FT Digital Media: Anguish Over Products

Two ways media’s changing now, and two ways it’s going to change:

The FT Digital event in London last week pulled together some of the cream of the European media world. The big conclusion they were made privy to?

The media world will soon discover exactly how many ways you can skin a cat.

The old-fashioned way for media brands to skin a cat – make the content and license rights to distribute it, or advertise next to it – doesn’t work anymore as a standalone product. As a result, the business model experimentation we’ve seen so far in the media world is turning into business model explosion. Evidence: Half of the speakers and attendees at this media event wouldn’t have been at a media event at all only three or four years ago. Facebook. Shazam. BuzzFeed. And tech VCs, for example.

Two pieces of news exemplified changes taking place right now:
One, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus (a virtual reality gaming device) forced discussion toward the value of a platform – the device is only as valuable as the community of developers creating remarkable content for it; tech and media companies alike need to take a platform approach to their assets.

Second, The New York Times’ launching of NYT Now – a premium version of the Times exclusively for smartphones – showed how media companies are bending themselves backward to divorce (call it “conscious uncoupling” if you will) resources from revenue. The mobile app will take a Facebook-like approach to making money by allowing advertisers to publish sponsored content in-feed.

And two discussions painted a picture of media’s future:

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The Native Advertising Answer Is Publishers’ Problem

[Recently, I wrote that overly optimistic or pessimistic predictions of native advertising’s future were the result of vast (and naïve) assumptions. I concluded that a more accurate prediction would not hinge upon grand theories about how great native advertising is or isn’t, but rather a wily assessment of many factors – the foxlike approach of Isaiah Berlin’s Hedgehog and the Fox. I said I’d offer such a foxy assessment. Here’s that assessment.]

First, let’s consider the two grand theories of native advertising – the hedgehog positions:

1) Native advertising is the best thing that could have happened.
According to this theory, native advertising at last frees the world from interruptive or parasitic advertisements and allows both the publisher site and advertiser to work toward a shared goal: the best possible experience for the user or reader. Success will be measured directly by readers actually choosing to consume stuff from brands, which means it’ll all be worth more and publishers will earn a bigger cut.

2) Native advertising is the worst thing that could have happened.
According to this theory, native advertising depends fundamentally on confusing the reader into clicking on an advertisement by disguising it as unpaid site editorial. As a result, readers will lose their trust in the sites’ editorial integrity and abandon the site. This loss of integrity will destroy the halo effect, whereby a site’s editorial integrity reflects positively on the advertisers associated with it.

True hedgehogs could expound on these arguments at length (they have a tendency to do that), but I’ve represented the basic positions.

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Content Marketing Fortnight VII: The Pains And Joys Of Going Mainstream

What’s happening (that’s important) in the world of content marketing? This is your fortnightly round-up of the best of the best stuff online for marketers who think about content; for the previous “Fortnights”, go to the bottom of the post. (And for more information about what the Content Marketing Fortnight is, see my intro from the first one. Get this curated newsletter in your inbox every other week – send me a mail.)

NewsCred scores $25 million. Tech news: “What’s content marketing?”
It’s no $16 billion, but the $25 million Newscred raised to expand its content marketing cloud offering is no insignificant sum. The company is moving fast to help brands win relevance with content, boasting a unique weapon (licensing for premium content with thousands of top-shelf sites). Re-code – previously the Wall Street Journal’s tech team – was taken aback, asking, “What’s content marketing?” Percolate’s Noah Brier answered them.

Federated Media, a content marketing pioneer, backs out of content marketing

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Does Native Advertising Face A $3 Billion Question?

Predictions about native advertising’s medium-term impact are both short-sighted and simplistic.

Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

In 1973, the Wall Street Journal quoted a professor: “Academic politics is the most vicious…because the stakes are so low.” Thereafter, the idea (that the intensity of a dispute is inversely proportional to its stakes) was named after the professor: Sayre’s Law.

Sayre’s law applies very well to native advertising. According to Forrester data, digital advertising dollars are today some 20% of traditional advertising dollars. Of those scarce digital ad dollars, something far less than 10% goes to anything that could be characterized as native advertising.

Perhaps that’s why the dispute has been so vitriolic (at least, by advertising’s standards).

The day after the New York Times launched a redesign to facilitate more native advertising, Tom Foremski, a media commentator, said: “Native advertising is the world’s worst idea and I can’t believe the New York Times management is so gullible and clueless in agreeing to its publication.”

He joins an authoritative cast of native advertising skeptics. Another, Bob Garfield, described native advertising to the Federal Trade Commission as something akin to bat poo. Even Barclays Capital believes the practice peaked in 2012 and will shrink to a less than $500 million market by 2017.

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Content Marketing Fortnight VI: Drew Barrymore A Content Marketer?

What’s happening (that’s important) in the world of content marketing? This is your fortnightly round-up of the best of the best stuff online for marketers who think about content; for the previous “Fortnights”, go to the bottom of the post. (And for more information about what the Content Marketing Fortnight is, see my intro from the first one. Get this curated newsletter in your inbox every other week – send me a mail.)

"Lost Content" a new frontier
Many content marketers (OK, all content marketers) struggle to budget and produce all of the content that they wish they could. Mark Carroll of TMW makes a compelling case for an overlooked bounty: Archived and making-of content that’s sitting on many companies' servers; he calls it Lost Content. His deck:

Let Google+ distribute your content
Content advertising’s time has come when Google’s adopted it. Now Google plans to allow brands to take content (say an image) from their brand Google+ page and package it up into ads across their display network. It’s a simple, off-the-shelf content advertising play, backed by Google’s huge digital reach. Will this enliven Google’s morose social product? For marketers, maybe. For users, maybe not.

PR Industry PRs content marketing

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Native Advertising: Worth Pursuing

Forrester analysts are encouraged to “make the call” and here’s a call that is sure to invite some heated disagreement (native advertising has a way of doing that).

Today my report about native advertising came out and, if I had to bottle up the recommendation of the entire report in a two-word slogan, this would be it: Worth pursuing. That’s not “pour all your advertising dollars into it”, “go hog wild!” or any variant on that theme. By “worth pursuing”, I would say that it: a) is a very imperfect tactic, b) holds great promise, and c) requires some experience to get right.

(First of all, if you’re not sure what native advertising is, quickly go here [definition] or here [examples]).

Let’s start by assessing the promise of native advertising. What’s so great about it?

From a marketer’s perspective, the opportunity to go from a position “next to the show”, “interrupting the show” or “between the shows”, to “part and parcel of the show” is extraordinary. The church/state editorial wall that media outlets have trained advertisers to respect has become porous, and it’s the outlets themselves who are pounding holes in it (most recently, the New York Times). That change should not be underestimated.

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Will Native Advertising Be A Tragedy Of The Commons?

One thing can be said definitively about native advertising: It is poorly understood.

  • It’s advertising, but shouldn’t act like it (even though it should definitely be labeled as such).
  • It’s like advertorials, but also far more than that – just as media sites are more than web newspapers.
  • The media world loves it and loathes it. Bob Garfield famously compared it to islands of bird poo at an FTC workshop in December. But most publishers are ramping up their native advertising.
  • Readers say they have been misled by it, though millennial-friendly media titles like BuzzFeed, Mashable and Gawker are doing more and more of it.
  • Lastly, when a committee of the best and brightest in native advertising sat down together to define it, they settled on six different types, or categories.
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Content Marketing Fortnight V: A time for branded data, surveys, reports and playbooks

What’s happening (that’s important) in the world of content marketing? This is your fortnightly* round-up of the best of the best stuff online for marketers who think about content; for the previous “Fortnights”, go to the bottom of the post. (And for more information about what the Content Marketing Fortnight is, see my intro from the first one. Get this curated newsletter in your inbox every other week – send me a mail.)

IAB publishes content marketing primer
Set up simultaneously with its native advertising task force (see below), the IAB’s content marketing task force has produced a content marketing primer. It is by no means sexy or compelling for content marketing practitioners, but it does give them a succinct, 6-page tool to explain the basics of content marketing (as well as a tacit endorsement from the IAB) for stakeholders.

IAB drops native advertising playbook same day as FTC workshop

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Content Marketing Fortnight IV: Some content marketing insecurity

What's happening (that's important) in the world of content marketing? This is your fortnightly round-up of the best of the best stuff online for marketers who think about content; for the previous "Fortnights", go to the bottom of the post. (And for more information about what the Content Marketing Fortnight is, see my intro from the first one. Get this curated newsletter in your inbox every other week? Send me a mail.)

Stealing content is in fact a crime
Blogger Mark Schaefer caught Verizon brazenly stealing his content (reprinting in full with no attribution, compensation or permission). It’s one of only instances of content theft he’s seen. Go ahead and curate content, but – by all means – attribute the source and don’t plagiarize it.

Content distribution space gets reaffirmation
OneSpot announced a recent $5+ million funding round to fund its mission to help businesses with a real, and common, problem: Getting their content in front of prospective customers. This is just the latest harbinger of a growing market for content distribution. Watch this space.

B2B buyers actually have emotions

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Rise of the Content Distribution Space

This morning’s announcement by OneSpot – a company that helps marketers place their content in front of relevant buyers through display advertising – of series A financing to the tune of $5.3 million may pale next to recent multibillion IPOs and valuations, but it says a lot about a new space opening up: content distribution.

While OneSpot and Resonance HQ (which offers a similar service) drive content engagement through banner ads, native advertising or sponsored content puts branded content straight into digital publishers’ editorial mix (often with “sponsored by” or “sponsor content” next to it). Vendors like Outbrain, Taboola, AdBlade, Sharethrough, LinkSmart, Nativo, Media Voice and AdsNative are vying for a $2 billion per year native advertising market that’s growing by as much as 20% year on year.

Add to this the plays by Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter that allow marketers to purchase visibility for their content in certain users’ timelines. For both Facebook and twitter, this is their only source of revenue for a growing proportion of mobile users, and it looks like Wall Street may be rewarding them for this mobile-driven success.

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