In the earlier days of marketing, companies had few options to reach audiences: they could buy ads (to put their sales message in front of a TV, radio or newspaper audience) or they could use PR tactics to get publicity by getting news coverage of their company or product. If companies could get their message in front of enough eyeballs, they could be assured of connecting with enough of the right people to achieve an increase in sales. Today, the media has become more fragmented than ever before. The mainstream media is no longer dominant, as many industries and consumer audiences are relying on niche publications, blogs, online communities and other new media. The audiences are still out there, but they are often harder to reach with traditional advertising and PR.

What’s the solution? How can you get your audience to listen to your message in a media landscape that is increasingly separated into narrow niches?

One answer to the modern media puzzle is native advertising. With native advertising, companies can reach audiences with effective, credible marketing messages that offer some of the best of both worlds of traditional advertising and traditional PR.

Below are a few insights on how companies in any niche or industry can reach the right audience via native advertising:

Use native advertising to reach people where they are already looking

In the past, marketing and advertising messages interrupting people: a 30-second TV ad that came on during the commercial break, or a magazine ad interrupting the interesting article that the reader was enjoying. Traditional advertising was based on the idea that companies had to disrupt the audience’s attention and force them to pay attention to something when they’d rather be doing something else – watching TV or reading a magazine article.

Native advertising is great avenue for reaching audiences because with native ads, the ads appear in “native” format within the surrounding content. For example, mobile native ads appear within the same content stream that people are already reading. Native ads on Facebook appear right next to the friends’ status updates that people enjoy reading. Instead of taking the audience’s attention away from the content they enjoy (and forcing them to sit through an ad), native advertising blends in with the content that people enjoy.

Reach highly focused audiences

Native ads are a good fit for reaching niche audiences and highly targeted audiences, because these audiences are more likely to be highly engaged with the content and thus more receptive to well-placed, well-positioned native ad messages. Instead of paying to get your message in front of a mass audience where only a small percentage of people will be interested, native advertising makes it possible to target much more precisely by reaching specific online communities or by using Facebook’s social graph to target exactly the audience you want to reach.

Capitalize on credibility of native ads

Native advertising offers a variety of options to convey brand messages, ranging from in-stream ads to sponsored content to viral videos. Some of the most effective native ads don’t look like “ads” at all – ideally, brands should try to produce engaging content that people would like to read, rather than using a traditional ad format. Try to make the content of your native advertising to be just as informative and engaging and entertaining as the “organic” content that appears on the site where you’re advertising. Ideally, native advertising makes advertising more relevant, more educational and more helpful to audiences, and opens up opportunities for companies to speak directly to consumers with informative, entertaining messages that can hold their own against non-advertising content. As long as the message is honest, relevant and helpful, consumers will be more likely to listen. Native ads tend to achieve higher click through rates and better brand lift. For example, according to research, mobile native ads get click through rates that are 4 times – 10 times higher than other types of online advertising.

As the media landscape continues to split into smaller fragments and niches, talking to niche audiences requires creative new approaches. Native advertising offers a variety of ways to build your company’s reputation and begin to form business relationships by creating engaging, informative content that blends in naturally along with the organic content that your target audience is already there to see. Native advertising needs to show your audience that you care about their interests and that you are authentically invested as part of their scene. If the goal of the “old days” of advertising was to capture more attention, the goal of native advertising is to build more trust – to the point that people would just as happily read your native ad as they would read an article next to it.