Sponsored content has recently come under fire from writers. Why? There’s an idea of sponsored content being lower in quality and integrity. In some cases, this is definitely true: there are companies out there that pump out slimy sales pushes. But there are also companies that provide a platform for independent, thought-provoking articles. These companies are literally paying journalists and media companies to have their own voice. It’s these pieces of sponsored content and native ad campaigns that are truly great.
Publishers are in a great position to act as consultants, in-tandem with marketers and content strategy consultants: to help brands develop high-performing media platforms. Take Forbes, for instance, whose Custom Content service helps companies create interesting, thoughtful articles. But few publishers are coming to bat. Why? Sponsored content is new, scary, and nebulous terrain.
Why Publishers are Poised to Succeed With Sponsored Content
Publishers don’t launch as instant go-to industry sources. It takes time for a media company to build a sense of trust and community with the world at large. Publishers spend years and years building up this trust: something that brands and services want to achieve at an accelerated pace.
But publishers are also mediators. You’re trained in the art of turning down hard-to-resist offers to maintain editorial integrity. In sticking true to your advice and word, you’re in a strong position to guide brands through this process too.
Publishers Have the Audience
When it comes to building an audience base, every company wants to do so from the ground up. There were some early players in the sponsored content market who did a great job building a subscriber base early on. But many brands missed out and now have catching up to do.
Publishers know what it takes to engage an audience and can provide helpful tips that complement your marketing and content strategy. It’s important to keep in mind that publishers offer one perspective, however, and there will be a need to balance these strategies with other types of content marketing approaches. But publishers play a key role in providing creative direction.
Publishers Have Distribution Channels
Publishers are present across platforms and have a reach that outpaces any brand audience. Sponsored content creators need vehicles to carry their messages far, and publishers have the distribution channels to do exactly that.
Your social media and email newsletter presence will be of strong interest to sponsored content creators. Why not partner up? Marketing leaders are hungry for distribution opportunities—which are extremely tough to create from scratch or find through an advertising network.
Publishers Have Research Capabilities
If it’s one thing that marketers need, it’s a platform for customer research. Data is becoming an increasingly important part in the targeting dialogue, and brands need an independent platform to collect it.
Given that you have an audience--an asset to so many companies--you’re in a great position to conduct surveys, implement site tracking, and conduct formal research.
The key to getting started here is to figure out what companies feel like they’re missing. See how you, with your audience and visitor browsing data, can offer value in the form of licensed data.
How to Get Started With Sponsored Content
You already have the resources that you need to get started: ad inventory, a process for developing content, and ways to drive traffic. Why not gauge interest from your existing advertisers and partners? Start by hopping on a client call to discuss the following:
Your advertiser’s goals
Your advertiser’s current interest levels in sponsored content
Your advertiser’s thoughts about optimization
Your advertiser’s past experiences with content programs
After going through this process, pitch your advertiser with an irresistible offer. Create a sponsored content program that helps them reach their goals. It’s that simple, and you likely already have what you need to launch, should a deal come through.
Putting The Pen to Paper
The secret to success with sponsored content is no secret at all. It’s actually a simple formula: have an engaged audience and connect them with valuable information from brands that want to reach them. Create a user experience that is natural, and a value proposition that is strong for both sides. As a publisher, you’re a connector. Embrace the role, and help all parties in your ecosystem succeed.
Originally published Nov 5, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017