Advertising constantly evolves according to the avenues available to the industry. From the mid-nineteenth century until the first decades of the 20th century, advertising was either on the product, at the point of sale, on external signs, or in newspapers and magazines. Then came billboards, radio, cinema, and television.
It took advertisers a long time to understand and accept the benefits of advertising on the new medium of the Internet. Now, all that has changed, and advertising on the World Wide Web has exploded beyond all expectations.
According to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report for 2013, U.S. interactive advertising revenues for 2013 hit an all-time high of $42.8 billion. For the first time this exceeded TV advertising, which stood at $40 billion.
"The news that interactive has outperformed broadcast television should come as no surprise," said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. "It speaks to the power that digital screens have in reaching and engaging audiences."
The main problem for the consumer is that sites are over saturated with advertising of one form or another. Pop-ups. banners, and video-clips are powerful but intrusive, and this leads to a negative response from the consumer.
Commissioned news stories are more credible than native advertising because a level of editorial control exists with commissioned news that does not exist in native advertising.
The truth is, consumers simply do not care if a story is commissioned so long as it is well written, is factual, and tells a story. According to a recent study conducted by IAB and Edelman, 60% of consumers are more receptive to online advertising that tells a story over an ad that is trying to sell a product. For example, Brand.com is a commissioned news content platform that enables brands or individuals access to high quality content written by professional journalists who are uniquely qualified to tell their story.
The same study found that 86 percent of consumers understand that online advertising is necessary to receive free content online. Additionally, 60 percent of consumers turned out to be more open to online ads that tell a story more than those that simply sell a product.
Mike Zammuto President of Brand.com confirms that finding:"Consumers want more than just an ad. They want a story. If companies really want to connect with consumers, storytelling is key."
Brand.com is focused on high-quality storytelling on behalf of brands and does this by commissioning articles through a vast network of publishers. Its News Media Platform allows brands to launch stories directly to publishers and matches those story topics with journalists to deliver compelling, professionally crafted stories that engage and inform – and are still delivering the brand message.
It is important to distinguish between the journalistic approach of Brand.com and what is self-evidently 'sponsored content.' Joe Lazauskas wrote on the Contently website last month "Sponsored content is booming, but its clear from our survey data that brands and publishers still have a long way to go to earn readers engagement, attention, and trust."
Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, revealed that only 24 percent of readers were scrolling down on native ad content on publisher sites, compared to the 71 percent of readers who scroll on "normal content." It was a damning indictment of the quality of sponsored content at large. Poorly executed sponsored content causes damage to the brand or idea being promoted.
What is important for the consumer is that the article is 'info-torial' rather than an 'advert-orial,' meaning that the piece is informative, only making passing reference to the brand or service, as compared with the 'in-your-face' approach where every other sentence is just heavy promotion.
In any event, internet journalism is not the same as traditional newspaper journalism for a number of reasons – the time factor being one of them. Internet journalism is instant, but it still need to maintain its credibility in the eyes of the consumer. How the news site is funded is also critical. Because Brand.com supervises and edits the content it allows to be published, it is able to exert a high level of quality control. It has also developed a way for its clients to project themselves and their products in an informative and interesting way that holds consumer attention for longer.
Brand.com President, Mike Zammuto comments: "The journalism industry has been suffering in the Internet age. Consumers want their content to be free but the old subscription model doesn't work in the digital world. Instead of wishing we could go back to the 'good old days,' Brand.com has come up with a revenue generating solution by connecting clients directly with publishers."
He sums up the situation by saying:"Brand.com is helping publishers create new sources of revenue so they can continue delivering high quality journalism on the events that shape our world."
High quality journalism, and selecting the appropriate publications, is the key to the success of the Brand.com business model.