One of the themes at this year's Collision conference was the continued rise of sponsored content alongside some rather overt banner ad bashing. Of particular note was the cautionary tail of publishers who put their own monetization needs over the customer experience. There's a lot that entrepreneurs can learn from these lessons; especially as not to contribute to the growing problem.
A few years ago, one publisher recognized the downside risk of annoying its audience with aggressive banner ads, pop-ups and roadblocks. Last year there was even an article about Why The Daily Beast Wants to Save Journalism Through Content Marketing. At Collision, however, we got a little more to the story.
Why The Daily Beast Pivoted Away from Banner Ads
During his panel discussion, Mike Dyer, President of The Daily Beast, explained why his publication began pivoting away from banner ads, which were, at the time, the most common currency of the publishing world.
"Creating a positive experience for our readers is the most important thing we can do. When you put your own monetization needs above your readers, you risk driving them away" he explained. "Banner ads, by their very nature, are designed to interrupt the consumption of content that the reader was there for in the first place."
Another point that was brought up on the panel was with regards to roadblocks. Why would you force your readers to "pay a toll" before they can access the very content they came to consume?
"If we don't change the nature of the experience, we're simply going to drive our readers away" says Mr. Dyer. "Facebook's Instant Articles is already providing an alternative to the rest of the publishing world. If publishers annoy their audience, their audience will simply get their news another way."
Content Marketing as a Viable Alternative to Banner Ads
So a few years ago, Mike Dyer and his team at The Daily Beast sat down and looked at viable alternatives to banner ads. Content Marketing, also referred to as native advertising, seemed to fit the needs of its readers, its advertisers and their own revenue growth requirements.
"Content Marketing, when done well, adds value to the reader's experience", Mr. Dyer explains. "We can see that by judging its success the same way we judge editorial content's success: is it connecting with readers' natural interests. On average, our stories by and for brands perform as well as our editorial."
Even if you could, when is the last time you were so impressed with a banner ad that you shared it via social media? That's the power of sponsored content. When you add real value to your customers, they share that content with their peers. This further increases the impact of your message.
"When it comes to content marketing, shares stand out among all the engagement metrics we track," explains Mr. Dyer. "When someone shares a piece of content marketing, they are essentially endorsing what has been created and that's powerful."
Agreed. As an entrepreneur, you're constantly looking for ways to get your message into the hands of your customers. If you're currently spending money on banner ads, I highly encourage you to think twice and consider the 3 exponentially better alternatives to banner advertising.