Fiona Salmon, publisher solutions director at the UK’s Vibrant Media, wrote a compelling article in February on the website inpublishing.co.uk about the power of the printed word titled “Realising the value of editorial.” In it, she talks about the struggles of traditional media to adapt and change to the digital age, and about the importance of editorial content in the change process.
An interesting point that Salmon makes is that online ads are a distraction, and the typical methods used to track the effectiveness of online advertising—click-throughs and other response systems—are actually hazardous to the editorial content of the publication. “Top quality copy is what draws eyeballs to a publication,” says Salmon. When a reader clicks an ad and is taken away from the website, all that’s measured is the ability of the ad to take the reader away from the content—the very thing that’s driving them to the website. “Such clicks may well be a measure of how quickly a consumer can be distracted from the editorial, rather than how much the internet user is compelled to consume the content,” says Salmon.
I’ve discussed in recent weeks “native advertising,” or online display ads that are strategically positioned within editorial content so that they appear integrated and seamless. However, Salmon argues for taking the process a step further, all while maintaining an emphasis on editorial content and making advertising appear even more a part of it. Her suggestion? Hyperlinks embedded within the advertorial content.
It would seem that this would be the ultimate breach of the editorial/advertising divide—embedding hyperlinks to ads within the actual copy itself. However, Salmon’s idea is very powerful in that it recognizes first and foremost that good content is at the core of reputable publications. By keeping readers’ eyes focused on the content and not a nearby display ad, the publication puts its best asset—its content—front and center.
Secondly, Salmon is wise enough to know that some stories are too important to include advertising of any kind. Says Salmon, “Editorial teams’ integrity is paramount to quality content and advertising must respect this. It’s generally inappropriate for hard hitting editorial or a journalist’s article about a sensitive issue to include ads. That means editorial needs a say in whether ads should run on an article or not. At least for in-content advertising, the technology is there to enable publishers to simply turn ads off particular articles or parts of their site where advertising wouldn’t be appropriate. Ads must never corrupt the content.”
Salmon’s approach is controversial because it espouses tying together content and advertising in a way that old media veterans may find distasteful. But by respecting the integrity of certain kinds of editorial content, and asserting front and center that content is king, Salmon successfully walks the fine line between 21st-century success and 20th-century media practices.