Advertising in Reverse

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Journalism Notebook

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A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Gretchen Peck of Editor & Publisher about marketing tactics that publishers could use to drive traffic to their websites. Publishers, I said, really needed to think about advertising in reverse. That is, syndicating editorial content to brands for use on their websites.

Some top publishers (like the Huffington Post) and aggregators (Newscred and Contently) are already doing this. Now, Fortune has added a new product for advertisers: Trusted Original Content. Already, it has signed up Capital One, for which it will be creating custom content under the Fortune brand.

We’re all familiar with the idea that “everyone is a publisher.” That’s because search engines rank websites according to how much relevant content they include about a particular topic. The goal is to send searchers to sites that are authorities on a topic. That means strategic use of specific keywords and lots of inbound links.

The problem is that most marketing teams don’t have the skills to create journalistic copy. It’s not merely about writing skills, it’s also about the ability to build editorial calendars and produce timely, newsworthy content in all forms (print, graphical, video, audio) — frequently and on deadline. Publishers are expert at this. What’s more, they’re set up to do it properly with a proven process and skilled journalists, producers, artists and editors.

I spent years working for one of the world’s top publishers and straddling the line between journalism and marketing. It makes perfect sense to me that creating or licensing journalistic quality content to brands for use in their own media channels is the next frontier.

And while I’m sure that many of my editorial friends are horrified at the idea, I’ve no doubt that this is a future business model for publishers. I expect we’ll soon see more publishers moving toward advertising in reverse.

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