Fairfax Media’s native advertising initiative grows revenue with 14 key elements

By L. Carol Christopher


Pleasant Hill, California, USA


When Fairfax Media noticed a growing appetite from Australian brands for content, it identified an opportunity to leverage what it does best — quality content creation, along with its audience reach and trust — to the benefit of its advertisers. 

A first among Australian news publishers, Brand Discover is a native advertising product that allows advertisers to engage audiences by creating, designing, and promoting custom, branded content across The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

This audience-relevant content, which is integrated with high-quality editorial, also reaches audiences on Fairfax’s Web sites, mobile sites, and tablet apps. 

Brand Discover is the fastest-growing digital advertising product across Fairfax Media.
Brand Discover is the fastest-growing digital advertising product across Fairfax Media.

Brand Discover comes in two formats that are optimised to maximise user engagement: articles and “shorticles,” the latter with a length of 200 words or less. Both are designed for high-impact branding integration.

Brand reveals include videos, galleries, and banners, as well as customised creatives to suit the advertiser’s needs — up to two per article or one for “shorticles.” Sponsorships are also available, and can include integration of branded reveals within the editorial flow, as well as header “BTYB” (brought to you by) messages. 

Fairfax is pleased with the success of its innovative Brand Discover. Advertisers have a new way to reach and inform customers, and readers can choose whether to engage or not with the clearly labeled advertising. The label on Brand Discover articles includes the masthead, an advertiser logo, and a clear disclaimer. Social sharing tools are also available.

Fairfax Media believes the ad experience should follow the natural form and function of the publisher’s platform. Adam Mather, product director for Fairfax Digital Innovation Services, cites the following as key elements in native advertising success:

  • Article design.
  • Brand engagement.
  • Content engagement.
  • Optimised formats.
  • Alignment with site experience.
  • Seamless brand integration.
  • Inline promotion reach.
  • High-profile promotional placements.
  • Promotion inline with editorial.
  • Content relevance and expertise.
  • Audience relevance.
  • Clear labeling as advertising.
  • Well-researched and balanced
  • Placement on both home page material and in sections. 

Brand Discover provides not only a new product stream, but has become the fastest-growing digital advertising product across Fairfax Media, and, among many, is considered the leading native advertising solution in the Australian market. 

Audience engagement, which averages 1.30 minutes per article, is measured by time on page, scroll depth, number of interactions and social media shares. That, along with “brand lift” of up to 117% per campaign, are strong indicators that both readers and advertisers have embraced Brand Discover. Generated incremental revenue has been in the millions of dollars, with year-on-year growth at 116%. 

Fairfax’s digital innovation services team, tasked with developing new advertising products around rich media and content marketing, created Brand Discover using agile methodology and lean product management principles to get to market quickly by leveraging existing resources, without making a large up front investment. 

Audience engagement on Brand Discover averages 1.30 minutes per article.
Audience engagement on Brand Discover averages 1.30 minutes per article.

That team had the close support of the digital ad development team, a strategic sales team focused on the commercialisation of new advertising products. The initial product launch was a basic version of the article product that now exists.

But development is an ongoing effort, and the product is continually optimised. Fairfax deliberately avoided integrating the product into its content management system so that it has maximum freedom to tweak page formats to enhance engagement. 

One example of Brand Discover success is a campaign whose objective was to promote a Melbourne independent boys’ school as dedicated to fostering personal excellence through education. It drove positive attitudes toward the school, and achieved aggregate brand lift of more than 117%. Click here for an additional example. 

About L. Carol Christopher

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