Medium hires its first head of content advertising

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Medium has hired someone to develop its native advertising partnerships, the first such role for the company. As Mathew Ingram previously reported, the blog company is expanding its content advertising, publishing sponsored posts that look similar to regular Medium stories. Riddhi Shah, the new hire who will oversee these efforts, will hold the title “Branded Content Lead.” (Disclosure: Shah and I interned together at The Nation four years ago.)

For Medium, bringing on its first content advertising manager is a significant move. It shows the blogging company is shifting gears, starting to prioritize revenue as it moves into its fourth year. (Medium did not respond to a request for comment sent  Thursday.)

Befitting its part publisher identity, Medium is turning to someone with a more traditional New York media background, instead of tech or business, to lead the charge. Prior to joining Medium, Shah was the Editorial Director of branded content for The Huffington Post. She worked with companies like Chipotle and TED, who advertised on particular HuffPo sections. For example, Chipotle sponsored a “Food for Thought” page as it attempted to remake itself as an environmentally and ethically conscious company.

Shah was uniquely suited for the position because she worked as a journalist for eight years prior, reporting for a variety of publications in India and the U.S. That background made it easier for her to pitch brands potential story ideas they could sponsor. Medium’s hope is that she’ll bring similar brand negotiation skills to the blogging application.

As Mathew covered, Medium wants native advertising to become a key source of funding. Even before hiring Shah, Medium already started lightly experimenting with it, launching a travel vertical called Gone, by Marriott Hotels, and a design section called Re:form, by BMW.

These stories are labeled as being “presented” by these brands, although they’re not necessarily about the companies themselves. For example, Marriott paid the expenses for Medium writers to travel to Haiti and report on the evolution of business there since the massive 2010 earthquake. You can read Mathew’s piece for a good take on the journalism ethics considerations.

From a business perspective, content advertising is well-suited for design-centric Medium. It can avoid ugly, distracting banner ads and reap more worth for brands by helping them subtly associate with certain causes or ideas.

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