Quick sequence of interesting news to read about advertising.
Twitter is allowing advertisers to take their existing Twitter accounts and tweets have them be shown as "promoted" content in the timelines of people who don't follow them. Tweets are algorithmically selected based on which ones people are engaging with and, also automatically, inserted into the feeds of people who will hopefully find them relevant.
Second, an interview with Chris Batty, former head of ad sales at Gawker Media who is headed to The Atlantic as the publisher for their planned new business site. Here talking about sponsored posts:
Mr. Batty: I know personally I want to know how big these shale-deposit discoveries are. If you listen to one side of the debate, it solves our energy problems. If you listen to the other, it’s too polluting. Let’s get to the bottom of it.
Those are the kind of things that I think digital-publishing platforms can do really, really well relative to other media. We’re going to bring the power of the web to advertisers, not just hoard it for the purpose of aggregating enormous audience and not having a powerful enough ad system to generate the profits we need to reinvest.
Ad Age: Is fracking really the right subject to investigate with paid posts written by people with huge stakes in the outcome? Isn’t that much better handled by a reporter without as much of a vested interest?
Mr. Batty: Sure and we will do that for the benefit of the audience. But look, Shell knows a lot about the nature of these deposits. Let’s give them the power of our publishing tools to talk to our audience about it with the disclosure that this is Shell.
BuzzFeed currently earns all of its revenue from branded content—a form of advertising in which corporations create story-like units that live among a publisher’s editorial products and share the same underlying aesthetic, tone, and technology. Recent clients have included Kraft Foods, Dell, and McDonald’s.
Taken together, the three pieces linked above point a possible way forward for advertising supported media.
Bypassing the Media
The noise around aggregation and how the internet devalues original reporting misses the point altogether and is irrelevant to anything except authors egos. The real threat to traditional journalism outfits is marketers going direct and bypassing the media altogether.
Historically, the high cost barrier of distribution and production of content prevented marketers from taking their message directly to the audiences they wanted to reach. The media choices people could make on any given day were finite and countable. In front of a newsstand, people would pick some number of publications to purchase and read. There was enough time to watch or listen to a fixed number of programs per day. Given that limited set, advertisers were left to buy space for their messages alongside the news articles people wanted to read and in-between the TV and radio programs people wanted to watch. Outside of a few exceptions, consumers wouldn't consciously choose to see advertising.
That barrier has now collapsed. In our online lives we make hundreds if not thousands of choices about what media to experience every single day. No one outlet has the burden of providing "completeness." If marketers can create original content that both promotes their brand and is interesting and entertaining, then that content can spread to people through all the same channels that any other news or entertainment content does.
Better than obnoxious pushdown banner ads, homepage takeovers and interstitials.
What companies have to say is often a part of the news and the public discourse. There are wires over which companies will send press releases and which journalists monitor for story ideas. Spokespeople for companies are often quoted in stories. Why waste a reporter's time rewriting a press release or copying down a company spokesperson's statement? Why not just let them publish those statements directly?
Many companies already use their own company blog to communicate very effectively, but most don't have the ability to reach everyone they want to reach whenever they want.
Below, the headers from two pieces of content that don't originate from the publication hosting them.