How Advertising Is Changing for Media Brands

Throughout the past few months, the media industry has faced a number of advertising-related challenges. As advertisers slashed marketing budgets and started blocking important keywords during the pandemic, businesses watched their ad revenue drop.

But advertising is still alive and well and, as long as brands can make a few simple changes, it will continue to be a part of the future for media companies.

“[Advertising] is an industry that is constantly talking about wanting to transform itself, but that is also constantly sticking to very traditional approaches,” explains Marcelo Pascao, the marketing VP for Coors beer. “Old habits die hard, but people are being forced out of necessity to adapt faster.”

To maintain revenue earnings and brand integrity as we venture through the new normal, the relationship between media brands and advertising is evolving. Here’s how:

Consumer Engagement Has Become Mandatory

There’s more to a digital community than just the number of clicks and views on a page.

The level of consumer engagement around a brand’s content now plays a significant role in producing a high-value environment for advertisers. 

According to Chris Waiting, CEO of The Conversation, “today advertising value is measured by engagement so if publishers want to improve their ad offering, they must devise a successful engagement strategy first.” 

Condé Nast also created a new metric in partnership with Deloitte that measures consumer engagement, brand influence, content quality and overall trust levels. A Condé Nast representative explained how these details could showcase the appeal of running ads on a highly engaging and trusted platform. 

By hosting ads within engaging digital spaces, media companies can ultimately assure advertisers that active audience members will see their content.

Positive News Is Pulling Advertisers Back In

Many media companies have been covering major news stories related to the pandemic and social justice regularly — two topics that advertisers are wary of. 

So how can businesses stop advertisers from pulling their ads while keeping consumers informed on these critical issues?

Some publishers are creating content that takes on a positive or encouraging angle to rope advertisers back in. For example, TIME focused some of its content on individuals who were recovering from COVID-19 and earned a significant amount of related sponsorship revenue.

“There’s neutral and positive-sentiment news around coronavirus that’s a perfectly reasonable place to advertise,” says Joe Barone, brand safety manager for media marketing firm GroupM.

Social Media Is Becoming Less of a Focus

Social media has triggered a series of hurdles for advertisers: misinformation, trolls and an overall lack of control over their content.

To top it all off, advertisers are noticing that social media platforms value profit over brand safety. Facebook in particular has introduced ad spots for in-stream videos, which could theoretically run alongside misinformation and offensive content.

“They’re prioritizing maximizing inventory at the expense of making it brand-safe,” states Erica Patrick, MediaHub’s VP of paid social. “You shouldn’t have to make a giant investment to get into brand-safe content.” 

Media companies have already started pulling ad dollars out of Facebook, and will likely continue the trend as little has been done to rectify these issues. As a result, companies are now prioritizing their own digital properties to run advertisements.

Diversifying Revenue Streams Is Essential

Although advertising powered the media industry in the past, it is no longer stable or strong enough to sustain an entire media company. 

Businesses have started looking at a wide variety of revenue sources to maximize their profits. This involves stepping beyond the boundaries of advertising to monetize membership programs, user data and events. 

For instance, Future plc has managed to thrive amid the volatile economy by expanding its revenue streams. The media group predicts that it will finish the year off with an impressive $110 million in profit. 

“The shift towards subscriptions and other diverse revenue sources is only set to grow, accelerated in part by the pandemic,” says Richard Reeves, managing director for the Association of Publishers. “The publishers that adapt to this change will be the ones that have the most to gain when the storm passes.”

The dependency on advertising revenue is certainly shrinking throughout the media industry. But having a healthy flow of ad revenue is still important.

By embracing change, media companies are re-establishing themselves as reliable — yet self-sustaining — partners in advertising.

Author: Dan Seaman

Dan Seaman is a 15 year digital media professional and enthusiast and has held key product strategy and leadership roles managing consumer products for large media groups like St. Joseph Media, Quebecor, TC Media, and The Globe and Mail.

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