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Native ads enter new territory

News, 06 June 2016

LONDON: In a move that could be viewed as controversial as it is bold, UK financial newspaper City A.M. is going to allow marketers direct access to its content management system.

It means that brands and advertisers will be able to publish content straight to the newspaper's website without editorial interference and they will be charged a monthly fee for the privilege.

Founded in 2005, City A.M. distributes around 100,000 free copies a day in central London and says it has more than 1.27m monthly visitors to its website, but it has been making losses in recent years and needs to turn that around.

Its proposed radical solution, involving direct content from marketers, was outlined to The Drum by City A.M. co-founders Jens Thorpe and Lawson Muncaster as well as Charles Yardley, the company's new chief operations officer, who oversaw a similar initiative at Forbes when he was the US business journal's managing director.

"We are definitely turning the commercial model upside down on its head," Yardley said. "Now we will give the marketers and the advertisers access to the same content management system that all the journalists and contributors are using on a day-to-day basis.

"This isn't happening anywhere else in the UK. And it probably won't for quite some time because journalists think it's their environment, and we are ripping that up. Anyone can publish at anytime, anywhere in the world. There's no longer this church versus state."

Despite the potential risks in removing the divide between editorial and advertising copy, City A.M. is confident that its approach will be more attractive than the native advertising offerings from other news publishers because the content will be more visible to users.

In addition, if content uploaded by a marketer generates more page views than the newspaper's own editorial stories, it will be allowed to head up the most popular rankings.

Jens Thorpe also expressed confidence that the development would not impinge on City A.M.'s impartiality. He added that many corporate brands can produce better-informed copy than journalists and they would be smart enough to understand the rules of effective marketing.

"It's for them to establish a leadership position as the brand with the biggest knowledge within their area," he said.

Finally, in another move that challenges the traditional way of doing things, City A.M. will allow outside "contributors", such as freelance writers, to upload articles directly to its site and they will be paid according to the number of page views they generate.

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff