As readers get more and more of their news online, and as the number of journalists continues to shrink, communicators are developing new strategies to get their online news noticed, such as search engine optimization and the use of social media. The traditional advertorial is evolving online, too, and one of the most interesting new advertorial services is Newsforce Network. Basically, it enables clients to develop editorial content that readers can access from headline links in a special box on the Web pages of major national media. Here’s an example from the Newsforce Network site.
To learn more about Newsforce, I asked Chief Marketing Officer Dana Todd to explain how it works and what it means to research communicators:
How do the advertorials created by Newsforce differ from traditional banner ads?
Our Newsforce “headline units” rotate in the same spot as IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) standard banner ads, so there’s no need to carve out a new box on a publisher template. The difference is primarily in two areas: visual experience and marketer strategy. Visually, we offer a two-part creative: a headline/teaser which looks similar to editorial headlines (but is marked as Sponsored Content)—which then clicks to a micro-site that tells the full story in text, pictures and (optionally) video. In terms of marketer strategy, we find a unique niche with brands that need a longer-format creative to persuade, inform and arouse interest from the public. This might also include communication goals that are typically reserved for PR, such as research publishing, issues platforms, or corporate social responsibility messages. Newsforce advertorials fit that bill perfectly—we combine the sophisticated targeting capabilities of ad serving systems with a unique branded storytelling experience.
What news sites can Newsforce content appear on?
First, let me clarify: we’re not a network per se—we license our technology to news publishers and other networks. That being said, we’ve found a lot of demand for high-quality advertorial like ours. Over 500 websites in the US are now “Newsforce-enabled,” including most major regional newspapers and 100+ broadcast news sites. Some of our sites include Politico, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Investors Business Daily, and New York Daily News. We are actively adding new publisher partners and resellers, and are developing partnerships with key vertical news publishers in Health and Politics.
What are the advantages to the media sites of having such advertorial content?
The main advantages are revenue and inventory differentiation. News is a special type of media, with the highest level of trust among readers—and properly labeled advertorial and sponsored content has long been a successful offering in print, without causing any damage to the news brand. We’re simply helping news publishers automate the process and create more online revenue streams. Banner ads as a rule tend to be commoditized in terms of pricing, with the average banner CPM (cost per thousand impressions) bringing in $1CPM or less. Rich media (animated Flash banners) brings in higher dollars (avg. $18CPM) but is not really an accessible creative type for many advertisers—it’s costly to produce. Newsforce is exclusive to news publishers at this time, is easy for advertisers to produce (they’re already writing content for Web and PR) and lets publishers set their own rates. Most of our publishers are charging $5CPM-$20CPM per headline.
Could a university, government or corporate laboratory target placements to specific media sites or to topic-relevant pages within a site?
Absolutely. That’s one of the exciting product differentiators between us and a syndication company. With a digital advertorial service, you’re paying for extended and higher visibility and you can target not only the content on the page, but also the person reading it! We can target against profiles such as demographics (region, gender, age), political party, lifestyle, job seekers, alternative health, you name it.
What can content consist of?
We typically like to see a well-written and interesting story, 400-1000 words, with plenty of hyperlinks throughout the story for people to click on. We also allow a logo, up to two pictures w/captions, and can embed YouTube videos or other multimedia links. You can see a sample page here of a thought leadership article by a tech company. We’ll be expanding our story templates in the future to try different layouts and branded content styles.
Is there evidence that viewers perceive Newsforce content differently from banner ads?
Absolutely. they’re more likely to “skim” our headlines because they’re in reading mode, gathering the news quickly at a scan and filtering what they want to explore further. We see a significantly higher visual interest in long-form sponsored text links than other types of ads, both banner and text-link ads such as Google Adwords and Yahoo links. We did an extensive eye tracking study early on to determine whether or not people were interested in our headlines. Newsforce headlines, which are of high editorial quality, got an 8x attention from readers over banners, and a 3x attention over traditional contextual text link ads.
How would a client go about creating content for Newsforce placement?
Tell a great story—or even better, a series of stories so you can test reader interest on each. We all make assumptions in our storytelling about what’s interesting, but we’re not always right. There’s higher click activity on personal interest stories, health, lifestyle, and anything with numbers (research) or a local interest. People are most interested in the things they think could affect them or their community (geographic and business community).
How expensive are Newsforce advertorials?
We have regional partners who will sell small packages of $500, and our national buys start at $10,000 per month for an order—it’s very similar to planning and buying premium banner space. Most campaigns run at least 90 days so that you can test properly and get a decent share of voice. If your audience is familiar with CPM pricing, the range is $5-$20 CPM, depending on the targeting options and sites.
Under what circumstances would research institutions consider syndicating content via Newsforce?
Well of course we’d like it to be all circumstances! But we understand that not every storyline merits a promotional budget underneath it. By the way, we don’t call our service a syndication service. Syndication is low-cost and a great option for many PR activities, but it’s relatively passive in terms of providing controls. When companies want to “supersize” their exposure and guarantee its visibility to a particular audience, that’s where Newsforce is a valuable service. You’re not dependent on pickups from journalists—you’re speaking directly to readers.
How do you measure the impact of posted content?
We track everything, and we support third-party tracking tags on our links so that advanced analytics can be employed for follow-on conversion tracking and visitor behavior modeling. It’s certainly the most granular feedback anyone has ever gotten before, compared to traditional PR methods.
How would you say Newsforce represents a trend in online media relations?
There’s a significant and continuing fragmentation of what we consider to be “media.” With over 40,000 journalists laid off just last year, and the emergence of thousands of competing news sources and blogs for people to read, it’s not as simple as just picking up the phone and getting someone from mass media to help you get the word out. Those days are over. Most PR firms are gravitating towards social media as their next tool, since it feels more comfortable and similar to activities they did in traditional media relations (find influencers, pitch them stories). More aggressive and experimental folks in the digital marketing space are taking over a lot of the digital PR activities, and are trying out things like optimizing press releases and other content for search engines, building co-branded content with publishers, and building their own syndication channels. We feel that Newsforce gives companies a “big stick” to wield that helps replace the mass media voice they used to have, and allows companies that aren’t Apple or IBM to have the same chance at getting national attention for their stories.