It seems that some of the most powerful newsrooms in the world are turning to branded content in order to keep their businesses alive. (Link – paywall)
As a former journalist, it doesn’t surprise me that publishers are going down this route. In fact, it could be an overdue move.
Of course, it is not an easy undertaking. Ad revenue from branded content, while growing, is still relatively small. To grow this pie would require concerted effort, persistence, a willingness to make mistakes and the resources to iterate over and over until you come up with a winning product. Followed by more innovation and disruption. Rinse and repeat.
Publishing executives acknowledge that building large, profitable branded-content businesses won’t be easy. The most compelling products—deeply reported, interactive ads that tell stories—can be labor intensive, and some require sophisticated video production. Also, these businesses compete with a plethora of digital media companies such as Vice Media and BuzzFeed that have placed branded content at the center of their business models.
“Advertisers don’t need publishers’ audiences the way they used to; they can get that anywhere,” said [Sebastian Tomich, the Times’ vice president of advertising and innovation].
So we are up against stiff competition, and we are late into the game. Plus, our once-vaunted trump card of being able to command a loyal, affluent, educated readership is no longer as important. This puts us in a disadvantageous position, one which is made worse if the powers that be are not sufficiently decisive in allocating resources to developing branded content.
However, being a latecomer has its advantages too – you can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid costly misjudgments or errors. Ad agencies are in some ways our forerunners, and it will benefit us to reflect on the ways in which we can add value to our clients in ways they can’t. Simply put, what can we offer that ad agencies can’t?
If we want to remain relevant, we need to embrace change and jump in feet first.