Co-creation over content recommendation: The future of native advertising?


By Brittany Anderson – Native & Social Account Executive at King Content

The New York Times published an article exploring content recommendation widgets, a source of much-needed revenue for publishers. There’s now uncertainty around the value of ‘suggested content’, with readers’ discontent spreading like wildfire.

But the big opportunity no one has discussed is the shift towards brands and publishers co-creating to deliver true value to their audiences.

The reality

The Clickbait Report, released in September 2016 by non-profit, found that of the top 50 news sites, 41 use content ads. Of those content ads, 26 per cent led to clickbait sites, directing users to content that failed to provide value.
As a result, content ads have stopped appearing on Slate and The New Yorker this month; the publishers are worried that these placements could be impacting their brands and readers. It is likely that other publishers will soon follow suit.

The publishers

The white space at the bottom of articles has been the stomping ground for ad networks like Outbrain and Taboola for years. Both businesses claim to provide quality content recommendations, but unfortunately their ‘suggested stories’ sometimes showcase the worst of the web and leave readers feeling confused.

This arrangement is being questioned by publishers who pride themselves on providing high-quality content that serves a purpose for their readers. As the owners of this prime real estate, publishers are now considering what they value more – guaranteed revenue or audience loyalty.

The readers

Not only are publishers jumping off the content recommendation train, readers too are becoming less susceptible. We’ve all done it – clicked on that flawless image of Kim K in the Caribbean or fallen victim to the ‘get bikini ready with these magic remedies’ headline, only to be taken to a website that is probably riddled with viruses. Readers are becoming disillusioned by this sort of advertising, either bouncing immediately or failing to give up to the click.

Content recommendation algorithms aim to help users discover content that is valuable to them, and they also help publishers shuttle readers throughout their own site. But what is more valuable: a shuttle service or an immersive experience that breeds loyalty and retention?

The opportunity

Content recommendation widgets are successful in enabling advertisers to reach a very large and relevant audience. The reality is, these offerings will not be removed completely as they do serve a purpose in the industry. When used transparently to drive traffic to valuable content, advertisers can build and retain new audiences.

However, as the value of content marketing continues to grow, publishers now want to own their user experience end-to-end, retaining readers and deepening their audience loyalty through immersive concepts. Co-creators like Puma and Refinery29, Nokia and Wired, and IKEA and The Telegraph are all making a big splash and impact.

With a cloud of uncertainty hovering above ad networks, there’s an opportunity for real content partnerships, like the examples above, to innovate and stand out. The industry is shifting towards a stronger focus on the quality of its audiences and how publishers can align with brands to deliver new value.