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Less is more, The Atlantic finds

News, 16 October 2015

NEW YORK: People are spending twice as much time as the industry average on native ads that appear on The Atlantic website, which is one of the outcomes of a site redesign that gave people less to click on.

Six months ago the opinion and culture journal launched a slimmed-down website that ditched all the modules containing more articles on the same subject, recommended reading, video and even the navigation bar.

It now claims that not only has its audience grown but that the performance of its native advertising has soared.

Digiday reported that this format had already contributed 60% of The Atlantic's total ad revenue in 2014 and was fuelling a 30% increase this year.

The click-through rate has tripled and people are spending four to five minutes on native ad posts.

That compares with an industry average of two minutes and 41 seconds, although the figure varies depending on content category.

The native ads are also being more widely shared on social media than before, as the publisher has shifted focus away from the StumbleUpon discovery engine to the social networks themselves, in particular Facebook's Instant Articles.

"It's a lot of things at once," said Hayley Romer, vp and publisher of The Atlantic, as she reflected on the publisher's progress.

"The redesign was focused on the reader; that's paid off," she said "We also rethought how we integrated native into the site. We've absolutely increased our emphasis on utility, making it something they do want to engage with."

Earlier this year, at the Interact conference in Berlin, Jimmy Maymann, CEO of the Huffington Post, suggested that native advertising – which now accounts for 35% of the brand's revenues – was the potential solution to many of the problems facing publishers.

"One-fifth of the content on the Huffington Post site is now native advertising, a figure that's rising, but can only go so high before it becomes counter-productive. "It will never be 50-50 because that would be a terrible user experience, and users would obviously go somewhere else," Maymann said.

Data sourced from Digiday; additional content by Warc staff