Create for Your Audience, Not Your Advertiser

Depending on who you talk to, the media industry is crumbling and it’s a race to the bottom.


Cynical optimist that I am, I’m not sure I completely agree with that assessment, but it certainly has some validity.


For content creators, the task at hand is extraordinary.


How do you create a product that attracts a large audience but one that is also engaged? Typically, those two things don’t go together.


Advertisers, once content to go for pure volume plays, want so much more now, and rightfully so.


Banner ads get ignored and anyone with any sense has ad-blocker plus installed on their browser.


Enter branded content, or what is commonly known as the advertorial.


English: This is the logo used by Switch.
English: This is the logo used by Switch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Branded content has existed for decades but now that making money from point-of-sale is a thing of the past, publishers need some way to keep the lights on.


Except when you look around the internet— if you’re really paying attention— you’ll notice tons of editorial, but very little bite.


It’s not just the sponsored stuff. It’s everything.


That’s not to say that great cross-platform editorial doesn’t exist. Some companies are pushing the envelope and flourishing. You likely already know who they are because it’s obvious.


But elsewhere, in the back room where the average deal is made, there seems to be so much focus on the brands now that even though companies are keeping the lights on, the public is taking a loss.


There isn’t much separation between church and state anymore, and that’s fine I suppose, but editors seem to be way too mucked up in this brand business when they should be focused on making compelling work.


So now the public has to sit there and question whether their media institutions are in the business of delivering the truth, or if they’re glorified marketing companies.


Which, if they are, is cool. Just be transparent about it.


Because for publishers— or anyone who makes any type of product, really— there’s a certain level of trust that exists between you and your audience.


That trust is what the business relationship between you and them is built on.


By tuning in, reading, viewing, commenting, whatever, the audience is saying I trust you to not be feeding me any ole’ bullshit.


Selection of products sold by Favorite Brands ...
Selection of products sold by Favorite Brands International in 1997 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Now it seems media companies are playing Three-card Monte with the truth, and that’s risky, because people don’t like being hustled. They likely won’t play that game again.


I’m not saying branded content is bad, or that the working relationship between brands and media companies shouldn’t be extremely strong and in some instances collaborative.


They should be.


But you don’t see media companies going to brands and telling them how they should spend their million-dollar marketing budgets and advising them on their ad buys.


Try that and the brand will tell you to go to hell.


Conversely, don’t just bow down to any and everything the brands are saying. If they knew the media business so well, they’d be selling magazines instead of soft drinks.


Publishers, stop being push-overs. Your audience doesn’t give a shit about your business problems.


Yes, the sky is falling. Get up off your ass and push it back up.


This post was originally published on by @paulcantor




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