A renaissance in ad revenue, from digital news?

Geoff Campbell

The speed at which news is produced and the urgency with which it’s consumed have long made news a compelling category for advertisers. Despite the challenges facing news publishers, this remains true today. Social media’s targeting engines have harnessed the uniquely social nature of news and, for the first time, premium brands can minimize the risks of unpredictable content by advertising against individual stories.

This amounts to significant potential for renewed ad revenue. So what should news publishers be doing in order to tap that potential?

First among these steps is internalizing the idea that rather than selling advertisers access to audiences on distribution outlets (like TV or web), they’re really selling access to the vehicle that takes advertisers to their audiences: the news product itself.

Sales teams need to learn the part-art, part-science of pairing individual ads (and corresponding target demos) with each day’s stories. Taking a cue from their editorial counterparts, they’ll develop a sense for matching and timing ads to stories.

But going further, by building defensible news-distribution IP publishers will gain a deep analysis into the kinds of stories that work for specific demos as well as specifics types of news content. Publishers can use these metrics to develop higher-margin ad services by matching ads to stories with incredible levels of granularity and accuracy.

Maintaining a fast distribution cycle of quality news is no easy task and cost will no doubt play a role in developing a social sales operation of this kind. There’s also the cost of paying social media companies a piece of the advertising revenue, since it’s their platforms that power this kind of audience targeting.

But the return on that investment can be significant. Without requiring any new investment in ‘native’ creative, taking this approach has led to engagement rates for some of our advertisers twice as high as social media averages. And, with experience and learning ongoing, engagement continues to improve.

As brands start to realize the potential of socially distributed news, innovative news media companies will find a way to reap the benefits as they learn to pair advertisers’ target audiences with brand-safe news in their ad sales operations.

How far this will change the business strategy for the news industry is hard to say. What’s clear is that by breaking down barriers, socially distributed news will offer new opportunities for stable and sustainable ad revenue growth.

Copyright © 2016 NewsBeat Social, Inc.