Welcome to Outbrainland: aka the content marketing ghetto

Outbrain A sponsored content: has become the norm in most news sites

Quality content marketing is being produced in the UK, according to this interview with the Guardian‘s commercial strategy director Adam Foley. But he highlighted a problem.

To borrow from the article, he said: “The quality of content marketing in the UK is very high. But a lot of brands rely on seeding from third parties to get the actual content seen, which means it can often end up in low-quality areas.”

By low quality he must mean that Wild West region of an article page, between the final paragraphs and the vitriolic comments. Otherwise known as Outbrainland.

Outbrain, Taboola, RevContent, whatever…

Apologies to Outbrain for singling it out. To be honest, it could be any of them. In some ways, this post is a continuation of yesterday’s one remarking on the lack of decent content in these areas.

At any one time, the section could contain something like an IBM article on data processing in the Cloud. But surrounding it could be varying forms of clickbait concerning computer security fears, eye treatment and, of course, the ubiquitious PPI fill-in-a-form crowd.

Like property, no matter if you’ve installed a hot tub and a sauna, the value of your house is limited by the street it is on.

Always read the label

The solution is tricky. As the Guardian in particular knows, the revenue provided by the third-party aggregators is helpful to say the least. But it can bring problems.

The Guardian has been trialling the naming of sponsored content via its Guardian Labs team since January. It is now using a ‘Hosted by The Guardian’ tag and placing content in more advantageous areas of the page.

According to research, people are happy to know that something is sponsored. But it does not mean they are as likely to read it. Moreover, the labelling itself is often inconsistent and confuses them.

US researchers showed consumers a page containing the same native ad but with five different labels. Only 23 per cent of people who saw the label ‘Advertising’ went on to read the content, while ‘Presented by’ received closer to 30 per cent.

Sixty-three per cent of people who read the content didn’t notice the labelling at all. The lesson is, the less obvious the label the more interaction.

An answer?

There is nothing wrong with Outbrain’s model. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a premium service that offered access to premium sites such as the Graun, FT or whatever? One that had strict editorial controls on content marketing (hint: high-quality, well-written journalism please).

It could work and it could move content marketing out of the ghetto because it would be in everyone’s interest to do so. Unless you’re a PPI chaser of course.

Welcome to Outbrainland: aka the content marketing ghetto is part of Content24, the blog for London content marketing agency FirstWord.

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