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May 29, 2019

Using Content Instead Of Advertising To Deliver Audiences

by: Jaffer Ali

"It used to be the Web's only real killer app was communications - email. But these days people use the Internet for content consumption more than anything else."
--Business Insider

Some people whisper under their breath. Others like Bob Garfield of Ad Age scream from the top of their lungs. But most choose to stick their heads in the sand when the topic arises. What is this subject that dare not speak its name?

The advertising model is broken across all media.

Is this really a controversial declaration? Not from where I sit it isn't. Newspapers are in free fall. So much so that legislation will soon come before Congress to bail them out (no doubt so our "free press" can continue to promote government agendas).

TV Guide, once with a circulation of 9 million strong, now claims only 2 million per its latest rate card. In Hawaii, the NBC and CBS affiliates have merged news operations because neither could sell enough advertising to go it alone. Radio stations are convulsing under the current model.

The online advertising marketplace has beaten an inexorable path from 5% click thru rates in 1997, to near zero today. According to comSCORE, CTRs have declined to less than .1% (statistical zero). Results are so miserable that the digital metric cognoscenti are developing new ways to measure what isn't there; news ways to describe the naked emperor's wardrobe.

Audiences are avoiding advertising with increasing frequency. We have equipped ourselves with the tools to avoid ads at almost any cost, and so that's exactly what we do. Add the fact that what passes for advertising today has become more an exercise in stalking consumers than romancing them, and you have a model that begs for an overhaul.

Gadgets2We all recognize that we live in an "on-demand" world. The painful verdict is obvious; nobody is demanding more advertising. Present advertising methods are no longer effective in delivering messages. Once upon a time, advertising effectively stood between audiences and brands. Ads were the intermediaries...the carrier waves if you will.

And yet if we scan the horizon, we see a new dawn in which content replaces advertising as the only logical way to both attract and deliver the audience.

What do I mean? Consider the fact we don't avoid content like we avoid advertising. In fact, we search for it. We want it. We demand it! We have now reached the point where content can build and deliver huge online audiences.

But deliver them where, you ask? To the only place where advertisers can truly control the exposure and performance of their own brands: on their own sites. In the current advertising-as-intermediary model, advertisers rent space on someone else's site, adjacent to someone else's content. But it simply doesn't work anymore. The same content that attracts consumers to a publisher's website can be negotiated to appear directly on an advertiser's website, with far better results and far less risk for advertisers and publishers alike. People just don't care where they consume media as long as they get what they want. Presently, most media consumption occurs on publishers' sites with fewer and fewer actual visits to advertisers.

This has led to an unhealthy, inefficient ecosystem. There are exceptions, however. Drudge, for one, gets about 7-9 billion visits a year, yet few stories are viewed on his site. That's because Drudge knows that his visitors don't care where they get their content fix. They want the content and if it means clicking through to Newsmax, Breitbart, NY Times, or USA Today to get it, they will...and they do!

But now let's take matters a logical step further. Imagine for example that you see a link on Drudge to a Sports Illustrated article on Tiger Woods. You click on the link and find yourself transported to where your chosen article awaits you. Does it make the article any less appealing, or is it simply a higher, wiser, and healthier use of the media ecosystem? Ask any advertiser and they will tell you that they would gladly pay more for content and visitor bundled together.

In this scenario, content providers would get a small royalty for product consumed on an advertisers' site...regardless of where the click emanates and/or who sent the visitor to the advertiser. Content networks would replace ad networks, with publishers appropriately compensated as content intermediaries. Content demos, not site demos, would determine audience compatibility, just they did (and still do) back in the good old days of sponsored content on radio and TV.

Such a paradigm shift will require publishers and advertisers to adjust their thinking accordingly. Publishers need to see the wisdom in giving up their traffic (because that's what ad-supported media is all about), and advertisers need to know how to engage that new-found traffic once it arrives.

The bottom line: Advertisers need to become destinations. What better place for an advertiser to romance and engage a prospective customer than within the exclusive confines of its own branded surroundings? In so doing, advertisers become media curators. Likewise, publishers need to serve up great content but also be prepared to serve up their traffic for the media food chain to come full circle. By bundling content and visitor together, and sending them both to a paying advertiser, everybody can make money.

Advertisers will pay more for content when it is bundled with a real person who wants to read an article or view a video. Then it's up to the advertiser to construct a welcoming environment to buy that further engages the visitor.

The Internet is nonlinear and the time has come for content creators, advertisers, and those who aggregate content (publisher sites) to send traffic where it can bring the highest ROI. Once we understand that audiences care more about what they see and read than where they see or read it, content will replace advertising as the intermediary in delivering the right audience to the right place every time.

Original Article: Using Content Instead Of Advertising To Deliver Audiences