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Advertising is being disrupted more heavily than any other industry. Brands are looking for new ways to amplify their content and publishers need new ways to make money.
“The storm of disruption that is happening in the media and native advertising is not happening because marketers need a new way to sell, but more that publishers need a new way to make money,” says Steve Rubel, EVP/Global Strategy and Insights for PR firm Edelman.
Speaking at the The Next Web conference in New York City, Rubel makes the case for native advertising and sponsored content. Due to a confluence of disruptions to the classic advertising and subscription revenue streams, many news publishers are now open to turning content that’s created or curated by corporations into a new form of advertising.
Rubel says that sponsored content at its core is paid amplification for brands and a new revenue stream for publishers.
“There is no longer a scarcity of information. Content is available from different places and everyone is a content creator,” says Rubel. “Information is available and free people are not paying for content. The rise of programmatic media buying is driving down the cost of advertising but the cost of doing business is increasing. This is not good for publishers.”
On the marketing side, brands want to create their own content, which is leading them towards a converged media somewhere between paid content, owned media and earned media. They are now taking native content and flipping it into native advertising. This isn’t really new: it’s all borrowing from traditional models.
Rubel reckons that this has lead to three emerging formats in the way publishers and advertisers/brands do business and how the audience gets content:
This is content sponsored by a brand and written by the editorial staff or the brand. Rubel sees this as a good way to leverage years of benchmark data and for the publishers to retain 100% control over the content. However, he notes that content branded as sponsored could start with a trust deficit in the eyes of the audience, it is easy to skip or miss and it requires an editorial mindset to create effectively.
This style of sponsored content is hard to miss, says Rubel, as the brand is woven into the story — something that is hard for most publishers to do without alienating their readers. Though he says this type of content needs to be hand crafted, and measuring its return on investment can be difficult. There aren’t any accepted standards but it does provide room to innovate.
This style of sponsored content, Rubel feels, is a good revenue stream for publishers. Paid co-creation allows sites to create a new section with sponsors. This new section will have 80% new editorial content which will be controlled by the publisher. This style allows brands to be part of the conversation as well as engage. He notes that although exciting, it can be expensive and can be distanced from editorial.
Rubel argues that what is coming cannot be stopped in terms of publishing and the way media buying is being disrupted, although some serious ethical considerations should be considered before publishers get into sponsored content.
There are three things that must be considered:
Full disclosure: The audience must know that the content is sponsored (it must have some form of clear labelling) and there needs to be a feedback loop for the audience to engage.
Quality is key: The content needs to work like ‘real’ journalism, and be written with an editorial mindset.
Process: Publishers and brands going into sponsored content need to have processes that guide decision making around the content.