A few weeks ago, I received an email from a major media publishing company, asking if I would write branded content native advertising. The first thing I did was to look up a definition of branded content and native advertising online. There is mention of BuzzFeed starting this phenomena and then the major publishers such as the New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. In these cases the advertiser and the publication work together to create content about the advertiser.
I understand why this happened, I have been a publisher since 2007 and have over two decades of experience writing. The trend has been for people to increasingly read content on devices in which you cannot see the advertisements and it is difficult to click on the ads. On top of that, there is a trend for search engines like Google to not even send searchers to content that has too much advertising on it. Ad blocking software can remove ads from the web reading audience completely.
Advertising = Survival
Publishers need advertising to survive. When I launched Wireless and News in 2007, it didn’t take very long to net enough advertising to pay for my expenses, pay for my writers and make a small profit from advertising.
Back in 2007, only 25% of the population have smartphones. We are close to 90% of the population with smartphones, who are consuming media on a small screens that cannot show ads very well and that are used as a way to get the little bits of information.
Google Eats Up Content Propagates Content Farms
In the meantime, to feed the giant “Google Machine” publishers started doing things to cut down on the time it takes to write articles. For example, the get on the top of Google search results, in 2009 I interviewed Shawn Colo at Demand Media. He and investors created a giant content machine that spit out content just to get visitors from Google. Writers were paid a pittance. I don’t blame the writers who to save time, looked up other things on the internet and then re-purposed the content. Many small and medium publishers complained that their content was being stolen.
Colo said that the most popular content was “How to Tie Your Tie” and “How to Write a Check” things that people looked up often for simple things.
In the meantime, there were complaints about the content farms like Demand Media. Therefore, Google decided to wipe out all the re-purposed content with no regard for the original content that it was derived from.
Update Kills and Baffles Small Publishers
In fact, Google got so confused after the Google Panda update it could not tell the difference between the original source and stolen content.
In 2011, when Wireless Mobile news was hit by the Google Panda update, we found that article in which we created new words that did not exist before would rank lower on Google than stolen content from rogue websites who stole the content completely. The saddest of all the stolen content was my article I wrote about my dear friends Jean and Scott Adam who were captured and killed by Somali pirates.Wireless Mobile News would normally not cover the tragic death of the Americans who give out Bibles all over the world, except I used to work for Scott and I advised Jean on how to create web pages. To my surprise, after a wrote a wish and then a prayer for them. when people searched on Google they found Google sent them to the stolen website content. That website on search results still rank higher than the original content that I wrote as a eulogy for my friends .
Below is a result from early 2012.
Original Content Rules Ads Suck Life Out of Web
In the following years, Google adjusted the algorithm to such an extent that derivative content would be very low on its search results. It’s ranking system has made it almost impossible for small publishers to survive. In fact, my research shows that an article has to 80% original to survive on the web.
In the early days of Google News, there was actually a category for new sources that used news releases. News releases are put out by a company to make the reporters life easier and gives you the information these are usually well written and for reporters who are trying to steal out not one not two but five articles a day makes our lives easier.
So what has happened in many “news sites” is that because it takes a long time to interview people and it’s a lot of work to take three or four interviews shuffle them into a stunning article that covers an expansive topic, we have what I call news feed upchuck. The “authors” or robots take a bunch of material from the web without any attribution and spits it out as the truth.
What is news feed upchuck ? Articles that we have no idea what the sources are because it’s been sourced from source from source from source. The source of the information is not mentioned at all.
Those of us who have survived in the news field, know that interviewing experts about breaking technology and using tried-and-true investigative reporting techniques can bring up something absolutely original.
I am pleased that I am being paid for native advertising branded content for a national newspaper group. The way it will work is that local sales staff at the newspapers will have evergreen feature articles that they can sell to local advertisers. The article will be branded by that local advertiser. The local advertiser will not change the quotes from the experts .
So what is this like? I was watching one of these ancient TV stations that airs TV shows from the past. What’s My Line? was sponsored by Remington shavers. There’s a giant Remington razor sign on panelists’ desk. When the show opens, the announcer says sponsored by Remington Shaver. The show is just as entertaining as any other show except in the beginning they say sponsored by Remington Shavers.
That sponsorship trend in television changed over time as advertising got more and more expensive, the television shows did not have major sponsors whose name was mentioned throughout the show. In recent years, shows like Jimmy Kimmel sold advertising to segments of the show for instance Sony would sponsor the band that played at the end of the show and Jimmy Kimmel also did a live mention and commercial for the Xperia tablet.
When I wrote the native advertising articles for the newspaper network, I contacted industry experts who gave me original ideas that I was able to make totally original articles with new ideas that are entertaining, informative and instructive
Newspapers have been having a tough time surviving with reduced prices and for advertising and competition. They are giving a huge percentage of their ad revenue to search engines, making it even harder to survive. It is my hope that by providing content that is original and involves interviews with experts written in a style that gives people more information that it will help media outlets create new stories that will last.
Because I interviewed nine experts for the GET Creative articles it put me in the loop to use some of the quotes in an article I was commissioned to write for Informa Connected Cars.
Informa recently bought Penton Media that owns many B2B publications and trade shows such as Wards Auto and TU-Automotive
While interviewing people for Connected Cars, I found some information that was not in the news releases such as the accuracy rate of a new autonomous car platform for autonomous cars. I also found a trend in the automotive industry called “prognostics.” Prognostics are very important to autonomous vehicles and ADAS. I contacted many sources then I was able to put all the quotes together to do a comprehensive deep feature article.
Another thing that came out, while I was interviewing experts, Dave Zuby from IIHS mentioned that consumers should look for pedestrian detection in the future. That puts up a red flag. I called IIHS and I found out that they will not say anything but they are considering in the future to rate pedestrian detection.
There have been some companies that do not want to participate in my interviews because they are afraid that they will be held in the wrong light. I believe if the writing and content are excellent then the reader doesn’t care if it was sponsored. The articles I wrote don’t direct the reader towards the brand and are about interesting topics. They therefore put the sponsor in a good light.
Branded content is nothing new. When I saw old versions of What’s My Line and there’s a giant Remington shaver on the table in front of the panel. I didn’t think of it as less entertaining, less important or less informative– it is just the way they were being sponsored. Back in those days to be able to pay for the TV cameras and to pay for those beautiful dresses, makeup and the video tape that had branded content.