...Ad-supported journalism is being consumed in record quantities, but those of us who manage media companies face a stark reality: Traditional advertising dollars in print and broadcast become dimes on the full-scale web, and they tend to disappear entirely on mobile devices. Alternative revenue models, then, are key to success, but only if they follow ethics guidelines that protect media outlets from losing credibility with readers.
Sponsored content, as it is now being published on the full-scale and mobile web, differs from old-fashioned print advertorial in significant ways. The biggest departure is that, rather than passively receiving and publishing advertorial copy from ad agencies, media outlets are more often partnering with brands to create custom-content “native advertising” campaigns that resonate with readers who fit the publication’s demographic profile.
BuzzFeed, for instance, employs a large staff to craft brand-marketing pieces that readers will share with friends via Facebook and other social networks. One such recent post, “11 Things No One Wants To See You Instagram,” quickly drew 330,000 views on behalf of advertiser Virgin Mobile, the Wall Street Journal reported. Similarly, Forbes Media created a Forbes BrandVoice program through which brands can submit paid articles to the Forbes website. “The advertiser-sponsored copy appears in the same style and format as articles contributed by Forbes writers and editors,” New York Post media columnist Keith J. Kelly reported in November. (The BrandVoice connection is noted at the top of posts.)
This is a Wild West moment for sponsored content...