Banner advertising is dead. I realize that's an odd thing to say on a banner-ad-supported website, but it's true. HubSpot claims that you're more likely to summit Mount Everest than click on a banner ad, and while I'm fairly certain that's a made-up statistic, the underlying point is valid: Most Internet users just don't pay much attention to them. (Quick--cover your eyes and tell me what ad you saw at the top of this page.)

But while it may not be great for us, the death of the banner ad is good news for your business because there are opportunities to get the word out about your company and your product that are hugely better than anything traditional advertising in either print or online media can offer. "Native advertising," "sponsored content," or "custom content" are all different ways of describing the same thing: content a company or other organization creates to engage with potential customers. Here's why there's never been a better time to up your content marketing game.

Media companies are more open to content marketing than ever before.

That's because their traditional business model no longer works. At TheNextWeb's USA conference in New York City earlier this month, in five highly depressing minutes Edelman vice president and media guru Steve Rubel explained why many traditional media outlets are hurting. Just like everyone else, they're fighting for the scarce resource of users' attention and even Oprah isn't getting as much of it as she'd like. "Content is infinite; time and attention are finite," Rubel said.

Subscription rates are plummeting as readers turn to the online world for their news and flatly refuse to pay for it. With digital media gaining, online advertising was supposed to save these media companies from extinction, but rates for online advertising are tiny compared to print.

As a result, media companies are more open to content marketing than ever before. "Publishers now run paid content side by side with editorial content," he says.

It's easier than ever to hire professional writers.

After more than 10 years in leadership of a large professional writers' organization, I've watched as the business has evolved away from our magazine and newspaper markets of old and toward what writers call "corporate writing"--in other words creating exactly the kind of content Rubel was talking about. One journalist I know reported that a media website lowered its rates to where she could no longer afford to write for it. At the same time, it started accepting guest posts from industry experts--which the experts paid her to ghost-write for them.

You're probably already doing it.

I'm guessing you already have a blog or other content on your website, in order to get the higher ranking Google and other search engines accord to frequently refreshed content, especially if others link to it. You can look back over those blog posts, videos, images or other content to see which got the most traffic and the most comments, and which were likeliest to translate into sales.

That means you already have good data on what kind of content is most likely to engage your target customers. And putting that targeted content in front of a large audience  on a media site will do more for your business than a thousand banner ads ever could.

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Published on: Oct 30, 2013
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