Consumers trust “articles from credible journalists” more than branded content and user reviews when making purchase decisions, a study released today says. Nielsen conducted the study, which was commissioned by a company called inPowered.
It’s important to stipulate up front that inPowered is a business that “distributes content like an ad,” as Robb Henshaw, inPowered’s head of communications, explained to Poynter in a phone call. As David Taintor described inPowered’s ads last year, the company places “a snapshot of an article about that product—and it links to an actual story, not ad copy.”
Nielsen asked 900 people to view “expert content” (stuff written by journalists), branded content and user reviews, then asked them how it might influence their purchasing decisions. For videogames and car seats, user reviews were more likely to influence a purchase. People found branded content most persuasive when deciding to purchase cameras — product specs are a big factor there, Henshaw said. But for most other products Nielsen tested, including cars, TVs, dryers, and smartphones, expert content provided the highest “lift” in terms of purchasing decisions before and after exposure.
The research firm chose the content it exposed people to, Henshaw said. “We didn’t want to color Nielsen’s research.” In addition to placing ads, inPowered also works as a recommendation service for anyone looking for content — it ranks journalists by their expertise (no, you can’t see your rank; “we don’t want to turn this into a Klout-type contest,” he said).
If someone clicks through to an article from an inPowered ad, they eventually see a pop-up asking if the story was helpful. Taintor wrote that “it’s easy enough to imagine journalists being none too pleased that their stories are getting sucked into ads that are used to promote brands,” but Henshaw insisted “we don’t want to steal the traffic or the clicks,” saying the company hopes to develop a “virtuous cycle.”