Lessons in Digital Content Creation & Technology from Search Advertising
Virginia Heffernan has an interesting piece in this Sunday’s NYT Magazine. The premise is that the new ways content is distributed and displayed calls for new types of content rather than trying to retrofit traditional content forms into the digital space.
Of course this is true. Heffernan focuses her article on…well, article content (specifically magazines). While magazines articles may need to change this content sea change due to technology is best exemplified by advertising.
It took ten years but the digital medium could not support retrofitting traditional methods of advertising. It simply does not fit with the distribution and display technology of the web. Web publishing wasn’t built for display ads and the ads were not created and their content served in a way that leveraged the publisher, the advertiser or the user. See this recent presentation for more on this.
Search advertising however worked like a charm. Search works precisely because the content creation is built for and built into the technology. This required it to be bought, sold and measured in new ways that never existed prior to search. It was revolutionary at the time. It was evolutionary in retrospect. Now it is mandatory.
Forget about “intent” or “relevance” – these are just byproducts of the medium. The native content platform is the number one reason why search advertising works far better than any other form of content distribution and display.
Bill Gross saw the opportunity to build an advertising system based on a new way media was displayed and would be valuated, the keyword. Most people thought he was crazy (only ten years ago).
“The more I [thought about it], the more I realized that the true value of the Internet was in its accountability. Performance guarantees had to be the model for paying for media.” – Bill Gross
Over the next few years I hope we’ll see new advertising platforms built for and into the technology of web, but I’m concerned. My fear comes from what I hear entrepreneurs say to me about new technologies. Things like it has to be “easy for agencies to understand” or they want to be “selling what people are buying.” Bullshit! They all should take a lesson from Bill Gross who thought about content creation and technology is a different way.
Now Virginia, what about performance guarantees for the ads I’m buying next to the magazine articles?
More of my thoughts on the changes brought by digital content distribution: