Publishers Take Note: The Future of Media is Content, Not Ads

The future of media will be content, not ads. That's because even with the many innovations around traditional online advertising units such as banner and pre-roll, consumers have developed a knack for ignoring interruptive advertising experiences that deliver standard, unwanted ads. And as I recently noted in this MediaPost article about online ad spending, brands have recognized this dynamic and are now making major investments in long-form and viral video content that has the potential to engage and inspire audiences. Top agencies are now even hiring directors of earned media to amplify the reach and impact of this content.

As brands continue to open their minds and wallets to new types of entertaining video content, many social sites have responded by creating innovative new ad experiences to accommodate this content. But the vast majority of online publishers are still making money through the web's earliest incarnations of advertising inventory: interruptive video and display ads.

This is about to change. With more budget than ever being shifted to social marketing and engagement strategies, I anticipate major changes to the way we experience branded content across the web. Here's a quick look at what's ahead:

1. Organic experiences. Publishers will begin offering ad experiences that feel like content and fit organically within the site experience. Visionary USV co-founder Fred Wilson recently put out a rally cry for "native monetization," a theme that fits squarely into our vision for a future driven by content, not ads.

2. Enhanced discoverability. Look for more sponsored content experiences that allow people to explore and discover entertaining branded videos rather than having a video ad "pushed" at them in an interruptive manner.

3. Greater social context. We know that embedding social graph features within the brand content experience dramatically increases engagement and sharing - as more publishers catch on, you'll see nearly every experience highlight connections between the brand and the user's friends and followers.

With brands going to extraordinary lengths to create video content that entertains and inspires - and putting substantial budget behind distribution - publishers need to be equally innovative with their ad experiences. Choice and discovery are becoming core attributes to content-driven media experiences, and in turn advertisers are embracing the environments that help their content thrive.

Dan Greenberg is co-founder and CEO of social video ad company Sharethrough. Dan is moderating a panel at Advertising Week on October 5th entitled "The Viral Business - How Brands Can Create Online Video Hit Machines."

5 comments about "Publishers Take Note: The Future of Media is Content, Not Ads".
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  1. Rhonda Campbell from NA, September 30, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.

    Appreciate the article. Think there will be a mix of tools/actions that continue to drive online marketing and sales. More companies may find themselves hiring writers to work social networks, create newsletters, write online content, create videos, ads, etc. just so they cover as many basis as possible.


  2. Yossi Barazani from, September 30, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.

    Great article, and in continuation to my recent post here on The Future of Media "Online Marketing Without Advertising"

    Yossi Barazani
    The First Ad-Free Network

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, September 30, 2011 at 5:45 p.m.

    I couldn't disagree more. Content is a part of the future of marketing. But, content is also exceptionally high risk - primarily due to idea burnout and content burnout.

    What are we - about 3 years into a major content explosion. And, what do we see? Content is dropping in quality. We're seeing really dull stuff. And, those companies who used a content splash as introduction are struggling to find ideas to maintain sufficient presence for content marketing to be their leading marketing.

    Advertising is entirely different - because the company can find the handful of best messages and use them over and over. They stay fresh because new consumers are seeing them constantly.

    Let's get some balance. Online video hit machines don't exist - at least not in any way that can achieve what this blog's outrageous title suggests.

  4. Andrew Boer from MovableMedia, October 3, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.

    I agree Dan. Just posted an article here about the future being author driven content: which I think has the same thesis. Brands will attract audiences through content, not ads.

  5. Trevor Weeding from Fairfax Community Newspapers, October 3, 2011 at 5:58 p.m.

    Is there not a credibility issue also? Content delivered by a well established and recognised medium is going to going to come with some element of credibilioty that would allow the medium to monetise the delivery platform. I'd be interested to read the thoughts of others on this.

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