While everyone gets excited over “native advertising,” the challenge remains that nobody can agree exactly on what it is — or isn’t. Or if it’s something that has existed for a long time — or hasn’t. Not only has the term native advertising become a cliche, its frequent usage to describe the indescribable has made hearing it somewhat tiring.

Regardless, there is a tactical component of “native advertising” that most industry executives agree is real: advertising in feeds, or “in-feed advertising.” Thanks to years of constant emails and of ubiquitous adoption of smartphones, we’ve been conditioned with short attention spans and a lust to fire our synapses with an always-on feed of message impulses. Feeds are a natural venue for conversational and contextually relevant advertising and marketing content, which is why so much of it is social.

To be sure, the media landscape is creating a perfect storm to accelerate marketers’ adoption of in-feed advertising: According to eMarketer, U.S. average daily time spent with digital media (5 hours and 16 minutes) will surpass time spent conventional television (4 hours and 31 minutes) in 2013. Further, time spent with non-voice mobile online media (2 hours and 21 minutes) will surpass nonmobile online media (2 hours and 19 minutes) in 2013.

Top mobile activities — like social networking — are best accessed through mobile apps, which is why apps dominate mobile minutes versus Web. And as far back as December 2012, Facebook dominated total U.S. mobile minutes with a 23% share among all apps, followed by Instagram with a 3% share, according to comScore. Of course, Facebook and Instagram are tailor-made for in-feed advertising.

Finally, as is evident from my company’s clients, Facebook’s Promoted Posts and similar in-feed formats in Twitter are not only dominant, but proving highly effective for both branding and direct-response objectives. With unprecedented audience targeting and tracking capabilities, investment and sophistication levels are rising. While Instagram just began testing in-feed advertising, our early monitoring of pilot campaigns shows that in-feed advertising in that venue is highly promising. We see the same for Pinterest.

These trends point to a new advertising landscape. As consumer attention continues shifting to mobile, apps and social media, advertising will continue to shift to feeds and contextual content. Social and in-feed advertising is not a niche, but a major pillar of advertising. It may become the center of gravity for all advertising.

This essay also ran in MediaPost. Photo: miuenski miuenski

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.