Editor’s Note: Mark Thabit is presenting Ahead of the Curve: Implementing a Paid, Earned & Owned Strategy at the PRSA 2014 International Conference on Monday, Oct. 13, from 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. The following is a guest post previewing his session.*
Media companies have a revenue problem. Unfortunately, the solution isn’t more traffic. In 2011, a major newspaper chain found that a 20 percent increase in traffic boosted digital ad revenue by a disappointing 2 percent.
That same year, The New York Times had fewer than 1 million print subscribers and 30 times as many online readers. Still, print generated 80 percent of its ad revenue.
Probably since the dawn of mass media, public relations professionals have relied on the credibility and amplification that earned media placements provide. Even in 2014, third-party expert content lifts brand familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews. It delivered similar lifts in brand affinity and purchase consideration.
Despite all this good news, earned media’s value comes only when it’s seen, which has become increasingly difficult as more and more brands and people become what is essentially media companies. Easily accessible content and finite amounts of attention mean that you need to produce terrific content and, just as importantly, distribute it widely to your target audiences.
Redefining mutually beneficial
Traditional media and PR have always had a symbiotic relationship. Traditional media has the reach, and public relations has experts, insights and stories that made the publications worth reading. No money need be exchanged in this partnership because both had what the other needed.
With media companies scuffling financially and PR pros needing to gain visibility, the solution of merging earned and paid media has grown in popularity.
When it comes to native advertisements (often referred to as sponsored content) versus banner ads, there’s no contest. Native ads get 53 percent more views, raise purchase intent 18 percent and brand affinity 9 percent.
Naysayers might question the share-ability of a “masque-ad,” but data shows that one-third of people would share a native ad. That’s more than 50 percent more than who would share a display ad (19 percent).
It’s not just brands champing the bit to get into this game. Traditional and new media publishers from mommy blogs to The Washington Post and BuzzFeed have adopted paid media at a furious rate. Even the venerable The New York Times joined the fun. In the second quarter of 2014, The Times saw its digital ad revenue jump 3.4 percent over the previous year thanks in large part to native advertising.
What are the options?