Forbes gives advertisers an editorial voice
As more brands become publishers, traditional media companies face a choice: They can ignore the trend and watch advertisers shift their online marketing spend to “owned” media, or they can embrace the trend and create new service lines to help marketers create, host and promote content.
Forbes has adopted the latter strategy with its 2-year-old AdVoice program. AdVoice allows marketers to publish blog posts directly to Forbes.com, where they compete for eyeballs with all other staff-written and third-party content. To date, 13 brands have participated in AdVoice (all as part of a larger media buy). Four more will launch within the next six weeks, and Forbes expects to have more than two dozen partners by year-end. Forbes plans to extend the program to video content in the fourth quarter.
More than 10% of Forbes digital revenue comes from partners using the AdVoice platform, and Forbes expects that share to rise to 15% by the end of the year. (Overall, Forbes digital revenues have increased 28% through the first seven months of the year.)
AdVoice is a way for Forbes to extend its evolving publishing model to advertising partners, who use the same platform and tools as Forbes’ editorial staff and other third-party contributors to publish their posts, said Lewis D’Vorkin, Forbes Media’s chief product officer.
“Just as we’ve built up a new editorial newsroom, we are building a mirror ‘brand newsroom,’ with the same discipline and the same skill sets,” D’Vorkin said in a phone interview. “The difference is that personnel from the sales side – not the product or editorial side – are working with our AdVoice partners to educate them and advise them on how to publish.”
The commingling of advertising and editorial content is controversial, but D’Vorkin strongly believes it’s a core element of journalism's future. He has written frequently about the importance of publishing the best and broadest collection of informative content from a variety of experts – journalists, academics, consultants and, yes, marketers – under the authoritative umbrella of the Forbes brand.
“On the social web, consumers want content they feel is valuable,” he said. “They want it from experts, and they want it transparently identified about who’s delivering it.”
To that end, each advertiser contribution is clearly marked with an AdVoice icon, along with a link that further describes the program.
The popularity of the AdVoice posts vary, just like any other editorial asset. One post in August about corporate jets from Business Aviation received only 325 views, while a column this past Monday from NetApp had more than 67,000 views, making it the most popular post on Forbes.com for a 24-hour period. (The topic was the iPhone 5, proving that even brand publishers are figuring out what drives web traffic.)
The NetApp example, D’Vorkin said, proves that the web audience simply wants to consume what it perceives as valuable content – as long as the source of the content is clear. This proof point, he said, bodes well for the future of AdVoice.
“We believe we are building a sustainable revenue model for ad-supported journalism, and AdVoice is going to be a very significant part of our business going forward,” D’Vorkin said.
Other premium publishers are warming up to the brand-as-publisher model – and the monetization opportunities that come with it. For example, Atlantic Media’s new business title, Quartz, will feature branded content through a feature called Quartz Bulletin, according to Adweek.