By James Manning
Anne Shooter, commercial editor of Mail Online and DailyMail.com, visited Australia during May to meet with advertisers and the Daily Mail Australia team and talk about the opportunities for native advertising.
In describing her role, Shooter said she is not a sales person. “I am a journalist who happens to specialise in sponsored content. I am now working in native advertising and the whole point of native is that it is written in the form and the style of the platform on which it appears.
“In the case of Daily Mail Australia and Mail Online that means it is sponsored editorial. It is really important that our sponsored content is written like any other stories on the site.
“I have been a journalist for 20 years and four years ago I trained to be a chef and came back into journalism to write about food. My current role is a great opportunity to work with brands, in particular food brands. I can combine that with my love of writing.”
Shooter said all the native advertising on the sites is labelled as sponsored. “The important thing is that when clients work with us they understand it is not advertorial. They have to take a bit of a leap of faith and let us come up with ideas of ways we can write engaging content that we know our readers will love and yet will also in some way promote their brand.
“That might not mean writing lots of lovely positive things directly about the brand. It is more likely to mean taking the brand values and finding things that align with the brand and writing about them. Readers don’t want heavy-handed sales copy, they want to be engaging with content. We can guarantee to clients they will have lots and lots of readers engaging with that content.”
Part of Shooter’s reason to visit Australia was to detail her learnings in a relatively short time. “When I started in the role just six months ago I didn’t know anything about it. There are still some people who don’t understand that what we do isn’t advertorial.”
Successful native advertising from Shooter’s division includes the use of video, polls and info graphics. “What is interesting about this for me is that I can now offer value as a journalist in a way that I couldn’t before. Rather than just being a cost, I can now make some money for the company.”
As to how critical native advertising will become in the business plan for publishers, Shooter said it is more expensive for clients than taking out banner ads. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say the banner is dead, but I definitely think that to engage with millennials in particular you need ways to engage with people that aren’t going to interrupt their flow. In the same way that people can fast forward ads on the TV, they can filter out ads they don’t want to read. They might see them, but that doesn’t mean they are taking much notice of them.”
Although Shooter said existing sales teams can add native advertising to their product list, they really need to comprehend what they are selling. “They need to understand it isn’t advertorial and the differences are quite subtle. Advertorial has the sign off from the client and the content is completely controlled by the client. Native is about a collaboration between the client and us and ultimately we have the sign off for what appears on the website. The client collaborates the whole way through the process, but they do need to take a leap of faith and trust us we are going to represent their interest as well as possible.”
Giving up control of their ad to editorial hasn’t been a deal breaker for many advertisers so far, said Shooter. “There are still some clients who are nervous and I would beg them not to be because I am not scary. [Laughs] I have worked with brands for a long time as a journalist and I find that what works best is when we work closely with PRs who really understand about getting story into the paper. In some ways, native is a little like guaranteed PR. Instead of a PR piece appearing for a short amount of time, we can guarantee the views.”
Shooter reinforced that readers don’t want a hard sell: “Readers also don’t want to be tricked or patronised. They want engaging, interesting content. Whether it is sponsored or not doesn’t seem to worry people. They just want to read good stories.”
When asked about the sectors that work well for native, Shooter mentioned travel has been booming. “To a certain extent that content in newspapers has always been paid for. People have understood that journalists go on free holidays and write about them. It has almost always been native.
“Entertainment also works very well as do food, beauty and fashion.”
Shooter has worked for the Daily Mail for 20 years after starting her career in British regional newspapers and then moving to the Daily Mirror. She started at the Daily Mail as a news reporter before moving to feature writing. “For the past 10-12 years I have done all sorts of writing and editing projects.”
In addition Shooter was also an amateur cook and amateur food writer. “When the celebrity chef movement took off I was interested in food and not many at the paper were at the time. I felt that training as a chef would better prepare me for writing about food.
“It was a chance meeting in a restaurant with Nigella Lawson that gave me an idea to write a book.” Shooter found an agent who subsequently got her a book deal. That first book – “Sesame and Spice” – has recently gone on sale in the UK and will be available here from July.
The food blog Shooter’s Kitchen appears on the Daily Mail website, although she admitted since her new role looking after native advertising she hasn’t been terribly prolific.
Shooter also wrote a column called The Savvy Shopper about food being sold in supermarkets. “I am absolutely fascinated with branding,” she confessed. “What makes people buy different products – whether it be food, makeup, supermarket items, anything really. People work very hard for their money and how they spend it is absolutely fascinating.”
[blockquote style=”3″]Mediaweek podcast
Listen to the complete interview with Anne Shooter where she also details how Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke wooed her for her current role plus she details her social media activity and some of the other food writing mafia in the UK.
During her Australian visit, Anne Shooter talked to Australian advertisers about the food and beauty brands she is working with. “We even have a law firm in the UK taking native advertising,” she told Mediaweek. “We have all sorts of clients using it successfully. It is great to be here to meet both clients and the Daily Mail Australia team.”
Listen to the podcast online or download on iTunes.[/blockquote]