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June 17, 2016, 2 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: media.fb.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   June 17, 2016

Sponsored content has come to Facebook Instant Articles: This week, The Washington Post and The Atlantic both launched branded campaigns there. Facebook had announced support for sponsored content in Instant Articles back in April, and on Friday the company announced additional editing options so publishers can “visually distinguish branded content from editorial content.”

image (1)The Washington Post already puts all of its editorial content on Instant Articles; The Atlantic runs most of its content there.

“We know that our audience is engaging really deeply with our native content on our site,” said Hayley Romer, The Atlantic’s SVP and publisher. “We’ve been pushing Facebook” to add the feature. The Atlantic expects native campaigns to drive 70 percent of its ad revenue this year, up from 60 percent in 2015.

Branded content is rapidly becoming a major contributor of revenue for U.S. news outlets, and American audiences are accepting it. Here’s a chart from the latest Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report, published this past week:

reuters institute sponsored content

In the same report, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson wrote that the Times’ branded content division, T Brand Studio, now includes 70 staffers and will “deliver more than $50 million in revenue this year,” up from an estimated $35 million in 2014. From Thompson:

Display still has a place, but we believe that the digital advertising of the future will be dominated by stories conceived by advertisers, clearly labelled so they can be distinguished from newsroom journalism, but consumed alongside that journalism on their own merits.

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Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters
“After this year’s fake news and Russian micro-targeting fiascos, Facebook and others will be forced to loosen their grip over our algorithmically determined timelines to other alternatives if they want to keep our attention.”
Publishing less to give readers more
“When something happens, we write a story. When something else happens, we write a new story. News event? New story! New developments? New story! New responses? New story!”
Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives
“Next year, I predict many more publishers will push to establish business models with which, as one executive at a national publication recently put it during my research for the Tow Center’s Platforms and Publishers project, ‘you can kind of give the finger to the platforms.'”