It has always saddened me that when I've had conversations over a pint with people in media they will often say the same thing. There is often a prevailing attitude -- or at least there used to be -- that people knew the cheap stuff was not the best, but the thing was that they could get three, four or five times as much exposure from buying cheap inventory.
The underlying feeling was that if so many click-throughs was the target or a certain number of people seeing a message, then it really didn't matter. Spray and pray was the order of the day.
Fortunately, attitudes are changing, and we now have a new report from Moat to back up the argument that quality content is worth investing in. It has been tasked by the World Media Group to compare its members, a who's who of quality news organisations, to the rest of the pack. The results are quite startling.
Dwell time on quality content was 66% up on a benchmark for the rest of the market. In fact, with a smaller section of WMG members, the complete rate for video was up 144%.
The in view rate for ads meeting the industry standard of 50% of an ad's pixels being in view for a second is also up -- by 27% on desktop and 32% on mobile web. The ads stayed in view longer as well -- 25% more longer on desktop and 13% longer on the mobile web.
The research shows what anyone who knows anything about content could already tell you. When people are served good-quality content that engages them, they spend more time so the ads stay on screen longer and are not scrolled away by a disengaged reader. When people watch quality videos, they will put up with ads and are far more likely to watch the footage until the end.
This builds on similar work done by the newspaper marketing body Newsworks, which has shown that quality content has much more impact with readers -- and so, by association, do the ads that are on screen for longer in an environment far more fitting than in lower quality scenarios.
But here's the rub. How would a programmatic platform know source A from B, which one is high quality, which is low? Without a kite mark, it is almost impossible to tell.
I asked World Media Group about this and they are relying on media planners and buyers to go out and seek quality in the absence of their being an official measure for it. So we're talking about direct deals here, rather than fully automated programmatic buying on the hoof.
The problem is that programmatic accounts for nearly two-thirds of the UK digital advertising market. Now, of course, programmatic may be programmed to look out for sites an advertiser prefers, but it's mostly an automated market a million miles away from planners and buyers scoping out a plan and then buying over a phone call or a handshake.
Interestingly, the WMG wouldn't be drawn on whether it plans to try to launch a programmatic kitemark for members, so it's possible it's something they are working on or investigating.
We are living in the world of convenience where mobile payments and one-click buying is winning out, and so I'd urge any group of publishers seeking to differentiate themselves to use their body's name or some form of kitemark and make it a subset 09:07:57that advertisers can bid on.
Telling brands how good quality content can be is one thing. Allowing them to buy it, or bid for it automatically, with a minimum of friction is quite another.