News360 puts ‘native advertising’ into its personal news app

“Native advertising” is a must-have in media circles these days. Even though no one can agree on exactly what the heck it is – sponsored tweets or paid BuzzFeed stories are cited as common examples – more publishers are rushing to offer it.

The latest apostle is News360, a news reading and discovery app that creates a personalized collection of stories based on algorithms. The tool, which competes with much larger Flipboard, this week began inserting including headlines from paid sponsors alongside those of regular news stories. It’s probably easiest to explain with pictures; here’s a “native ad” nestled in with the regular stories:

News360 Promoted Content - Home Feed

Here’s an example of the type of content a reader might get by tapping on a native ad:

News360 native ad

According to News360 Roman Karachinsky, the ad format is “native” because it lets advertisers deliver full-length stories on the same topic that a user is already reading. In a recent phone interview, Karachinsky added that the format is more efficient than regular display advertising because News360 can use “interest graphs” to ensure the stories/ads are delivered only to people who will find them relevant.

News360 has signed up three brands so far to buy its native ads. Karchinksy says that, if a given ad/story isn’t getting an adequate response, the brands can swap it out for another one; the advertisers can also choose to pay on an engagement metric of their choosing — for instance, by requiring readers to spend at least ten seconds on the story.

And consistent with News360’s lightweight, machine-driven operation, it doesn’t plan on working with advertisers to produce content.

“Brands don’t have to do any creative,” said Karchinsky, explaining that they can just repurpose sponsored stories they’ve already made for sites like  BuzzFeed article. Or, in the case of companies like Cisco, they can draw on their own internal vaults of branded content.

Will its ad model work? In this case, the answer will be tied to News360’s own fortunes; the app currently faces a challenge to stand out from a gaggle of bigger, better-known news readers, including Flipboard, Zite and LinkedIn’s (s lnkd) Pulse.