Publishers, Content, and Engagement—Oh My!

Publishers and media companies are pushing hard into the sponsored content and native advertising space—and it only makes sense. Publishers are experts at content production. In fact, it’s their core competency, and display ads (no matter how contextual or targeted) seldom yield the kind of results advertisers need. Plenty of digital ink has already been spilled trying to define new kinds of sponsored content, and publishers and media companies alike are assessing whether it’s in fact a good thing or a bad thing.

Set aside these questions for a minute and think about what really matters to users, advertisers, and publishers. Ultimately it all boils down to one thing—engagement. It’s another one of those words that’s drastically overused—but it’s also still relevant, because what really matters to publishers and users is a great experience, and engagement enhances that overall experience.

Even though they’re the new players on the ad scene, sponsored content and native advertising might soon be supplanted by sponsored experiences. What are sponsored experiences you might ask? Simply put, sponsored experiences are ways in which publishers can build immersive experiences through integrated advertising—also known as interactive content.

While engagement is a critical piece of the experience piece, the content, and the format in which it’s presented, is ultimately the lynchpin. The wrong content type in the wrong format can be disastrous for publishers and advertisers. But on the flip side of that, the right content type in the right format can be a true game changer.

Interactive content—such as polls, surveys, personality tests, assessments, user-generated photo galleries, contests, sweepstakes, and quizzes—can help publishers drive revenue, increase page views and time spent on-site, and scale their sponsored and native advertising strategy. It also allows publishers to be more agile and independent of IT and development resources because it’s fairly easy to build and deploy marketing apps.

Interactive content leverages the same core gamification mechanics that have become an accepted part of B2C marketing over the past few years because it plays into people’s natural desire to compete, assess, test, compare results, share their opinions, and win. As publishers and media companies begin to embrace and utilize interactive content within their sponsored content and native advertising initiatives, they’ll see a more highly engaged and delighted user base—and a much more satisfied advertiser base, as well.

Seth Lieberman is CEO of SnapApp.

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