From a publisher perspective, the rise of adblockers, declining interest in banner ads and failure of video revenue has left many media houses clinging to the rise of native advertising as a life saver in terms of revenue streams.
Native advertising has had a tremendous growth and publishers across multiple markets have built elaborate studio / in-house content marketing departments to satisfy customers and drive sales. Although not without its controversy and prolonged «Church / State» debates, but the initial dust has now settled and advertisers and publishers are seeing that customers are pleased and business is growing. The less obtrusive and «push based» native ad formats are both grabbing attention, providing utility and information to consumers and in turn providing ROI for advertisers across a number of strategic metrics.
Social media, smart algorithms, contract publishing and keywords have all enabled brands to place carefully crafted stories at the eyes and fingertips of a banner-blind audience craving great content to consume, share, enjoy and draw inspiration from.
The pro’s of moving from advertising (selling) to a native, content driven (telling) marketing are deeper and more meaningful relationship with clients. Leveraging media’s traditional skills in this craft through either studio content marketing, advertorials or contract publishing is cost efficient, and comes with its own distribution. The con’s: Embedding your content strategy in someone else’s universe is like building your house on rented land. If you opt for a media-house driven native relationship, you are limiting your reach to that of the specific outlet. Similarly, if you are building it around Facebook profiles and pages you will be forever bound to a dwindling organic reach and a future of paying for attention.
These are short-term problems that have an easy fix: build your own media property online, but before we get to that you must address the deeper issue at hand here:
Regardless of what solution you feel suits your needs and budget. Know this: Customers are getting used to the content format and they now increasingly seek out MORE information from brands. Search plays an important role here, but if your native advertising is advertorial or contractual publishing the reach of Google searches will not benefit your content outside your own channels.
From an advertiser perspective this raises some new issues, most notably:
We are in the middle of a media crisis - but this is NOT a crisis of journalism or great storytelling. It is a crisis of plattform and attention. Time spent online may be increasing year on year but time spent per site is decreasing. Web behemoths Google and Facebook are themselves only able to sustain an audience for a limited time (time spent on FB is on average 20+ minutes per day).
Converting attention to something deeper and more lasting - alternatively a desired action like a subscription or a sale is not the same as acquiring attention.
A single article is not a content strategy and a single post is not a blog. A click on either is only the first kiss in a romance that could grow into a marriage. But for this to work, advertisers must themselves become providers of content, think like publishers - and sustain their efforts to thrill and entertain their audiences with more, more, more engaging content.
The reason cat videos are ubiquitous, is because they work! But only on the metric of clicks and page views. Fine if you’re living of CPM driven display ads, but not if you are a brand.
Brands positioning themselves as content driven, aiming at being not the ad-break in someone else's content - but rather the stars of the show itself, must disperse of the campaign state of mind and change the core of their offering to that of a publishing outfit.
The pro’s of owning you own «media property» is that you control the story, the effect of hearing that story, the search for your stories and the prolonged benefit of the relationship you create. The con’s: You may need to alter the core of your organization and re-think the value proposition of your product. This could well be costly and time consuming, but failing to do so will alienate your audience and weaken your competitiveness.
We are living through a major recalibration of business models where the shift is moving from «reach» (in terms of audience) to «relationships» (in terms of individuals). This shift forces business to readdress it’s views on marketing, value chain and organizational structure.
When choosing between a native content strategy and going it solo ask yourself this: How do I harness the data behind the attention my content is getting? How do I leverage this insight into building a meaningful relationship with my audience? If the answer here is “I don’t know” to either question - talk to an experienced publisher. If the answer is “Data acquisition and analysis is at the core of my content strategy” then start building your own house! If you’re in the grey area here then my advice is obvious: do both! Use experienced storytellers and agencies to shape your content, distribute intelligently and make it your mission to master page analytics and the data sets your site offer by default. If it can’t be measured - it can’t be of value! Make sure your partner of choice shares the insight you need to keep improving.
Address the pro’s against the con’s when deciding what strategy is right for your brand. Content remains king but make sure you find it a kingdom and keep it’s subjects happy or the king will be usurped.
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