With declines in traditional advertising, many publishers have turned to sponsored content — also called native advertising — to make up lost ad revenue. Sponsored content — articles, podcasts, and videos that appear similar to surrounding content — used to have a bad name as it seemed to blur the lines between editorial and advertising. But these days, sponsored content is becoming a lucrative revenue stream. According to The New York Times, “The Atlantic expects three-quarters of its digital ad revenue to come from sponsored content this year” and BuzzFeed is also built around the sponsored content model. However, publishers looking to adopt similar models must do it right.
Quality is key. Sponsored content must provide valuable benefits to readers without being self-promotional. Develop editorial guidelines for sponsored content to outline quality requirements as well as other do’s and don’ts. Readers tune out content that’s too promotional and, therefore, media buyers are often disappointed when publishers can’t deliver the promised traffic.
Sponsored content needs four components. It should
- benefit readers. It needs to provide quality entertainment or valuable information.
- be written in-house by professionals or freelancers. This means high-quality, highly researched content.
- be part of a promotional package. Promote the content by mentioning it in a newsletter and on social media. Use the content to capture email addresses for lead generation. Don’t forget to use “no follow” links to avoid Google wrath.
- be transparent and labeled as sponsored content. Maintaining good ethics is important.
Your advantage to advertisers is your audience’s trust in your brand. An audience that trusts the publication will likely trust the branded content and, therefore, the brand.
Digital is an effective complement to print sponsored content. The ease of linking back to sponsors, using push notifications, encouraging impulse buying, and allowing social sharing makes digital a better traffic-producing vehicle. Digital can also provide better analytics.
Sponsored content is a key strategy in the face of falling traditional ad revenues. It’s an important tool in your arsenal, and — when you do it right — can contribute significantly to your digital and print revenue.
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