Earned media versus “going native” in the age of “snack and share” news

Knowing how to earn media, and how and when to “pay to play” in this new “snack and share” mobile news model, is going to be critically important for marketers and public relations people. This week I look at how things are changing, trends and numbers, what publishers look for in terms of sharable earned media content, and what native advertising actually is, and how it is sold.

Next week I’ll get into how to pitch stories in this new environment, the role of digital influencers, and when native ads might be a good choice.

The traditional published news landscape is changing with the emergence of online only news providers. And the online news sources now have readership and reach that surpass some well-established publishers. The Daily Hive was launched in 2008 in Vancouver. It was called VanCity Buzz up until last year when US BuzzFeed entered the Canadian market, prompting a rebranding and expanded outlets beyond Vancouver to Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. The Hive has a daily audience of 250,000 and over 7.5 million monthly. The Huffington Post, launched in 2005 has the highest global readership of any online news site, but BuzzFeed, launched by Jonah Peretti, who helped start the HuffPost, is a huge challenger with 18 offices worldwide and claiming more than 200 million monthly unique visitors. Ok, you get it – online news is now big.

We are increasingly seeing shifting habits of news consumption to online as well, particularly with millennials who consume almost all (91%) of their content in mobile feeds.

All of this is happening at a time when there is less room for earned media and publicity in traditional vehicles, but endless possibilities on digital platforms. That spells both disruption and opportunity.

Traditional print media was resource intense (printed paper and physical distribution) with a cost structure supported by advertising. These days, with many advertising dollars flocking to digital, fewer ads mean smaller papers, and with that less space for free earned media coverage, traditionally the domain of PR professionals. Traditional print is not going away anytime soon, but the amount of space for earned media is going to be tighter. Digital news media have an endless supply of available space to distribute content, with no real escalating cost to distribute more. That coupled with a demographic shift seeing younger readers consume more content on mobile, and an apparent indifference to labeling what is paid content on that platform, and it’s easy to see how native advertising has grown. But the willingness to pay-to-play has also come at the loss of available space for earned on digital platforms. Remember, digital platforms have a revenue model too, albeit a slightly different one.

With all these shifts we’ve seen the emergence of a new form of paid promotion, called native advertising. Native is when the brands objective is wrapped in someone else voice. It is essentially branded content distributed by the digital media outlet without apology. Native ads allow a company to “lease the reputation” of the media vehicle, and publishers in turn direct the type of content and way to present it so their audience views it with value, and not advertising. That, according to Karm Sumai, Founder and CEO of Daily Hive, is fundamental.

Native advertising comes in different forms. Gone are the days of display ads and boxed in advertorials. Native is a whole new game that cross-pollinates with traditional editorial. Here are the different forms, and how they are sold and priced.

  1. Native in feed: Sold based on reach as a CPM (cost per thousand)
  2. Content recommendation: Sold CPC (cost per click)
  3. Native video: Sold CPM
  4. On property: User doesn’t leave the publishers site to consume the article: sold CPS
  5. Native in banner: Sold CPM and CPC

The US ad spend on native is expected to surpass $28 billion by the end of 2018. Over half the digital ad spend will be native in the US. In Canada it’s expected to be 20%.

With the shift to online, and mobile feeds in particular, there is a growing need for snackable news that begs to be shared. That is at the heart of the BuzzFeed model. According to Lindsay Stewart, VP Brand Strategy at BuzzFeed, there are four reasons people share content, and it’s these four things that they look for in both earned media, as well as working with a client on a native campaign.

  1. Identify: It resonates with them
  2. Emotions: It pulls at the heart
  3. Knowledge: It’s helpful
  4. Humour: It makes them laugh

Since the viability of BuzzFeed is based on reach and readership, they have a vested interest in growing readers through having their content shared and amplified by others. So keeping the content short, visually strong, and answering one of the four share questions is key. So too is the role of influencers with the content you are sharing, and pitching for earned space or part of a native ad – but we’ll dig into that in more detail next week!

What do you think about all this? How do you consume your news? Have you earned media coverage on a digital platform before? Have you played with native ads? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experience, and if you’re willing we could also share it during next weeks post as part 2 on this topic.

Mary Charleson

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