A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged native advertising

Jessica Davies:

BuzzFeed’s shift to video is taking hold in its U.K. operations. The digital media company is doubling the size of its London office so it can house two new studios with a particular focus on sponsor video.

The goal: to bring all video production made on behalf of U.K. advertisers in-house.

So, it’s all ads rather than editorial video – but it’s a telling sign of how important video is becoming to monetising content. And another step in Buzzfeed’s shift towards video.

Cedric Ingrand


  • Ben Huh, Cheezburger
  • Michael J. Wolf, Activate
  • Frédéric Filloux, Groupe Les Echos
  • Host: Cedric Ingrand, Podcaster & resident geek at LCI/TF1

The revenue challenge

Frederic Filloux

Frédéric Filloux: This will be the first year in six years we make a profit. The overall circulation of the title will be the highest for 10 years, with digital being 25% of that. The readership is shifting, though. It went from print to the web, and now from the web to mobile. Mobile is 30% of the readership now, and they expect it to be 50% by the end of the year. Right now they need two digital subscribers to compensate for one print subscriber loss.

Michael Wolf: Everyone is watching more video. The major providers are finding new outlets for that. Shows won’t just be on TV, they’ll be on Netflix and Amazon streaming, They’re finding new places.

Ben Huh: Old media has a very difficult constraint – it needs revenue to survive. For us, revenue just extends our runway. It gives us more time to experiment with new formats.

MW: It’s not about investment – it’s about the user. Frozen is the fifth highest motion picture ever. Someone like Katy Perry still draws a tremendous amount of interest.

BH: Newspapers still sell advertising better than us. Rates from older media are significantly larger than from new media.

FF: the split between high audience, low yield media and the low audience, high yield media has never been greater. But these new businesses are valued far higher than traditional businesses.

MW: Mobile gives readers more opportunities to look for news. People are looking at weather, Facebook, news…

FF: But the revenue for mobile is going to be only 20% of the web. The deflation keeps going.
Michael Wolf

MW: I don’t think we can say that yet. the monetisation platforms are still new and aren’t very good – they’re just adapted from the web. The word “monetise” is way over-used. It makes it sound like we’re exploiting readers. Old media have no manifest destiny to continue making as much money as they did. Just a few years ago there was a belief that people wouldn’t pay for content on the internet – and now they’re paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime. It doesn’t have to be about advertising.

BH: Some consumers buy magazines for the advertising. We don’t have an equivalent.

New advertising formats

FF: Native advertising doesn’t have to be bad. My blog is republished by Quartz, and that’s funded by native advertising. But they set rules and have the staff to help produce it well. We’ll see more corporate journalism, and they’ll hire from the newsrooms. Yes, there’s a danger that there’s a confusion between the two types of content – but a powerful editor will solve that problem quickly.

MW: We’re in an area where people are still experimenting. We don’t know what will work – look at how many people will watch a movie trailer. Look at the Star Wars teaser, and how much that’s been watched.

Ben Huh and Michael Wold

BH: And that’s not counting the parodies.

MW: it’s amazing how quickly someone recreated it from Lego. You see so many of these.

BH: We hear about that startups that take off like rockets – we don’t hear about the ones that end up as smoking ruins.

The platform problem

MW: Soundcloud is an amazing, amazing vehicle. But very few artists have broken out – nothing is getting in the way. The conceit was that music companies were holding them back; that doesn’t appear to be the case.

FF: This is part of the mirage of digital. We thought we might regain the direct relationship with our customer. We though we might pinpoint our readers directly – but now new intermediaries emerge. Facebook is the main one. Buzzfeed depends on it for 75% of its traffic – that’s dangerous, because it’s such a temperamental company. Only 16% of the FT’s page followers see their content.

MW: Facebook is a cruel mistress. A change in the algorithm meant that worthy’s traffic fell way down.

FF: The new intermediaries are interesting – the deals that Evernote are striking are intriguing. AirBnB could be a distributer of local content.

MK: More distributors is better for us. We have people fighting over content – that means more money.

The democratic deficit

FF: We’ll see fewer and fewer people paying for news: the educated and the old. It’ll be a problem for democracy, because most people will be ill-informed.

MK: I’m not sure that’s true. Business Insider gets millions of views on its long form content.

FF: That’s just a tiny part of their content, though…

So, this happened while I was away:

Yes, we need new sources of income in digital. But I’m deeply unconvinced that “native” advertising is the future. We’re essentially running a huge experiment to see if the old view – that compromising editorial values with paid content would erode the trust of the reader, and eventually destroy the relationship the advertising was paying to access – was accurate.

The problem for the companies doing this is that, if the old view is correct and they’ve just destroyed a relationship, it’s almost impossible to get back from there.


Copyranter on Buzzfeed’s flavour of native advertising:

In an interview with Wired last February, Peretti spouted about how they “label everything really maniacally” (How does one label an ad post maniacally? Maybe a starburst?), and that they “take church and state really seriously”—meaning the separation of editorial content from advertising content. But looking at BuzzFeed’s daily layout, it’s obvious that they’re praying to God you don’t notice that their ads are in fact yucky ads. It is purposely deceptive. And it is anti-Bernbach, and anti-creative.

“anti-Bernbach”? To Wikipedia:

William (Bill) Bernbach (August 13, 1911 – October 2, 1982) was an American advertising creative director. He was one of the three founders in 1949 of the international advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). He directed many of the firm’s breakthrough ad campaigns and had a lasting impact on the creative team structures now commonly used by ad agencies.

Ah-ha. And the specific quote referenced:

“If nobody notices your ad, everything else is academic.”

I suspect like many journalists of my generation or older, I’m deeply ambivalent about native advertising. On the one hand, it violates everything about the clear distinction between advertising and editorial that was drummed into us as a necessity to maintain editorial reputation. On the other hand, it seems to be working.

If it ceases working, that would allow us to retake the moral high-ground rather happily…

I commend the whole piece to you, if you’re interested in the monetisation of online media, as it argues that native advertising has a limited lifespan from the advertising perspective:

The kicker is: BuzzFeed’s native advertising is really—ultimately—terrible for brands. But it’s great for BuzzFeed. And this giddy circle jerk underway between media sites desperate for revenue and misguided advertisers desperate to feel instant gratification, continues.

[Via Rory Brown.]

Mumsnet charges you to provide them with content

I’m sorry, Mumsnet charges writers and actors or their publishers and producers for the privilege of providing content for its website? I shouldn’t have been shocked. The logical next step after asking writers to write for nothing because they get valuable ‘exposure’ is to demand that they pay for their valuable exposure.

This story of how a writer discovered that one of the UK’s biggest websites is blurring the line between editorial and commercial content so thoughrly that there is, essentially, no difference is eye-opening:

I have to say that when I visited her site it was not immediately clear to me what features Mumsnet was puffing because writers or publishers had paid Roberts to puff. Even if Mumsnet openly admitted that it was promoting a film or book, not because they thought it was worthwhile, but because Roberts had been paid to promote it, a deeper problem would remain. If it gives prominence to people who can afford to work for nothing or to pay for space, it will deny prominence to those who cannot. If others follow suit, and I am sure they will, writing in Britain will become a self-indulgent racket run by and for the wealthy.

There are some parts of traditional media’s working practices that deserve to die in the digital transition. Its sense of ethics around paid, commercial content is most certainly not one of them.

UPDATE: That said, is it as bad as that?

Here’s Mumsnet’s response:

I’m struggling to see how you can accurately and fairly headline your piece as Mumsnet Racketeers? What kind of illegal business is going on here? We didn’t offer you a fee to have an online chat with our users (who don’t pay to come on the site). I don’t remember the Spectator or Guardian ever offering to pay me for an interview. It’s a hugely misleading, horribly unfair and damaging headline – plus it’s being retweeted everywhere by outraged journalists believing we are charging our online interviewees. Would you have another look at it, please?

You can read the whole thing in this thread about the original article.

[Thanks to Rev Stan for the heads-up on this one, and Ciaran for the comment about the response]