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New Blends Of Advertising And Content In The Web Age

  1. 1. New Blends of Advertising and Content in the Web Age Chris Stetson APSP-6 Beijing , China November 22, 2008
  2. 2. Core Research Question: Why is there now so much vendor-produced content on technology media websites?
  3. 3. Which Technology Media Websites?
  4. 4. What do I mean by “vendor content” on the Web? <ul><li>“ Vendor content” is text, video or audio that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>discusses a topic (not just a product) and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>is seen only if the Web user initiates the viewing. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So it excludes display advertising (e.g., a banner). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>shows itself to user without user choosing to see it. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>And it excludes classified advertising (e.g., vendor directories and listings). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>does not discuss topics. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Includes “custom publishing” content produced by media companies under the editorial control of vendors . </li></ul>
  5. 5. What are some examples of Vendor Content? <ul><li>White papers </li></ul><ul><li>Webinars </li></ul><ul><li>Podcasts </li></ul><ul><li>Minisites </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Case studies </li></ul><ul><li>Digital magazines </li></ul><ul><li>eBooks </li></ul><ul><li>Online communities </li></ul><ul><li>Online trade shows </li></ul><ul><li>Online video presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Social network sites </li></ul><ul><li>Newsletters </li></ul><ul><li>Portals </li></ul>
  6. 6. How are Media Sites Introducing Vendor Content? (Examples from one home page)
  7. 7. How serious is this issue? Serious. Third-party technology media may not be needed in the future <ul><li>PRE-WEB: Information is Pushed to Audiences via Media </li></ul><ul><li>Tech Professional* Media Audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Vendors (Little User or /Users </li></ul><ul><li>Vendor Content) </li></ul><ul><li>WEB: Information is Pulled by Audiences via Search </li></ul><ul><li>Tech Search Engines/ Audiences </li></ul><ul><li>Vendors Sites with User /Users </li></ul><ul><li>and Vendor Content </li></ul><ul><li>* Professional = Third-Party (where users and vendors are the first two parties) </li></ul>
  8. 8. What Three Points Do I Want You to Remember from my Talk? <ul><li>Technology media websites now have substantial quantities of vendor-produced content mainly because of the Web’s technological changes , not because of weak journalistic ethics. </li></ul><ul><li>Those same Web-related technological changes seem likely to cause professional technology media to shrink in coming years. </li></ul><ul><li>To preserve the credibility and importance of third-party technology media, media associations need to develop a content differentiation strategy . </li></ul>
  9. 9. What are some possible explanations for why so much vendor content is on technology media sites? <ul><li>Greedy Advertisers </li></ul><ul><li>Lazy Buyers </li></ul><ul><li>Banner Failure </li></ul><ul><li>Visitor-Traffic Building </li></ul><ul><li>Web Content Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Web Content Marketing </li></ul><ul><li>+ Search Engines </li></ul>
  10. 10. The “Greedy Advertiser” Theory <ul><li>Theory : In America, advertisers control the media. If they want their content to appear on media sites, it will. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with the theory : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>U.S. tech magazines have little vendor content, and it is clearly marked as ads. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technology media websites did not have vendor content until recently . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advertiser control of editorial content, if any, is done behind the scenes, not in the open. Why? Advertisers need editorial content to have credibility for the ads to be effective. Open influence spoils the effect. But most vendor content on tech media sites is openly ‘marked‘ as sponsored by a single vendor. They are not trying to hide their influence. Thus, vendor content is not a “control-the-media” strategy. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. The “Lazy Buyer” Theory <ul><li>Theory : U.S. tech buyers want tech media sites to be as comprehensive as possible, so that they only need to get information from a few places to complete their purchase decisions. Including vendor content on media sites helps make those sites more comprehensive. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with the theory: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Google. Tech buyers primarily go to Google to search for information, not to media websites (MarketingSherpa, 2008). Because Google is ‘comprehensive,’ media sites do not need to be. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business tech buyers go way beyond media sites for tech info. On average, business tech buyers spend 3 hours a week (IDC, 2007) aggregating tech info from 5+ external sources (MarketingSherpa, 2008) before making a purchase. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. The “Failed Banner” Theory <ul><li>Theory : Banners get click-through, but they do little to improve readers’ perception of the advertisers’ brands. Vendor content can brand in lieu of banners. </li></ul><ul><li>This theory is good, but has problems: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Branding is not a top priority . Even before Web, tech advertisers focused more on “direct response” and “lead generation” than on branding—when using tech media. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Branding is hard to do in technology media content, because readers look to editorial to form their impression of brands. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Banners ‘could’ brand, if people were looking at them. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If search engines were not so powerful, people would be “browsing” the Web and using banners to learn about vendors. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>So banners didn’t fail. Search engines succeeded. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The “It Builds Traffic” Theory <ul><li>Theory : Media websites are accepting vendor content because the data (web-traffic logs, surveys, event attendance) show users like much of it—especially white papers and webcasts (MarketingSherpa, 2007) </li></ul><ul><li>Theory Has a Good Point: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Users find vendor content “relevant” but not necessarily credible (IDC, 2007, 2008). When vendors get media companies to put their content onto media sites, the credibility of the media site “rubs off” onto the vendor content. So users often consume the content happily. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But Theory Has a Problem: Doesn’t Explain Pay-Off. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some vendor content works harder to “persuade” than “educate,” so the media website’s credibility may suffer. Media companies need a big pay-off to offset this. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The “Web Content Marketing” Theory <ul><li>Theory : The growth of vendor content on media sites is part of a larger movement toward “Content Marketing” (; Scott, David Meerman). </li></ul><ul><li>Content marketing is the use of informational discussion rather than sales pitches to win business. </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits of Content Marketing, if done on Web : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Free traffic from search engines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cost reductions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Branding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct Response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lead Generation </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Web Content Marketing’s Free-Traffic Benefits <ul><ul><li>The higher a vendor’s Web content ranks in the results of a search on a search engine, the more likely it is to be clicked on—bringing potential customers to the vendor’s site. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vendors can get themselves ranked high on search-engine searches by (a) paying for placement (e.g., buying keywords) or (b) “for free”—by getting their web content’s relevance ranked high by the search engine. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When pursuing the “free” method, informational content tends to rank higher than sales-pitch content because </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Other websites are more likely to link to informational content than sales pitches (such links increase page rank). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Informational content typically uses more text and less images/video than sales content. Search engines rank pages heavily on how well their text and headings correspond to the search query, and generally can not process the word content of images and video. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Web Content Marketing’s Cost-Saving Benefits <ul><ul><li>Compared to TV and printed publications, digital Web publishing technologies significantly reduce the costs of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Content production </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Content distribution/syndication </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Content repurposing </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Web Content Marketing’s Branding Benefits <ul><li>By publishing content, a vendor shows “ thought leadership ” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High-tech brands typically claim to be “innovative.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To support such claims, they need to show that they are “progressive” and “cutting-edge.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publishing forward-looking content is a good way to do this. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>By publishing content rather than just promoting products, a vendor builds “ customer relationships ” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most visitors to technology-vendor sites come looking for information, not to make a purchase. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Providing content starts a relationship that can lead to purchase. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Web Content Marketing’s Lead-Generation Benefit <ul><li>A “lead” is generated when a vendor receives the personal contact information of someone potentially interested in the vendor’s products. </li></ul><ul><li>Generally, a lead is generated on the web through a visitor’s registration. </li></ul><ul><li>If a vendor can get its content onto a media site, though, the media site may handle the registration for the vendor ...sometimes, without the user even knowing it! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In the process of registering for some media sites’ “white paper libraries,” the “small print” gives the media site the right to share the visitor’s contact information with vendors each time a white paper is viewed. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Web Content Marketing’s Direct Response Benefit <ul><li>Vendors generally do not charge any money to access their content. </li></ul><ul><li>But they may require the user to “register” (e.g., give personal contact information such as an e-mail address and phone number) before sharing the content. </li></ul><ul><li>Other vendors, though, make their content available without requiring registration. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They hope other sites will link to the content. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The more people that see the content, the more people are likely to be interested enough in the content to contact the vendor for more information. Such voluntary user-initiated contact is called “direct response.” </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Vendors Get Three Extra Benefits, if Their Content Gets onto Media Sites <ul><li>Increases audience for the content, for free </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Vendor content first produced for vendor websites can be inexpensively reused on media sites. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Media sites often don’t charge vendor for “content” placement—unless leads are generated. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Spreads the word faster </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Regular readers of tech media sites relatively likely to be “influencers” and “opinion-leaders.” Will spread word about good content. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Increases credibility of the vendor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The more credible the media site, the more credible readers will probably find the vendor content on those sites. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. But “Web Content Marketing” Theory Has a Problem Too. <ul><li>Theory (Summarized) : Tech media sites are accepting increasing quantities of vendor content because vendors are willing to pay so much for the aggregated “ content marketing ” benefits of such placements that media companies find it hard to turn the money down. </li></ul><ul><li>Problem : Accepting vendor content, while allowing it to look like editorial content, risks long-term credibility of media sites . </li></ul><ul><li>Problem : Fails to explain why tech media sites aren’t working together to resist vendor content more strongly. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tech magazines have successfully forced vendor content to be marked as “advertorial” for decades. Why aren’t tech media websites as successful? </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Search Engines Reduce Value of Media Brands on the Web <ul><li>Over 50% of tech buyers say they turn to search engines “first” to research tech products (MarketingSherpa, 2008). 27% say they go first directly to vendors’ websites. Only a little over 10% say they go to a tech news-information website first. </li></ul><ul><li>Search engines do almost nothing to indicate whether the contents that rank high in a search are from a media site, vendor, or user. </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, instead of media content receiving the esteemed “superstructure” position that it used to earn because of its credibility, it is now forced to compete directly with the economic base’s content for search-engine rankings. </li></ul>
  23. 23. In Sum, The Explanation for Vendor Content on Media Sites Is... <ul><li>Web Content Marketing + Search Engines </li></ul><ul><li>Web technologies are making it easy for vendor content to compete against media content. </li></ul><ul><li>If media doesn’t respond, search engines will make it easy for users to go directly to vendor content. </li></ul><ul><li>Media will then lose ground. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Two Points Down, One to Go <ul><li>Technology media websites now have substantial quantities of vendor-produced content mainly because of technological changes , not lax editorial ethics. </li></ul><ul><li>Those same technological changes seem likely to cause professional technology media to shrink in coming years. </li></ul><ul><li>To preserve the credibility and importance of third-party technology media, media and communication associations need to develop a differentiation strategy . </li></ul>
  25. 25. Media Associations Need to Develop New Communication Strategies <ul><li>Vendor content is probably going to need to remain prominent on media sites. Much of it is very good; it is very popular, and there is too much of it. </li></ul><ul><li>But media associations need to... </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop strategies to differentiate media content from vendor content. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The distinguishing virtue of journalism is its credibility —so emphasize it. Show the public again and again that media content is more credible than vendor content. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refine...and enforce ...editorial standards requiring media sites to clearly distinguish vendor-controlled content from other content. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Train journalists on search-engine optimization (insert the words that users search on into their texts, exchange links) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop ways for media-site results to look different from other results when people use search-engines like Google. </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Contact Information Chris Stetson Managing Director Preference Research LLC [email_address] +1 973-763-1817