News companies see a financial future in brand-sponsored digital content

Boston.com | Ad Age | Forbes
More and more media organizations are declaring that content sponsored or produced by brands (the new buzzword is “native advertising”) is a major part of their future digital business models.

The Boston Globe’s Boston.com became the latest and one of the most traditional news organizations to embrace it Tuesday. Advertisers can write their own blog posts and have them show up in certain modules on the Boston.com site, labeled as a “special advertiser feature.”

One of Boston.com’s new Insights sponsored-content modules.

The program, called Insights, is aimed at a new generation of small businesses that are increasingly savvy about blogging and tweeting.

Thomas F.X. Cole, executive director-business development at Boston.com and The Boston Globe, told Ad Age’s Nat Ives: “Our advertisers and particularly our smaller advertisers have been creating their own content. They need to get it exposed. As much as 50% of small businesses are blogging. The one thing they want is to have people see their material.”

Rob O’Regan recently documented how the sponsored content trend is spreading. It includes publishers like Forbes, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic and Atlantic Media’s new business site Quartz.

Others high on the sponsored content trend are Gawker and the Pulse newsreader mobile app. Ad Age’s Jason Del Rey reports Pulse is bringing in $300,000 a month from sponsored content, by advertisers like T. Rowe Price and Qualcomm who pay per-read.

“The canvas is getting smaller, and brands are at their best when they are unshackled and can focus on being powerful storytellers,” Dmitry Shevelenko, Pulse’s head of monetization products, told Del Ray. “Skyscrapers, takeovers and other bombardment tactics popularized on the desktop Web are largely irrelevant on intimate devices.”

Are you willing?

Some traditional news organizations may remain skeptical. These efforts can easily go astray if they don’t live up to the journalists’ expectations (truth and transparency) or the audience’s expectations (creating real value, not just pitching a product).

But it’s time to awaken and shake off that reluctance, Forbes Chief Product Officer Lewis Dvorkin writes.

Dvorkin describes Forbes’ BrandVoice product that “treats marketers as publishers” and argues strongly:

Marketers are no longer satisfied with the 100-year-old silos that media professionals forced them into — containers intended to safeguard journalistic ‘truths’ from mighty advertisers and to protect consumers from confusion, or themselves.

… It’s part of a larger desire among savvy, big-spending marketers to be natural participants in user experiences, not intrusive or disruptive side shows within them. That’s right, cordoned off banners, boxes, buttons and video pre-rolls are not enough. Nor is just clicking. Marketers want their content read, discussed and shared — just like stories by reporters.

Earlier: Ads are out, sponsored posts are in for Twitter and Facebook | How the Obama campaign used sponsored content on BuzzFeed (Nieman Lab)

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