It’s no secret that traditional advertising is dying. Every brand is trying to adapt, some better than others. In recent years we’ve seen a rise in content marketing – providing consumers with useful information instead of waving ads in their faces – and other alternatives to traditional advertising. In the world of news media, the principle of survival of the fittest has never been more evident. Vindu Goal, a technology reporter at The New York Times, wrote a nice article yesterday about how Yahoo, under the leadership of Marissa Mayer, plans to evolve (also on page B1 of today’s newspaper under the headline: Yahoo Aims to More Deftly Blend Ads With Content).
One statement by Mayer particularly stood out to me. Regarding advertising, it seems she has turned to fashion magazines, which have always maintained a thin line between ads and editorial content, for inspiration.
“The ads in those magazines [Vogue and InStyle] are as interesting as the photo shoots and the articles. I miss the ads when they are not there. I feel less fulfilled,” she said.
So, Mayer wants brands to create content that will fit seamlessly alongside Yahoo’s content, also referred to as native advertising? As Goal pointed out, for years Yahoo has been falling behind to the competition. Especially since Mayer recently fired her top ad executive, Henrique de Castro, and decided to lead the advertising business herself, there is more pressure than ever to deliver results. But how closely can a platform like Yahoo mimic the advertising strategies of fashion magazines?
In the chapter titled “Markets are Relationships” in The Cluetrain Maifesto, Doc Searls, from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, touched on the subject.
“We might subscribe to some newspapers and magazines, but in most cases we’re not buying those for the advertising. (There are exceptions, such as fashion magazines, where ads are almost a form of editorial content; but in most cases advertising isn’t what gives media their intrinsic value.),” Searls explained.
I include that point to stress the fact that Vogue and InStyle readers may be more receptive to content and advertising being ambiguous terms than, say, Yahoo readers. The fundamental difference is that fashion magazine readers want to be flooded with advertising because it adds to their reader experience. In most other areas, readers see advertising, even when it’s intended to be helpful, as a nuisance.
I’m not saying that successfully blending editorial content and advertising will be impossible for Yahoo, but it will be harder than it sounds, and they’ll certainly have a much harder time selling it to readers than the magazines responsible for inspiring Mayer.