Ads Reward Clicks and Views, Sponsorship Rewards Quality

There is an epidemic of low-quality content on the web today — lets look at why and how we can fix it.

Display advertising is the most widely used business model for monetization of content on the web today. Since the advertising industry incentivises clicks and pageviews over quality content and user engagement, publications often sacrifice the quality of their content in order to get as many site visitors as possible. Often via sleazy techniques like clickbait.

A far too often encounter on the web todayA far too often encounter on the web today

Combine this with a low cost of publishing and easy access to consumers through channels like Facebook, company blogs, newsletter curation services, we see an explosion of low quality content and publications on the web today. Just as search and social media algorithms are starting to catch up and punish the “You won’t believe what happened next” articles, we see new techniques emerge like leaving out an important detail in a headline, “this celebrity is the latest to endorse…”. Just to spark enough curiosity to “earn” a click. As much as we try, tweaks to a search engine algorithm won’t change an entire culture of worshipping the page view count.

As a result of years of this, much consumer frustration and the ever rising competition for a user’s attention we’re seeing content consumers fight back. Ad blocker usage is on the rise. Non-ad based platforms like Medium are growing in usage. We’re even seeing browsers created to support alternative business models like the Brave Browser which will use micro-payments based on user behaviour and feedback instead of page views. My cofounder wrote about this last week, but in this post I wanted to talk specifically how this affects publications and how sponsorship can improve content for us consumers.

Sponsorship to the Rescue

One solution that has been available since before the days of the web, which unfortunately hasn’t seen much (if any) innovation, is sponsorship. Sponsorship is often a grey area and confused with ads. So just to clarify; by sponsorship I mean when a brand pays a publication, event or service in exchange for it’s name being associated in some manner, whether it be to contribute for running costs or for profit of the content creator. It’s usually not in an overly commercial or quick reward manner and almost always requires a direct relationship between the sponsor and sponsored party.

So if we imagine a world where sponsorship was the main source of monetization instead of ads, how would this change the game of advertising, brand building and monetization for publications?

Publications Would Have Greater Responsibility for What Brands They Endorse.

With most ad networks you provide a “window” or “space”; and you leave it up to the ad network to decide what’s displayed there. Usually, this decision is based on a per-user basis, through invasive user tracking. With sponsorship on the other hand, content producers and publications have to decide what brands are relevant for their readers — and not let a third party make that decision. This would result in users respecting the brands supporting publications they like. They would have greater trust when it comes to clicking links compared to today’s state of affairs which is ad blocking and ignoring ads.

The benefit of this: brands are more trustworthy and henceforth are marketed more.

Brands Want to Be Associated with Better Content.

Just as importantly, brands also need to decide what content they want their logo linked with.

Did this bank know it was going to have it’s logo next to this type of content?Did this bank know it was going to have it’s logo next to this type of content?

As a founder of a company looking to build trust and credibility in the world, I don’t want our logo or name associated with questionable content, nor do I want it frustrating users through splash screens or banner ads. I want it recognised for benefitting potential users before we even talk to them.

Sponsorship done right: Intercom want to be endorsed by great services like Product Hunt. “We use intercom” is far more effective.Sponsorship done right: Intercom want to be endorsed by great services like Product Hunt. “We use intercom” is far more effective.

The benefits of sponsorship as a source of monetization:

  • Better quality content gets funded more.

  • Trustworthy brands get better marketing and endorsements.

The Challenges of Sponsorship

So if sponsorship is so great, why isn’t it used more? Well there are plenty of reasons:

  • Building personal relationships is hard. It’s a traditional sales process both for brands and projects.

  • Content producers / service creators often just want to produce content, not deal with the business side. This often leads to using agencies or turning to ads.

  • Ad networks have made using advertisements so easy people often just resort to this, as I’ve been told by some content creators. This is even when some ad networks take in the region of 40% of ad revenue!

  • It’s much harder to measure how effective a sponsorship campaign has been vs ads. Without stats to back up a campaign, it can often be difficult to justify the spend.

Sponsorship Simplified

I want a better web. A better web means better content and better promotion for the brands that support that too. As part of trying to achieve this goal, I’ve been part of the team building a new platform called Sponsorama, **The Marketplace for Sponsorship**. Our goal is to make the entire sponsorship workflow much easier — discovery, discussion, payment, invoicing and planning. It is one of the many ways we want to improve the web as a whole. So far it’s been a fantastic experience talking to awesome brands and projects and helping them connect.

I believe this will lead to a new age for brands to have a means to build awareness and grow via a method that will improve the web. When I see a service I like, being sponsored by a brand I know, it builds trust, respect and admiration.

Fortunately Sponsorama isn’t limited to just publications or content creators — digital products, open source, podcasts and newsletters can all grow via sponsorship. Are you a company who wants to grow in a way that can improve the web and establish a brand that customers love? Or how about a project looking to monetize in a manner that’s best for your users? Then you should join our early access program: