We see it all the time: questions from people like you who are looking for answers to specific challenges.
What are the best business models for a hyperlocal site?
Do I have the right “Big Idea” for my business?
How can I expect a certain content strategy to affect my SEO?
Will my strong political or religious views interfere with my Google authorship business profile?
Just how can I make the time to get all this content written, anyway?
These are the long-tail questions that either we haven’t gotten an opportunity to address on the blog yet, or are so specific to your business that the only way we can answer them is during a question and answer call …
Like the one we are doing next Friday, April 25, 2014.
That’s right, Sonia Simone and Chris Garrett will take an hour to answer as many questions as you throw at them … and you can ask them anything.
And many more over the years. Trust me, it will be hard to stump them.
You can ask Sonia and Chris when you should create a landing page versus a category page … how to structure pricing and contracts for recurring clients … or what’s the difference between a refund policy and a guarantee.
Once you join, we will give you an opportunity in our forums to ask any question you want — and, yes, all of the questions above were based on past questions asked by members. We hold these sessions at least once a month, and often twice, as part of our regular calendar of exclusive content for members.
Oh, and …
Have you heard about our certification program?
Not long ago we launched the Copyblogger Content Certification program — a program designed to educate real writers about the underlying strategy that makes for really strong content marketing, as well as supporting and promoting well-qualified content creators.
When you join this program we’ll hand-review your work and certify that you are among the best writers — ready to tackle projects and create terrific work.
If you’re a writer and you’re interested in becoming certified, you need to join our (free) MyCopyblogger marketing library to hear about it. We’ll eventually notify everyone in that group when the next round of applicants for the program will be accepted.
“But,” you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you choose a different, more arresting image for this post?”
First, because The Lede is a regular post series, and the graphic that Rafal created for us is a clear visual cue to our audience that a new episode has been posted.
Second, because we are posting this episode a day early, meaning that the visual cue is extra important to let people know a new little audio gift is unexpectedly waiting to be unwrapped.
But, if we didn’t already have an arresting post image logo to use for The Lede, we would have had to choose something else … something that would have seized attention, created an emotional response, and compelled a click.
Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.
The Lede Podcast: How to Choose Arresting Images (And Why You Should)
Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris. If you want to get a content marketing education while you shower in the morning or while you’re mowing your lawn on Saturday afternoon, this podcast is the way to do it.
Last week Demian and I took a break from our series on the 11 essential ingredients of a blog post to speak with Sonia Simone about our recent decision at Copyblogger to remove blog comments. If you missed that episode, I highly recommend catching up.
This week, the series continues. The last two ingredients were seducing your readers through story and maintaining attention via the power of internal cliffhangers. Today we go into detail about images.
Now you might say an image isn’t necessarily essential for a blog post. Technically, you’re correct. But if your goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level, the right image can make all the difference.
Demian Farnworth joins me now. Demian, how are you?
Demian Farnworth: I’m doing well, thank you Jerod.
Why bother with images?
Jerod: Demian is here to provide insight on images and a few tips you can use to get better at choosing the right image for your blog post.
So Demian, to begin, tell me if you agree with what I’m about to say.
An essential component of any winning media strategy is maximizing the medium. So for a podcast, that’s going to mean a complete de-emphasis on how something looks and a focus on connecting with an audience through sound. For video, it means a combination, right? Moving images are combined with words, so they both need to be compelling and work together.
When it comes to a blog post, it’s important to remember that words are not the only weapon that can be wielded in the battle for attention, because remember, the internet is displayed on powerful screens capable of producing beautiful, pixel-dense imagery. So why not take full advantage of that?
So unless you’re going full minimalist, you should consider incorporating images into your blog posts. Images that complement your words, evoke emotion that sparks the fire of entry that leads to the burning embers of attention you’re looking to develop from your audience.
In other words, a blog post needs an arresting image. One that latches onto a reader and won’t let go.
Demian, agree or disagree?
Demian: I totally agree.
I learned this several years ago when I was reading about an interview with Tim Ferriss. Tim Ferris was interviewing, actually, Robert Scovill, and Scovill was telling Tim Ferriss how he read about 1,000 blogs a day. And of course, reading is an overstatement. But what he was telling Tim was basically that he looked at — he scrolled through the blogs on his blog feed, and looked at, stopped at, those ones that had captivating headlines, but more than that, though, it was the ones that had the captivating, the arresting image that he stopped at and paid attention to.
So with that, I realized that we’re all fighting for attention, and we’re all fighting for the attention of people who are basically overloaded. So sharing an image that is arresting is huge.
What does it mean for an image to be “arresting”?
Demian: When we think about what we’re trying to do when we say “arresting,” what we mean is to seize. We mean as in “a police officer seized my mother today.” Took her into custody. So the second sense is to attract, catch, hold, and fix attention. And synonyms you might think of when thinking of arresting would be striking, stunning, seductive.
Jerod: Isn’t that kind of subjective, an eye-of-the-beholder type thing when you talk about arresting images? I mean, how is the audience supposed to know what type of image will arrest their particular audience?
Demian: Yeah. In some sense that is true. You might prefer to drive a Porsche, while I will take the Buick. But both of us would agree they are good-looking cars. You know, we like them for different reasons. And you and I are also going to find the same sunset beautiful, and the same mountain range beautiful, but for different reasons.
Yet there is some objectivity to that. And again, it’s an accepted truth that a face that is looking at the reader is going to draw more attention than a face looking elsewhere. But even that is not a perfect example.
How images help you create an emotional response in your audience
Demian: Take those photographs of abandoned sections of Detroit that circulated the net a few years ago. Do you remember those?
Jerod: Of course. They were harrowing.
Demian: Yes. Right. And so large, empty libraries filled with rubbish, just huge empty buildings, abandoned, and trash everywhere. Those were arresting, and they created an emotional response.
Now take a different set of photographs from Detroit: Photos that show the same degradation, the same emptiness, but this time these photographs were filled with people. The poverty-stricken, and they’re staring out at you. However, those photographs did not go viral.
Demian: Well, because it was depressing, right? And this was a point — that they were depressing photographs. Ryan Holiday, in his book “Trust Me, I’m Lying,” made this point. He made this exact comparison.
He says in one example you have these photographs of where there aren’t people in there, and so the way we emotionally respond to those is in such a way as “I’d love to be here, I’m sort of envious of the photographer who got to go on this adventure and go into these,” sort of, even though they’re old, decrepit places … it was sort of interesting. It was neat. It was new.
Yet when you have people staring back at you who are obviously in a lot of need and help we feel guilty. That sort of strings with our guilt, and our consciences sort of suppress that. And so if you’re going to share something like that on your Facebook, you’re going to depress people. And Facebook doesn’t like it when you do that, right?
Jerod: So in other words, arresting images will create different emotional responses. Am I summing up what you’re saying correctly? To say — does that mean that we want to lean to the positive when we’re choosing arresting images for blog posts?
Demian: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I’ll answer that by pointing to a study.
There’s a 2012 study published by a team of researchers out of Utah Valley University, and the study was called “They Are Happier and Having Better Lives Than I Am, The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives.” And their conclusion was that you get more explicit, implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from, say, a status update. And so a photo can be a very powerful way to provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger these feelings of inferiority. So you see your friend, who is hanging out in Southern California, and I’m stuck here in Illinois, and I’m going to envy that person, right?
So the same sort of impact can be made with an arresting image. You can create that emotion with them. And yeah, it could be positive. It really just kind of depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the copy so that it really kind of brings in the question of what kind of emotion are you trying to generate with an image, which is the same question that you ask when you’re about to write copy. What kind of emotion? What is the response that I want out of the reader? What kind of an emotional response do I want him to have?
Why the emotion of the image needs to match the copy
Jerod: And let me guess, the emotion that you want to generate from the image should match the copy, right?
Demian: Yeah. Exactly.
So you know, do you want people to be angry so they can then go out and accomplish some sort of social justice cause? Do you want them to be sad, excited? Your image should match that emotion.
But it’s more than just about emotion. A good image should also match your personality. It should say something about who you are. And I think this is where we get to the point when we talked about, when we mentioned subjectivity. See, you and I might write about the same topic, but we are going to choose a different image. Something that we find complements our personality and says something about us.
So for example, the images that I choose tend to evoke sort of feelings of cynicism or sarcasm, maybe brooding or biting. Yours, on the other hand, Jerod, would probably be different because you’re more of an upbeat, optimistic guy with a different background and personality. Neither one is better than the other one, by the way, but it’s all really about being genuine to yourself in choosing those images.
Where to find great images online
Jerod: You and I also have different places where we get our images, too. I remember when I first started with Copyblogger I would go to iStock a lot because I hadn’t done a whole lot of finding images.
Jerod: And I quickly — I mean, look, iStock has its place, and you can get some good stuff there. But I quickly got bored with images there and found Flickr to be a place that — I didn’t realize how many Creative Commons images were there, and so many of the images now that I find come from Flickr, and it’s just a great place. Of course, you want to make sure that you use the advanced search tool to filter, to look for only photos and only Creative Commons. But for me, I found that to be one of my favorite places to find images.
You, I know, have a much more diverse list of sources. So where do you find your images?
Demian: Some of the places — Flickr is one of them. But I also look on Tumbler or Reddit, sometimes even Google-Plus.
Of course, as you mentioned, too, look for images with no restrictions, or even just ask for permission. And recently one of my favorite sources for finding images comes from Dustin Stout, who did a wonderful job. Sort of a roundup of sites that offer free images, and a lot of times these are without copyright restrictions.
Why trusting your instincts and building the right relationships will help you choose better images
Jerod: So I want to end here with tips, and so one tip from my perspective is, trust your instinct when it comes to images.
I’ve put images in posts and looked at them, and something just doesn’t feel right. I wouldn’t be able to explain it, I couldn’t articulate it, it just doesn’t feel right. So get rid of it. Especially if it’s your site or if you’re in charge of a site and you know you understand the editorial voice of that site, trust your instinct on it. Because I think a lot of times you’re trying to develop a visceral emotion in the audience with the image. Well, you’re the one choosing it, and so if it doesn’t feel right, find another image.
There are a couple of times where I’ve gone with an image that didn’t feel right and ended up regretting it later. So I think it’s very important as you go through that process. Trust your gut, trust your instinct.
Demian, what is your tip for the audience when it comes to images?
Demian: Yeah. So one of the things I like to do is find a photographer or an illustrator that I like, and build a relationship with them. I tell them that I love their work, and then get permission to use their work, and then — what I mean by that is if you find a photograph that you love, e-mail them and say, “Hey, do you mind if I use this? Here is how I’m going to use it.” And if you can, share a draft of what you’re going to use it on so that they can get kind of some sense of it. But then come back to them occasionally and say, “Hey, I really love your work. What are the chances that we could just, you know, I’d love to keep on doing this if that’s okay with you,” and keep on going back to that resource.
And this is a great way to not only get great images, free images for your site, but also to help build exposure up for this particular photographer or illustrator. Which, you know, if you find someone who is just starting out, or maybe if your audience is bigger than theirs, then of course there’s an easy advantage to them for going with the relationship.
So yeah, just simply building that relationship, finding someone that you like and just working with them, and kind of partnering with them in bringing exposure to that person as well.
Jerod: Well Demian, that’s nine ingredients down. We have just two more to go in this series on the eleven essential ingredients of a blog post. And the next one is close in style. I’m looking forward to that one.
Demian: Me too. Thank you, Jerod.
Jerod: All right. Take care. I’ll talk to you soon, Demian.
Demian: Thank you.
Jerod: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. If you are so inclined, we would greatly appreciate a rating or a review on ITunes, or please, if you’re enjoying these episodes, tweet out a link to the show or share it with a friend. Whatever is easiest for you.
We’ll be back next week with yet another episode. It will likely be the tenth installment in our essential ingredients of a blog post series, but it might — might — be another edition of The Hangout Hotseat. You’ll just have to check back on Friday to find out. Talk to you soon, everybody.
For example, you wouldn’t run into a movie theatre and yell, “I’ve got a wonderful product!” and expect a positive response would you?
None of these people know you, none of them understand you, and none of them have engaged with you before.
None of them would respond.
You have to define your own core values, what you stand for, who you are as an organization, a company, a person … and speak from that voice.
Then, define your core target
You have to target a defined group.
In SEO it’s hard to rank well for a very generic term, one that has a ton of visits but also a lot of competition. This can take months and months of effort, and one algorithmic change can wipe the slate clean.
But it’s rather easy to rank for a “long-tail” phrase that doesn’t get as many searches and has very low competition. Get enough of those and you’ve got a substantial increase in visitors — visitors that are now your customers, if you’re building correctly.
It’s the same principle.
You have to find your core group of engagers — the people who really care, whose principles align with yours, and who are willing to share.
Now, let them spread the word
The share is the motive.
You don’t get to 10,000 sales by targeting 10,000 people, you get 10,000 sales by targeting 1,000 people who will spread the word once they’ve bought.
You have to have an audience that will share first and foremost. If you target everybody your chances of reaching anybody are limited at best.
With exclusivity comes engagement, with engagement comes adoption, and with adoption comes growth.
This is why authors like Tim Ferriss prefer a good guest blog to promote their book rather than going on NBC to spout off to millions of people who don’t know or care who Tim Ferriss is. He would rather feed off of someone else’s audience that is already engaged in content like his own.
You don’t need 1,000,000 people to buy your book to hit the top of the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, nor Amazon’s best sellers list. You need about 10,000 people who are willing to leave reviews and advocate for you.
The most blatant example is Facebook.
People see Facebook’s billion+ users and are convinced that, “I have to target a huge audience to get that much traction!” (Let me let you in on a secret: there is no possible way to target 1 billion people, ever, with any marketing.)
When it started, Facebook targeted one school — granted, it was a very large school. But it all started with just one email list, to a group that was known to engage in content of this sort. It caught on like wildfire because of the deep engagement that it had with that tight-knit group.
Now we use Facebook as social proof, liking brands that our friends like; and that’s essentially how Facebook itself started – engaging in things that our friends were engaging in.
Are you struggling to get traction?
Are you dissatisfied with your progress attracting visitors to your blog, subscribers to your newsletter, followers on Facebook and Twitter, or whatever else it may be?
Your target isn’t small enough … so make your target smaller.
About the Author: Sean Smith is a content marketer and social media strategy consultant, having worked with brands like Best Western, Holiday Inn, Bidsketch, and Baker Hughes to boost revenue through clever content and community building. He’s also the Co-founder of SimpleTiger digital marketing, and a consultant for hire. Get more from Sean on Twitter.
There is a terminology problem plaguing the content community.
It’s confusing marketers, it’s misleading clients, and it’s causing an identity crisis among content creators everywhere.
It seems that no one really knows what it means to be a writer.
And Merriam-Webster isn’t much help when it comes to defining this person. A “writer is someone whose work it is to write books, poems, stories, etc.” Or even more vague, a writer is “someone who has written something.”
And as Sonia Simone recently pointed out here at Copyblogger, there are even some people who think RealWriter is a software that uses algorithms to string together words. (You can’t blame Sonia when options like content generators and article spinning tools actually exist.)
This vague definition and the disparate views on what it takes to be a writer are allowing people to create their own idea of a writer and slap all kinds of connotations on it.
And this is really distorting the writing industry.
Which is why it’s time to draw some clear lines in the sand.
Writers wanted (copyists need not apply)
The terminology trouble is creating problems for markets trying to find writers, and for writers trying to find jobs. “Writers Wanted” jobs are hoping to target writers who are:
But far too often, those who apply aren’t any of these things. They aren’t writers. They are copyists.
A copyist can be defined as a person who:
Wants to be paid to write a certain number of words
Is drawn to writing as a job, not as a calling
Is not trained or highly experienced in any specific writing style
Doesn’t have any industry specializations
Doesn’t have a unique perspective to share
Isn’t expecting to be highly compensated as they don’t expect to provide high-quality work
Merriam-Webster defines a copyist as “a person who transcribes” or “an imitator.”
It might seem silly to think that these attributes could be tied to a version of a writer, but the keyword-focused online marketing industry created and fueled a market that was looking for this exact type of writer.
…writers were journalists. They were storytellers. They were researchers and investigators. They were trained in grammar and AP style. They held degrees in English, journalism, and creative nonfiction. They were people who wanted to be writers their entire lives, people who were passionate about writing and telling original stories from unique points of view.
So, the first step in clearing up the confusing definition of writer is identifying what the term is not: a writer is not a copyist.
The next step is identifying what the term is: a writer is an author or freelance commercial writer.
Ditching the copyist mentality
It’s pretty easy to tell if you are a copyist.
You are not passionate about writing. If you were offered a new job in another industry, you would leave writing behind without a second thought.
You accept all types of work-from-home jobs. The work-from-home aspect of writing is what draws you to the industry, and you also work in other kinds of work-from-home jobs.
You don’t read for pleasure. You don’t regularly read books, magazines, or newspapers, and you don’t have any favorite blogs.
Your finish line is a word count. When you receive a 500-word writing assignment, you write exactly 500 words.
You are not proud of your writing. The thought of sharing your writing with loved ones never crosses your mind.
You don’t write in your free time. You think writing is work, and if no one is paying for it, there is no reason to do it.
You think your writing is good enough. You don’t spend any time working on improving your craft. You don’t seek out constructive feedback and you don’t make revisions.
If you identified with one or more of these statements, it is quite possible that you are chasing the wrong career. Maybe you aren’t a writer after all.
But don’t be discouraged if you identified yourself as a copyist if you truly want to be a writer.
It’s not impossible for copyists to become writers — it just means you need to change your mindset and embrace the role of author or commercial freelance writer.
Embracing the role of author
One of the best definitions of an author is “a person who starts or creates something (such as a plan or idea).”
You are an author if:
You have original thoughts, perspectives, and opinions you want to share. Your writing doesn’t always rely on reiterating ideas from others. You use your own knowledge and thoughts to create original content.
You like to research and follow trends. To help you create your own thoughts, perspectives, and opinions, you are educated, engaged, and immersed in news that relates to your work.
You love reading. You frequently read books, magazines, and blogs. You are interested in the substance of the content, and also the delivery of the content. You read to see how other authors deliver their work.
You write in your free time. Even if you have no paid work in your queue, you are writing. Whether you are writing on your blog or an article that you hope to sell or even just jotting down ideas in a notebook, you are always writing and thinking about writing.
You have a portfolio. You have published samples of work (with bylines) that prove you are a powerful writer — even if the samples are self-published.
If you decide you are an author, there are a few things you can do to elevate your career.
1. Become a contributor.
Guest posting and contributing to other blogs isn’t dead – especially not for authors.
Google’s Matt Cutts went after some kinds of guest posting because they were seeing too many copyists trying to contribute bogus content. But as they said, “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.”
That means authors can still benefit from the exposure that guest posting brings.
2. Pitch like a professional.
We typically associate pitching with guest posting, but try approaching this like a traditional journalist.
Write a query letter that matches the tactics that magazine writers use when pitching print publications:
Share your idea
Explain why you are qualified to write it
Tell them how it will benefit their audience
This will help you attract more paid writing gigs.
3. Start blogging.
You don’t need someone to pay to you to get your writing career going.
You are building a business and you need to start somewhere. Think about the free writing that you do as a start-up writing cost. It is marketing your writing.
So spend some time creating your own blog and writing about your topic.
4. Network. Network. Network.
Connect to influential people in industries aligned with your niche market. Building relationships with them will help connect you to jobs and writing gigs.
Also connect to people who are less influential than you. Proving yourself as a helpful expert to people with less experience than you will lead them back to you when they need to hire someone for help.
With the appropriate mindset of a writer, and by following these tips, you’ll be able to land more jobs aligned with your skills and passions.
An easy way to identify a job that is right for an author is to see if it includes a byline. The jobs that are a fit for authors include:
White papers and ebooks
Guides (that are not technical guides — technical writing is another genre entirely)
Blog posts (that are meant to represent industry ideas and opinions, not represent a brand)
Info videos (that are meant to represent industry information, ideas, and opinions)
Embracing the role of freelance commercial writer
A freelance commercial writer can be described as a “writer of advertising or publicity copy.” You fit the description of a freelance commercial writer if:
You are interested in marketing. You identify yourself as a writer as much as you identify yourself as a marketer. You know that commercial writing is as much about writing as it is about marketing and advertising.
You are can naturally imitate the voice of others. You have no problem absorbing the established tone of a brand, business, or person and mimicking it in the tone of your copy.
You know how to sell through words. You don’t write for words; you write for strong messages that encourage readers to act.
You love reading advertising slogans and sales pitches. You like to analyze headlines, taglines, and ad copy to identify why the words work or why they don’t.
You know how to match your creativity with client goals. While you are great at thinking outside of the box and coming up with creative ways to approach editorial objects, you still understand the importance of aligning with client goals, perspectives, and opinions.
If you decide you are a freelance commercial writer, there are a few things you can do to elevate your career.
1. Create a website.
While freelance commercial writers don’t need to blog quite as much as an author, they should still create a website that promotes them. Create a simple site that shows off your ability to sell through words.
Also, create a portfolio that features work you have done for clients, even if it doesn’t include a byline. (It is good practice to get client permission before featuring work you have done for them on your site.)
2. Brush up on your marketing and sales education.
Don’t think that a writing background is enough if you want to succeed as a freelance commercial writer.
Digital and visual media are continuing to grow in popularity, so network with other creatives that can help you create a variety of media like videos, infographics, and interactive apps.
Form relationships with designers and developers so you can complement each other’s skill sets in order to create high-end media that features copy along with images, graphics, and interactive elements.
Jobs that are best fits for freelance commercial writers are mostly jobs that promote a product, company, or service. Those projects typically include the following types of work.
Romance copy (copy that lures the reader in)
Blog posts (that are meant to represent and promote a brand)
Info video and commercial scripts (that are meant to promote a brand)
A clear definition benefits us all
With a clearer definition of what it means to be a real writer, there will be many winners:
Authors and freelance commercial writers will benefit as the industry will now have a better idea of what to expect from them.
Clients and marketers will benefit by being able to more easily identify writers who will be able to help them achieve their goals.
Audiences and readers will benefit by being exposed to more high-quality, effective, and enjoyable content.
How do you define a real writer?
And what about you … are you writer or a copyist? (And if the latter, do you yearn for change?)
And if you want a sneak peek at the The State of Freelance Writing 2014 white paper, you can read the first six pages for free (and even without registering) right here: Look Inside The State of Freelance Writing.
The next step for real writers
Copyblogger now has a Content Certification Program to support, educate, and promote writers.
Registration for the program is currently closed while we focus on making it a great experience for our most recent group of applicants. But if you’d like to join our next round of students, register and keep an eye on your MyCopyblogger emails, as we’ll let you know as soon as the program is available again for new members.
49 percent of respondents don’t know what native advertising is
24 percent are hardly familiar with it
Another 24 percent are somewhat familiar
Only 3 percent are very knowledgeable
So, given the lack of awareness (and people mistaking it for other things, like sponsorship), we thought it would be a good idea to walk you through about a dozen examples of native advertising — and why they work.
Let’s get going.
1. Print advertorials … starting with this classic example
Let’s start with the basics: the advertorial.
David Ogilvy’s “Guinness Guide to Oysters” is the quintessential advertorial — like the “Guinness Guide to Cheese” above. When people talk about advertorials they usually mention this ad — like Brian Clark did.
Quick glance and it looks like editorial content:
Last week I explained what made this an advertorial (and next week I’ll go in depth on how to create an online advertorial that converts), so let me just say that for this to work it should appear among editorial content and match the context design.
In other words, if you removed the brand name, it would fit the style of the publication.
The Guinness Guide, however, is a print ad, which leads to this question: would an advertorial work online? Let’s see.
Why did they pull it? This is what the critics claim Atlantic did wrong:
Used a mushy expression “Sponsor Content.” It’s an expression Dan Gilmour, writer for the Guardian, says publishers use when they don’t want ads to look like ads.
The design layout looked too much like the design of Atlantic.
The editorial looks too much like Atlantic editorial.
They also forgot a clear call to action.
The joke, however, is on Scientology and not Atlantic. The religious organization is just a poor advertiser. In fact, I’m surprised Atlantic bowed to the pressure. If the ad was so sneaky, why did so many people complain?
There is no clear call to action, so this content serves as brand awareness.
However, the article is embedded on a page surrounded by H&R Block banner ads.
Those banner ads contain calls to action, but good luck getting people to click them.
An offline example of sponsored content is Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The insurance company Mutual of Omaha footed the bill for production. No call to action, just brand awareness.
6. Single-sponsor issues
In the print world a single-sponsor issue is when a single advertiser sponsors an entire issue of a magazine.
The most famous example occurred in August 2005 when Target bought all the ad space (about 18 pages, including the cover) in the August 22 issue of The New Yorker.
As Stuart Elliot wrote when he originally reported on the campaign, “The goal of a single-sponsor issue is the same as it is when an advertiser buys all the commercial time in an episode of a television series: attract attention by uncluttering the ad environment.”
Again, in this case, no clear call to action, just brand awareness.
The way this works online is similar: a single sponsor buys all of the ad inventory on a website (or network of related websites) for a certain time period — a day, half a day, or even just an hour. Subway, for example, does this often on sports websites, usually timed to coincide with specific noteworthy events.
When our Director of Content Jerod Morris was running the sports blog Midwest Sports Fans, he would get such opportunities about once a month via the site’s affiliation with the sports blog network YardBarker.
All it took to make happen was inserting a special code into the header, which would control the already-in-place YardBarker ads. Then all sites in the network that chose to take part would show the same ads from the same sponsor, and only those ads.
7. Branded content
The only difference between sponsored and branded content is that the brand creates the content for the publisher.
As you can see, being precise about our terms is confusing because there is not an advertising standard when it comes to paid content labels.
On all the examples I’ve shared above so far, and the examples I’ll share below, you’ll see a variety of labels placed on native advertising. David Rodnitzky thinks they might violate FTC rules on deceptive advertising. But that’s for another time.
You could lump branded playlists on Spotify into this category, too.
The clue was a comment on page one (otherwise I would’ve ignored the slide show and moved on):
Hmm. Ericha might be onto something. So I emailed the author of the article to find out.
She was a very polite Swede, Caisa Ederyd. I said I am a writer working on a series for native advertising and couldn’t help noticing all the photos in her “article” were mostly of models wearing American Apparel clothes. I asked if American Apparel had paid for the slideshow.
She said American Apparel did not pay for the editorial.
“It’s a Swedish editorial,” Ederyd added, “And due to no budget in this project we had to turn to labels who lend us their clothes for free. Beyond Retro and American Apparel happened to have most items that our stylist wanted to use.”
Okay, but then I followed up and asked her what she meant by “no budget in this project.” As of publication, she has not responded.
This was a clear example of product placement.
While money may not have exchanged hands, favors did. There is a cost to American Apparel for giving away free clothes, albeit small. And in exchange they got exposure — the article was a popular post for at least 24 hours).
Did Canon pay for this ad? According to their advertising department, no. So why the precision?
If there was no commercial intent, why not just say “a Canon,” or simply “a camera” for that matter? They have not responded yet.
Again, product placement is more about building brand awareness. There is no clear call to action. And unlike the H&R Block example, the content is not surrounded by Canon banner ads.
And now, a native advertising intermission
In the 2014 native advertising report I said that I didn’t consider promoted content like we’re about to cover below — such as sponsored posts in Facebook or promoted tweets — to be native advertising. I’d include in-feed ads and Google AdWords text ads in that claim, too.
The answer is in my native advertising definition:
Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.
Facebook and Twitter fail this definition because neither are publishers. The same is true with Google AdWords. They do not have a conventional editorial branch to speak of.
In Twitter’s and Facebook’s case, this is user-generated content that brands pay to reshare. None of these are pretending to be publisher-produced editorial content. In Google’s case, it’s just an advertiser paying to get in front of an audience.
That’s plain ol’ advertising.
On this point Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough, would disagree with me. I confess, after further research, he’s got a point.
There is a sense that this species of advertising — sponsored posts and promoted tweets — is native because it appears in the social stream or among search listings. So, in the advertising taxonomy, promoted content would be related to advertorials. But, in my opinion, it has to be a different genus because it’s not editorial.
In other words, I’m admitting I was wrong. Sort of.
So, with that said, this intermission ends, and we get back to our last four approaches.
9. In-feed ads
You’ve seen these widgets that recommend content from “Around the Web.”
The following in-feed ad, however, is different. It has clear commercial intent.
The headline matches the editorial style of Slate, yet it is labeled “Sponsored.” Click the link and you land on a British Airways branded page with videos about the evolution of the airlines as the best in class.
And finally there are the in-feed ads that drive you to another website. You know what I’m talking about.
The one simple exercise that burns belly fat.
The arrest records of your local city.
The words sit underneath the bold black title “Trending Around the Web” with “ADVERTISEMENT” sitting quietly to the right in a light grey font.
These ads have an editorial feel about them, as do the websites they drive you to — but clearly they have a commercial intent. Despite our distaste for these, I have a hunch they work for the advertiser. Because they have not gone away.
10. Sponsored posts (Facebook)
I could not find a good example of a sponsored post on Facebook. Is this because I am NEVER there? You more than likely know what I’m talking about, though.
Native advertising, therefore, is paid content that drives traffic to that content.
And for a final comparison, guest posting is non-paid content that drives traffic to the content on your domain.
Here’s what you can expect next in this series.
First, an article on how to create an advertorial that converts.
Then, research concluding whether native advertising is profitable or not. We know it’s profitable for the publisher, but is it profitable for the advertiser? I aim to find out.
And let me close with a recent quote from Brian:
Good native ads are content that’s about the reader, watcher, or listener. But ultimately there’s an actionable goal for the advertiser, like opt-in to get a free report from New Rainmaker (you’ll see this happen from us soon).”