Last week, Martin wrote about how necessary content could make it simpler for B2B media firms to carve out a significant piece of the digital landscape for themselves.
The problem for a lot of content businesses, particularly consumer-facing ones, is that despite the merits of what they produce, it’s not essential for their readers.
With Christmas round the corner, some retail advertisers are raising fears about the effects the rise in ad-blocking could have on their digital operations. But where the focus was once solely on desk and laptop computing, experts are now asking what steps need to be taken to prevent mobile consumption suffering the same fate.
Earlier this month, my colleague Matt looked at the public appetite – or lack of it – for viewing ads online and suggested some of the creative ways publishers are attempting to combat that antipathy.
Web users find online advertising annoying, intrusive, often irrelevant, and a drag on browser speed. For those that go online using a mobile, there are also concerns over stealth data consumption and privacy.
It’s for these reasons, according to a recent YouGov survey, that 15% of internet users currently use ad-blocking software and 22% have at one time or another downloaded
As media headhunters it’s common for our conversations with senior editorial and commercial people – at old and new media businesses alike – to regularly address the challenges they face in offering new and compelling solutions to advertisers.
These conversations often revolve around how a publisher can use the editorial skills they have in-house, and a reputation for producing high-quality content, in commercial ways that won’t alienate the readership or damage a relationship that, in some cases, has been built on centuries of editorial rigour.
So how do they do that? Well, it isn’t easy.
A recent editorial candidate told me at their (established) news organisation, they have clear boundaries to maintain the traditional gap between editorial and commercial. But this ‘traditional’ gap is no longer the case everywhere, and some of the UK’s most distinguished media businesses are peering directly into it in the hope of finding new sources of revenue.
Increasingly, media organisations are becoming more relaxed around the separation of editorial and commercial activity and redefining how existing boundaries can work. Under the umbrella of ‘native advertising’, the old lines between editorial and commercial are changing.
Banner advertising has long been the established method by which digital publishers generate income – but an increased use of mobile, difficultly innovating the humble skyscraper, and growing customer ‘blindness’ to banners has led many to re-evaluate their approach and instead start experimenting with native ads.
Guardian News & Media is the latest publisher to jump aboard the native ads bandwagon. The Guardian is by no means the only newspaper looking for new and innovative ways to raise revenue (in fact, the Times has been has been involved with branded content for years), but even by its own forward-thinking standards, its move into native advertising is a compelling one.
The publisher has set up a branded content division – called Guardian Labs – with the aim of creating innovative marketing campaigns that can stretch its revenue stream beyond display ads.
News came last week that Bauer Media was launching a multi-platform title called The Debrief. There’s no great shock in a magazine publisher launching a new digital brand aimed at ABC1 20-something women, but the difference with The Debrief is that it plans to make its money by eschewing traditional banner ads in favour of native ads buried amongst its editorial content.
For the uninitiated, native ads are essentially pieces of promotional content designed to fit with the look, feel, and tone of a specific digital publishing platform. Some publishers claim they aren’t even a new phenomenon (advertorials anyone?), but the point is that 18 months ago saying ‘native ads’ to a brand manager might cause them to stare back as if you were talking Swahili. Say it to them now, and they’ll tell you it’s a phenomenon in which they’re extremely interested.
When it introduced its paywall in August, The Sun became the first tabloid in the UK to charge for online content. For £2 per week, users are granted access to the newspaper’s website and its smartphone and tablet apps.
The Sun’s publisher, News UK, has previously taken sister titles The Times and Sunday Times behind a paywall, so the move was not wholly unexpected. However, taking The Sun behind a paywall was considered a gamble by some, given how News UK needs the publication to generate cash to support the wider business, and the wildly different approaches being taken by its closest rivals.
One of The Sun’s big online rivals, Mail Online, is now the world’s most popular newspaper website. It has achieved this by remaining an open site, where revenue is created by the scale of its audience.
Introduction of the paywall at The Sun also had the effect of handing The Mirror newspaper an immediate boost to its web traffic, which it sought to capitalise on with an aggressive marketing campaign intended to hoover up disaffected Sun readers who still wanted to get their news for free.
In a move to drive users to take up subscription, News UK bought rights to show Premier League highlights on The Sun’s and The Times’ online, mobile and apps platforms, in the summer of 2013.
When you click to a web page how often do you notice the adverts that surrounds the content you’re interested in? One in ten? One in 20 times?
It may be a crude approach but banner advertising is the established – if unspectacular – way publishers generate the bulk of their online revenue.
But as mobile usage increases publishers have found it hard to innovate the humble banner ad and link valuable click-through info to customers; couple that with increasing consumer ‘blindness’ to banners and you have a system in need of overhaul.