There has been a lot of noise about the increased use of ad blocking software coming from the advertising industry lately. I find it quite annoying that the industry responsible for their own downfall is blaming programmers for creating the software we need to get rid of their mess.
It seems that belatedly, even the ad industry is realising their mistake. Read this piece from iab.com if you have a moment. It?s reassuringly frank in admitting that the advertising industry are the architects of their own misfortune. While refreshing, it isn?t what we want. We want change.
The use of ad blockers does present a problem to website owners. Without ad revenue, how do you make enough money to keep going? Smaller websites are okay as costs are negligible as long as you write your own content or get it from Coastal Content. Larger sites might not be so lucky.
One of the answers is likely to be the increased use of sponsored content. I think this is a good idea as long as it is implemented correctly. Content that offers value to the reader is already a central part of content marketing, so combining advertising with valuable content is a logical step.
We are beginning to see this more and more across the internet already. You will see:
Sponsored by ? Usually content produced by or paid to be produced by the sponsor. It may or may not cover the themes dictated by the sponsor. What it should always do is adhere to the standards of the host site.
Brought to you by ? This is usually content produced by the sponsor and simply published on the website. It will still have to conform to standards but may not reflect the opinions of the host site.
Supported by ? This is content that the host site wants to produce and a sponsor has provided the funds to do it. Editorially, this will be in line with the host sites own standards but also in line with the sponsors core values.
Risks of sponsored content
There are a couple of perceived risks associated with sponsored content. Many brands and website owners said they were concerned about maintaining editorial integrity, quality and trust. They think adding sponsored content could affect all those things if not done very carefully.
The other risk of sponsored content is the relative immaturity of the medium. Not a lot of people know who to implement it, how to write it, price it or even promote it. Websites don?t always know how to handle it either.
Getting it right
There are I think, three important elements to get right if you are to benefit from sponsored content. You need to make the fact that it is sponsored very clear to the reader. You need to ensure it meets editorial guidelines and that it offers entertainment for the audience.
Making it clear
Different websites use different methods to alert the audience that they are reading sponsored content. That can be in a banner saying as much, a different coloured border with a banner, different font, colour or other design element. As long as it is crystal clear to the reader that they are reading something slightly different, everyone wins.
Staying true to yourself
While sponsored content may offer an additional revenue stream, any website owner needs to stay true to their principles while hosting it. Maintaining quality and editorial standards is essential. Otherwise you?re impacting your core readership which only ends one way.
While marketing content at heart, sponsored content sits at the top of the sales funnel so should not be salesy at all. It should concentrate more on adding value and entertaining than selling. Much like a blog, the content needs to offer the audience as much value as possible without resorting to blatant promotion or sales.
If both content producer and host website get these three things right then everyone wins. The site gets a valuable revenue stream to replace soon to be defunct advertising. Content producers get another avenue to express themselves and brands get a truly useful way to increase visibility and trust while actually being of value to the audience.
If you need quality content that delivers on every count, Coastal Content is ready to help. Contact us today!