niche want to hear about,” she says. 

Credible information brings conversions

With audiences so passionate about their niche interests, Carrigan says it’s essential that the expert voices included in any native advertising content be knowledgeable and equally passionate about the subject matter. No one wants to read something on Sporting Gun written by, or featuring insights from, someone who has never been hunting, for example. 

“Our readers want to ensure that they are being given the best possible information and that it's coming from someone who is an absolute expert,” she says. “So for us, content has to be written by someone who knows that subject thoroughly. That also really counts when it comes to Google, when it comes to search rankings.” 

Highlighting expert opinions also pays off when it comes to conversions. Carrigan says that passion content can convert up to 45 percent higher than lifestyle content.

“Not all audiences are created equal,” she says. “As a publisher, we find that search traffic and subscriber traffic are by far the most effective when it comes to conversion rates.”

Of course, regardless of where the traffic comes from, native advertising is only going to work if the content is good. Carrigan has plenty of experience in this area, having served as the head of commercial content for News UK, publisher of The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. She’s also a former commercial editor at The Huffington Post

With that background, we couldn’t let Carrigan go without asking her to share some pointers for creating great native content. Her advice was as follows:

Joanna Carrigan’s top five tips for creating great native content:

  1. Lean into expert opinions, but always keep a clear commercial barrier and make it clear that what the sources are expressing in the branded content are commercial, rather than editorial, opinions. 
  2. Never try to deceive your audience. They are always going to spot something that feels inauthentic or unnatural. 
  3. Deliver the unexpected – within reason. When you have a dedicated audience that regularly returns to your publication to read about their niche interest, it can often be quite effective to provide them with branded content that will surprise them. Too much of a radical departure can put people off, but providing unexpected content can be very valuable when done right.
  4. Less is more. You don't need to add everything into a package. It can be a very simple execution as long as it hits the mark and has the right KPIs. 
  5. Know your worth. Publishers often underestimate the value of expert opinions and professional editorial staff. You have a valuable product and platform, so be sure to charge accordingly for it. 

Story by Ray Weaver

Ray Weaver is a professional communicator with experience as both a broadcast and print journalist. He was the Public Information Officer for several government jurisdictions in the US, including the Governor of the State of Maryland. He is also an experienced voice-over artist, actor and published author and singer/songwriter.

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