Successful Service Models & Native Advertising: An interview with Andrew Hanelly

The ultimate media disruption: “Service” models and native ads have replaced the traditional advertising.

So how can niche publishers compete for those ever-increasing content marketing budgets through the new channels of creative services and native advertising?

We interviewed digital expert Andrew Hanelly about services publishers can offer and also about how to create native advertising that rocks:

Let’s talk about service-style approaches and what that means to niche publishers. What are successful models? Any pitfalls to avoid?

Andrew: “We’ll start with the pitfall that many publishers have to climb out of: the fact that the advertisers they serve might only view them as one potential distribution channel in their increasingly complex media plans.

In other words: publishers have the reputation as “the place that can run the ad” versus the reputation they want, which is “the place that can help me understand the audience, create the strategy, develop the creative, run the ad, and then help me understand how to improve not just the ad but my entire marketing strategy”. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but therein lies the service model opportunity that publishers can build for their clients.

Audience behaviors are changing and entire industries are being disrupted. Marketers need strategic partners to help them navigate those changes, and publishers are uniquely positioned to do so through services.

What can that look like? Here are a couple of service-style approaches publishers can consider, based on what their market needs and where their expertise and permission lie:

  • Strategic storytelling: Publishers can establish in-house creative “labs” dedicated to both helping understand an advertiser’s DNA and creating content marketing representative of that DNA that will resonate with their audience. What makes the editorial relevant to audiences can also make the content marketing relevant. Publishers can provide that service. 
  • Data as a service: Publishers consistently undervalue their own access to audience intelligence. Audience isn’t just about the number of people you reach, it’s about the impact they have at their jobs and in their communities. It’s about what motivates them and what interests them. Understanding what makes an audience tick is valuable information for any smart marketer, and publishers have droves of it. But, they make the mistake of framing the audience conversation solely about size versus impact and insight. Packaged right, data helps publishers get a marketer’s attention, raises their ranking on the strategic value chain, and provides a unique perspective on a changing market that their advertisers are likely clamoring for.”

How do you measure ROI with native advertising? What are some good guidelines publishers should follow?

Andrew: “Marketers need to generate awareness, engagement, leads and sales, but when dealing with publishers they tend to only focus on click-through rates and impressions. Why? Because that’s how they’ve grown accustomed to having the conversation framed. If a publisher wants to increase their importance to their advertisers, the conversation needs to inch up the value chain, away from consumer-style vanity marketing metrics and into real business metrics. Native advertising should never be sold simply as a distribution option. It should – like any content marketing strategy – start with a measurable outcome as an objective and the strategy should be built on serving that objective. Publishers can provide the audience insight and intimacy that makes that objective more achievable.

In terms of guidelines, we help publishers develop If/Then scenario tables that help to frame the conversation with their advertiser. The publisher then recommends a certain approach designed to achieve that specific outcome. It’s how agencies operate and increasingly, publishers should be looking to encroach on the agency’s turf because they have more permission in the marketplace by nature of having served the audience with editorial content.

For instance, if they are after leads, a series of educational webinars might be right. If they are after brand reputation improvement, a thought leadership content series with audience opinions surveys before and after the series might be best. This, of course, is overly-simplified, but we encourage each publisher to evaluate honestly their own strengths and the dynamics of the relationship they have with their audience and then develop packaged approaches for how to achieve an advertiser’s given goal.”

Editor’s note: Andrew will be leading the session, The Native Advertising Success Formula: 5 Key Ingredients for Niche Publishers at Super Niche, March 27-29, 2017 in Charlotte.


Andrew Hannelly  More about Andrew Hanelly:  After spending time on both the publisher and agency side of the media business, Andrew now has his dream role which straddles both. He is Creative Director and partner at, which helps publishers generate revenue and helps brands develop audiences. He got his first taste of the niche media world at Active Interest Media, helping to translate print success to digital prowess across the organization. He then spent nearly a decade at a content marketing agency as SVP Strategy.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Check out the all new Super Niche, March 27-29, 2017!

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