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fake news

Why ‘fake news’ is good news for real publishers

By | Native advertising, Uncategorized

Probably already a frontrunner for phrase of the year, ‘fake news’ is the phenomenon everyone from politicians to publishers; tech companies to the man on the street, is talking about.

Whilst the blame for fake news has been laid squarely at the door of Facebook, indeed it’s forced the world’s biggest social media platform to fact check some of the content on its site, it has caused publishers to take stock and consider the quality of third party content on their own websites.

That content is invariably ad tech, from standard display units, to native advertising, video providers, and content recommendation. Are the ads being run trustworthy? This is particularly important in the programmatic age where they could have been served through a myriad of exchanges.

If not knowing where an advert has come from is a problem for publishers, the reverse is now true for advertisers – not knowing where your ad will actually be served has become a real issue. A recent Times investigation led to some of the world’s biggest brands pausing all programmatic advertising as their ads were found on websites apparently funding extremist groups.

Finding audience at the expense of losing control of the environment, suddenly doesn’t seem quite as smart.

Native: One size fits all?

Native advertising as a term encompasses everything that ‘mirrors the form and function’ of the property it sits on – from a promoted Facebook post or tweet to a sponsored article within the editorial feed, right through to content recommendation.

Because of this execution, trust has never been more important. And there lies the problem – how can a user uploaded misleading ‘get rich quick’ headline, clicking out to a dubious website be lumped into the same category as the lauded New York Times content for Netflix’s Orange is New Black?

Time to grasp the opportunity     

So where does this leave native advertising? There’s no denying how important it’s become for publishers – The Atlantic makes 75% of its ad revenue from sponsored content, Condé Nast Britain, over half of its digital earnings. But this is from high quality, clearly labelled articles – a world away from some of the clickbait washing around the web.

BI Intelligence estimates that Native ads will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. Whilst this will be led by the dominant social platforms, one interesting nugget is that:

“Sponsored content, which is categorised separately from native-display due to the direct relationship between publishers and brands in creating the format, will be the fastest-growing native format over the next five years.”

The renaissance of traditional publishers    

Traditional publishers have a challenge to adapt to the digital world, but the one good thing to come out of the past few months is that, in the words of Luis Hernandez, ‘…fake news is making real publishers look good’. Sites with paywalls like the NYT have seen a surge in subscriptions and UK national newspaper sites a 16% year-on-year uplift to 31.5m daily uniques (Dec 2016).

Why premium sites need premium ad tech     

So here’s the question for publishers: You’ve worked hard to build the trust of your audience. Why would you do anything to diminish that by running poor quality ads, clicking out to some questionable places?

The real value for premium publishers is in running high quality, clearly labelled, stay-on-site sponsored content which maintains trust and delivers value to both the reader and the media owner.

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Shared values, trust and mutual attraction – the native marriage

By | Marketing, Native advertising

When the editor and the advertiser meet at the new altar of perfect promotion, native media content, there is much more involved than a simple financial contract priced somewhere between free and rate card.

For a start, unless this relationship is based on sound shared values then the future is likely to be a rocky road for both parties, where warm embrace becomes aggressive and adversarial stand-off. In the case of native advertising the most important shared value is that of being totally committed to delivering value to the target audience. Often there is some confusion on what that actually means, with the editorial stance being purist and beyond the taint of commercial influence; while the advertiser wants to ultimately sell stuff to the audience who engage with that media because they tend to be interested in the sort of stuff the advertiser wants to sell.

The reality, of course, is that both partners in this marriage desperately need each other. The success of new media outlets, whether magazines, social media or other online publishers, ultimately depends on their ability to attract advertising revenue. For advertisers they will always need opportunities to talk to their markets and, if the market changes the media that it looks at or develops a preference for a new social meeting place, the advertiser must ensure they are there.

It’s this mutual dependency that dictates the need for a deep level of trust. The advertiser must not try to con the audience so carefully gathered by the editorial, perhaps taking the opportunity to make rapid bucks from a readership lulled into a false sense of security by the native advertorial style. Such a move would be the native advertising equivalent of infidelity and the relationship would be devalued if not destroyed completely.

The responsibility of the editorial team is to ensure that the unsponsored core offer is of the highest quality; native advertising does not mean that the editor can sit back and leave the provision of value to the advertiser. Perhaps the key challenge for the media is to maintain a very clear mission and unambiguous statement of why it exists; that then defines content and audience and allows the advertiser to craft content that will appeal. If the editorial content starts to veer in strange directions, perhaps driven by a need for higher numbers or too much leeway given to individual editors; then native advertising simply becomes advertising.

The real cement that holds this marriage together though will always be mutual attraction. The native content must be as interesting, attractive and well-crafted to the audience as anything produced from the editorial office. The advertiser gains credibility by showing that building a relationship with the editor’s ‘family’ is more important than jamming a foot in the door and starting the hard sell; that takes confidence in the brands they represent and respect for the market they serve.

Consumers love a successful celebrity marriage and native advertising will inevitable produce a good number of those.