Advertising agencies for years have been running advertorials in traditional print media to advertise a wide variety of brands, products and services. These are ads you usually saw in newspapers and magazines that resembled stories, articles or news features about various products/services, or events and news about brands. You might have mistaken them for the usually news or feature article but what made you figure out about them being print ads were the pictures and brand logos that made them ubiquitous.
Advertorials served a particular purpose and their innovation draws on their being similar in appearance with the usual news story you get to see in broadsheets and magazines. To the unwitting reader, the advertorial seemed like the usual story. To the more informed, it proved useful since it bore more information and was accompanied by a narrative newspaper and magazine readers are familiar with — stories with beginnings, middles and ends.
This is perhaps the same reason why web content did not have much trouble becoming familiar with consumers. It seems that the content marketing stuff we see nowadays just happen to be the technologically updated version of what advertorials were for print media. Advertorials and content have pretty much the same audience. Agencies get paid by brands ad companies to run advertorials on print media. Content strategists get paid to do the same to put marketing information on websites, as blogs, and even engage users on social media. In other words, brands and companies sponsor content that users access for information.
As online technologies bring information access to the virtual world together with its audience, traditional print media institutions are finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the velocity of data transfer. This is aggravated by the fact that owing to traditional print media’s slowpoke tech, more and more readers are switching to the real-time wonders of web browsers and info apps in mobile devices.
Social media has also upped the ante with its high entertainment value of posts, tweets and shareable viral material. This has dramatically made traditional print media and TV advertisement a beleaguered frontier in retail marketing. When you consider online tech’s compatibility with what phone systems like RingCentral (read more) can do for retail in companies, print advertising as we know it take more beatings.
Sponsored content is driving brands and new retail methods towards virtual user experiences that begin at info access and go all the way through brand communication and eventually online retail — and end up as purchases made via virtual retail systems. Companies are taking to content marketing because they have found the market to reside in the virtual world of online tech: Mobile devices, productivity, gaming and purchasing apps, wearable computers, augmented reality retail, virtual stores and the usual company website’s Contact Us page.
However, when sponsored content goes into online publications, the wariness among journalists creeps in. It is as if journalists have conveniently forgotten about all those ancient advertorials in the past. It would be helpful for journalists to rethink their position in their current state of affairs with online media by considering the following insights:
- Additional revenue for publications. Traditional print advertising is losing out to online content marketing and this is putting print media institutions on the brink of industrial irrelevance. Newspapers and magazines need can’t afford to turn a blind eye to revenue making alternatives that content marketing offers.
- The print ad isn’t as valuable anymore. Advertisers are eyeing sponsored content online as a more valuable option because display ads are continuously losing out to more dynamic forms of visual advertising offered by the web. Readers have likewise lost interest in print media display ads.
- Sponsored content can be done ethically. It is basically the same thing that advertorials did for brands and readers knew them to be ad material. Journalists could lay easy on that because no content strategist is about to tell anyone on the web that sponsored content will replace journalism.
- Audiences are the best judge of what is useful information. Consumers accessing brand info from content are the ultimate arbiters of what they might think could be useful info to them — not journalists.