Three massive media trends show why it's time to say goodbye to ugly advertorials.
Three trends are creating momentum for something new in news media: brands making better content than ever, the growth of mobile news consumption and publishers putting readers first.
The first trend
Brands crave a beautiful showcase for their stories
Over the last ten years, almost every brand has invested in storytelling, content marketing and even in-house editorial teams. Particularly brands with a strong purpose have discovered their ability to engage an audience with meaningful stories. In industries like finance, luxury, hospitality, healthcare, energy, tech and automotive, branded content is plentiful. Reader attention however, is scarce.
Social turned from earned to paid
When brands share their stories on their own channels, they reach a limited, familiar audience. To expand their reach, they mostly rely on paid promotion on social platforms, like LinkedIn and Instagram. These are places of feverish competition for attention, where dominant tech monopolists constantly change their rules and rates. Social ads can perform very well, but it's healthy for brands to have alternatives at hand.
What if brands could publish their best stories in news media, using their own brand identity? It would allow them to engage new readers at scale, while retaining control over the look and feel of their stories.
The second trend
Readers are flocking to mobile
Mobile is no longer an afterthought, it has become the primary means for readers to consume digital news. In the Netherlands, mobile readers account for well over 65 per cent of traffic to quality news media. Users demand a fast-loading uncluttered reading experience on their mobile device.
Publishers have invested passionately in designing and building beautiful mobile-friendly websites and dedicated apps. Advertising however, has not caught up.
Ads live in outdated boxes
Online display advertising still relies on boxy formats invented in the late '90's, made to fill gaps in the lay-out of the first news websites. So far, major waves of advertising innovation focused on targeting, tracking and automation, while the design remained constrained to oddly-shaped rectangles that don't feel native to a mobile screen.
It's time publishers and advertisers to take advantage of the full canvas offered by mobile screens, adapting to their dimensions, while drawing readers in instead of scaring them off.
The third trend
Publishers are putting readers first
The contemporary recipe for news media survival is quality journalism, delivered in a beautiful digital design, for loyal readers and paying subscribers. As publishers strive to offer the best reading experience to readers that pay (or must be tempted to pay), they 'care about the flat plan' more than ever. Ugly and aggressive banner ads don't fit into this picture. Neither do uninspired advertorials or clickbait-infested native advertising.
Protecting editorial independence
News brands that focus on retaining the loyalty of readers, are very protective of their reputation. Blurring the line between independent editorial stories and commercial messages erodes the trust of the reader and raises eyebrows in the newsroom. Branded stories should therefore only be displayed on the digital pages of quality media if they are instantly recognisable as such. Now more than ever, the barrier between 'Church and State' should stand tall.
We believe visionary brands deserve a beautiful way to get their stories in the media. A modern format for achieving must be mobile-first, respect readers and boost the business of publishers.
That's why we designed Coverstories.