Francisco Amaral and Inaki Palacios Osambela of Cases i Associats gave participants at the 16th World Editors Forum details of their study into how to monetise online content. In essence, their message was that rather than looking at directly charging customers, media outlets should be looking at how to use the strength of their brand to sell other products.
Amaral and Palacios Osambela showed figures that demonstrated how search engines are still the way that most readers reach online news, and highlighted the ways that Google does help newspapers. They showed a video of Guardian director of digital content Emily Bell, who said that she believes that Google can enrich news organisations, but that she thinks that another similar service may well emerge which could offer a better deal to the content providers.
The two presenters noted the growing influcence of email, Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones, pointing out that this technology is bringing many publishers into a less familiar universe. "Social networks are where people what to be, so we must be there." However, Amaral and Palacios Osambela, maintain, what is important is that "people trust the brand, the platform doesn't matter."
Print media has traditionally had the most credibility, but online-only brands are building credibility fast. Online, there are definite opportunities for monetisation but they have to be well thought-out.
Traditional banner advertising does not work online, Cases I Associats has concluded. "Banner blindness is real," the representatives said, "people almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement: they learn to ignore it." Studies show that upwards of 90% of users just find banner ads annoying and invasive.
More engaging, useful forms of advertising need to be established, they said. "We have to create environments where we can align trust and e-commerce." The presenters gave the example of Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport. The paper's deputy editor Gianni Valenti explained in a video how the paper is basing e-commerce of its editorial content: the paper has created an online shop, GazzaTown.it. It sells all the official products, and while as Italians are often reluctant to buy online, they are more likely to use GazzaTown because they trust the brand.
Amaral and Palacios Osambela's message was echoed to a certain extent by fellow speaker Matt Kelly of the Daily Mirror. Kelly also stressed the importance of a strong brand and described how the paper uses its standalone websites 3am.co.uk and MirrorFootball.co.uk to make money through e-commerce and innovative forms of advertising, such as a competition for a mobile phone. Kelly, however, played down the importance of search engine optimisation, pointing out that readers who find your content via search are frequently not loyal readers.
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