Failure of ads leading to sponsored articles

Sponsors Now Pay for Online Articles, Not Just Ads:

Advertisers and publishers have many names for this new form of marketing — including branded content, sponsored content and native advertising. Regardless of the name, the strategy of having advertisers sponsor or create content that looks like traditional editorial content has become increasingly common as publishers try to create more sources of revenue.

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Publishers are largely being driven to support the use of sponsored content because of fewer people clicking on banner ads, the abundance of advertising space and other factors make it more difficult to make money from traditional online advertising. As advertising technology becomes more sophisticated, ads can be bought and sold at cheaper rates across the Web. Often they are ignored by the very customers advertisers are trying to reach.

It’s a pretty great deal for both advertisers and publishers. By having their advertisements appear to be regular content, people are willing to share the articles with their social networks. As opposed to banner ads, which people have learned to automatically ignore, this content actually has people telling their friends that they should give it a look:

An article on Google Glass technology was shared almost 2,000 times on social media, indicating that readers may not have cared, or known, if it was journalism or sponsored content, although the series was identified as such.

For publishers, it means less of a reliance on banner ads while still being able to offer content for free (though Forbes and the Washington Post are using both sponsored content and paywalls).

There hasn’t been any major backlash from readers against this rise in sponsored content, so perhaps they don’t care as long as the posts aren’t outright ads.

Surprise: LinkedIn doing well as a publishing platform

Sharing Business Insights, LinkedIn Builds Its Publishing Presence:

But Daniel Roth, the executive editor of LinkedIn, said that Influencers is catnip to executive-suite aspirants and is transforming viewer engagement on the site. Visitors viewed 63 percent more pages in the first quarter of 2013, ending in May, than they did in the quarter a year earlier, according to the earnings report. Mr. Roth said traffic to all its news products had increased eightfold since Influencers was introduced, although he would not say from what base it was measured. Top posts routinely record more than 100,000 views, according to the site’s own accounting.

People want to read what Richard Branson and Bill Gates have to say, even if their posts are little more than fluff pieces. Go figure.

The Magazine’s Writers

Chris Higgins on The Magazine’s writers:

Why does this matter? It means that a strong percentage of those who write for The Magazine are coming back and pitching again. This is significant. As a longtime freelancer, I’ve written for plenty of publications just once.

The Magazine is doing things differently. It’s getting plaudits because it does things a sensible way, not the old-fashioned, backwards way we’re all used to seeing from the publishing industry. Chris Higgins provides a comical, informative and interesting analysis of who writes for The Magazine and why they do it.

I’m a big fan of any publication that rewards it’s writers and provides the least scummy way of rewarding them. That’s why I like The Magazine. (Disclaimer: I have pitched to The Magazine)

Patrick Miller takes a look at games journalism

patrick miller writes about videogames — RIP 1UP: A meditation on where games journalism is going:

So, instead, we rely on advertisers to subsidize our costs so we can offer the publication for cheap or free. Essentially, we have two masters; the readers, who demand quality (and can take their eyeballs elsewhere if they’re not getting it), and the advertisers, who demand reader eyeballs (so they can increase awareness of their product so that you will buy it). These are two separate but parallel transactions: The editors tell the readers, “Hey, you should come here and read all the awesome news reporting/in-depth features we have, for free” and the ad salespeople tell the advertisers, “Hey, you can get a picture of your product right next to an article that someone is reading!” For one transaction, the product is the publication; for the other transaction, the product is your eyeballs. 

Sounds a lot like what we what we hear about most other kinds of journalism nowadays. Online publishing is going to have to find a workable business model over the next few years or we’re going to keep going through this same pattern of shrinking and consolidation – and SEO bullshit and link-baiting.