Facebook is cleaning up its News Feed, and that means users will see fewer promotional page posts soon, the social media giant announced in a post published on Friday.
Facebook said it surveyed users and found that people “wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.” In response, Facebook said it will employ a new formula that will cause a steady decline in distribution for promotional posts. The change will take place starting in January.
This isn’t a huge surprise to brands, which have reported less distribution of their organic posts in recent years. Facebook has always said it favors “high-quality” content, but this is also clearly an effort to make advertisers pay up for promotion.
There’s no question that publishing is in a state of disruption. As advertisers continue to shift dollars from print to performance-based digital channels, publishers are struggling to find new ways to make money in the digital era.
For a time, many publishers believed the emergence of the tablet to be their saving grace. Some expected print ad dollars to shift seamlessly to tablet in a similar model, but that hasn’t happened – and tablet use is not growing at the same rate as smaller mobile devices. A recent article published on Digiday, the author argues that “the tablet magazine was flawed from the start… conceived based on what publishers wanted and not on what consumers wanted.”
Because old ad models do not translate well to the digital space, publishers are left scrambling to find new sources of revenue, and many are in trouble. However, the emergence of content marketing has provided a glimmer of hope and new revenue opportunities.
Today Digiday published an article about publishers who blend e-commerce with content, which presents a new source of revenue, but it’s one that has caused some unrest amongst readers. Earlier this month, the Washington Post inserted “buy now” buttons into articles that mentioned products, linking directly to purchase pages on Amazon. After claiming the buttons’ insertion into articles was a mistake, the Washington Post removed them.
While certain publishers have been blending e-commerce with content for years, the latest Washington Post incident brings to light questions about the future of the publisher business model, and what impact new revenue sources will have on editorial integrity.
The same questions are being raised about branded content practices (also called native advertising), in which publishers include sponsored content that is intended to look like editorial content. If you haven’t already seen it, check out John Oliver’s recent rant on native marketing, in which he states, “I like to think of news and advertising as the separation of guacamole and Twizzlers. Separately they’re good. But if you mix them together, somehow you make both of them really gross.”
The general public’s tolerance for a Twizzler-and-guacamole combo has yet to be established.
LinkedIn announced today the launch of Direct Sponsored Content, an expansion of its year-old Sponsored Content ad product. The new feature is currently only available as a pilot for select partners, including Comcast and NewsCred.
Key features of Direct Sponsored Content include:
Content can be posted directly in the News Feeds of a target audience, and does not have to be posted on the Company Page
Content can be A/B tested to multiple audiences and with limited duration
With approval from the Company Page administrator, other business users and stakeholders can post and manage content
LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates product launched a year ago, providing advertisers the ability to run native-style ads in the form of articles, blogs or videos on a user’s feed. The ads encourage users to follow companies or like/comment/share content. The new “Direct” feature allows companies to test posts that won’t clog their company page, similar to Facebook’s dark posts offering.
The launch of Direct Sponsored Content comes just after LinkedIn’s acquisition of Bizo, a B2B advertising platform, which the company announced on Tuesday.
A recent post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network written by Alexander Jutkowitz, vice chairman and chief global strategist at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, explores the significance of content marketing, which he says is “more than a mere marketing fad.”
Content marketing has reinvigorated brands and the agencies that manage their communication with consumers. Marketers are are increasingly shifting budgets from traditional marketing efforts to content, and the Content Marketing Institute reported 90% of B2C marketers use content marketing in 2014, compared to 86% last year. Mr. Jutkowitz says content marketing has taken off because it “responds to consumer preference.” Consumers are more likely to engage with content than with traditional marketing messaging. Increasingly, consumers gravitate away from “Buy now” and “Click here” or product benefits messaging, so these tactics have become less effective. Today’s sophisticated consumers prefer content — text, video or image — that resonates with them.
Thinking about the daily habits of consumers and the competition for their attention, the shift to content marketing makes perfect sense. Consumers are surfing the web on computers, chatting with friends on Smartphones and streaming TV on iPads. People are inundated with an infinite number of things to watch, read and engage with across the web. Brands are not just competing with each other anymore, they are also competing with the influx of YouTube videos, Facebook feeds and iPhone apps that steal the attention of prospective customers.
Mr. Jutkowitz says content marketing is an opportunity for brands to produce ideas and become thought leaders—to become more than salespeople. From Mr. Jutkowitz’s blog:
“Brands are no longer merely peddling products; they’re producing, unearthing, and distributing information. And because they do, the corporation becomes not just economically important to society, but intellectually essential as well.”
He makes a great point. The ability to communicate ideas, not just product benefits, is a new world for brands of every shape and size. The trick is finding a way to do this authentically, with content that ties back to the organization’s bottom line.