Publishers and Advertisers: The Give-And- Take Is Over

Publishers and advertisers have traditionally had a symbiotic relationship. Advertisers rely on the quality content of publishers to bring views to their ads, and publishers rely on the money from advertisers to continue creating that quality content. There’s been a continuing debate over which party relies on the other the most. Advertisers say the publishers need ads and publishers say that advertisers need distribution. In today’s digital world, however, this give-and- take relationship just won’t work. The internet, ad blocking, and social media have completely changed what the “strengths” of publishers and advertisers are, and their relationship must adapt accordingly. In order to attract and maintain readers and customers, publishers and advertisers must work together to create content that provides a truly unique experience.

Sponsored Content: The First Step

In response to the sharp increase in ad blocking that has occurred over the past year, publishers are building out their sponsored content offerings, and the effort has seen significant success. Branded content is now included in 50% of CNN’s international ad deals, and large publishers like the Washington Post have whole internal agencies dedicated to producing sponsored content. This is the first step that publishers and advertisers have taken, and it’s a big one. The lines of communication are open and the results are more unique experiences.

Contextual Ads: The Next Step

Sponsored content, such as Netflix’s pieces promoting its original programming, has been very successful. However, it has also begun to alienate a growing number of readers, who say they’re either confused by or don’t trust native advertising. To combat this, publishers and advertisers need to continue to work together to create promotional experiences that are so unique and engaging that people don’t care that they’re promotional. These experiences are achieved through contextual advertising, or unique ad formats that fit within themes of existing editorial content, but offer a wholly original experience. The best example is Snapchat’s sponsored filters, which offer brands the ability to purchase unique filters on the popular social platform, often for big bucks. Brands can’t just slap a logo on Snapchat users’ screens and expect it to be effective; they have to work with Snapchat to create fun and interesting filters that users want to engage with.

Publishers can work with advertisers to take a similar approach. Publishers know what their readers want, what kind of content they enjoy, and what kind of experiences they engage with. They can use this information to help advertisers tap creative ad formats that are more likely to encourage engagement with the customer. Disney’s Zootopia employed incredibly original and wacky digital marketing, which helped the movie become one of the biggest box office successes of the year so far, showing that when you innovate the ad experience, people respond. If publishers and advertisers can work together to build a unique and engaging promotional experience, people will be more likely to favorably visit the publisher and become more loyal to the brand being advertised.

Distribution: The Most Important Step

Social media has had a rather significant impact on how publishers distribute content – to say the least. A whopping 62% of people get their news through social media, and Facebook wants publishers to directly push content to its platform. The problem here is that it takes the focus away from a publisher’s site, which is bad news for both publishers and advertisers because it inserts another toll-taker into the equation. But, if publishers and advertisers work together to craft original experiences, readers will want to visit the publisher instead of just reading its content through social media headlines. A great way to do this is by constructing custom, interactive ad units that encourage constant engagement and play to the psychological appeal of gamification. By creating promotional content that leaves users with a sense of fulfillment, they’ll actively want to come back. This way, publishers can offer readers an experience that they can’t have over social media, increasing loyalty as well as site traffic. Make the ad experience part of the overall content experience.

Reader behavior is changing the role of publishers and advertisers, and they both need to be willing to adapt if either has a chance of thriving in the digital world. If you want more value, you have to offer the readers more value, and this can only be done when publishers and advertisers work together to create unique content that leaves readers wanting more even though they know they just experienced an advertisement. By doing this, publishers and advertisers can both control their destinies.