Honesty in advertising

“This is the era of media companies as facilitators. How can we build and leverage tools that move the entire advertising ecosystem forward? Media is now a proactive economy, not a reactive one.”

In the journalism and media business, 2018 is the year we, as an industry, need to bring ideology to action.

Traditionally, the breakout of a media company’s asset allocation is what I call the 80/15/5 rule; 80 percent towards the core offering (news, video, content), 15 percent towards product and engineering to help that content, and then 5 percent towards commercial strategy. And in that 5 percent, the focus is almost strictly sales, partnership, and marketing, looking to adhere to what brands and businesses are asking and not necessarily directing them. This needs to change.

The role of commercial strategy in media organizations needs to be an innovation-led, engineering-embedded environment. Business growth and strategy can no longer be an afterthought — it must be ingrained in the structure and ideologies of the company. Media companies must shift from dependence to independence. That means having a mindset that what can and will be built for revenue should be done as a product that can live independently of your platform.

Owning your own LUMAscape: Since the beginning of the web, outside vendors have seen an opportunity to inject value into larger media organizations by helping them drive more revenue, grow more audience, and increase scale and return through technology. However, this came at a cost: Organizations lost control of their performance, speed, user experience, and growth because of these external dependencies. Restructuring internally and focusing on technology-as-Switzerland can and will drive innovation throughout the entire organization.

Learning from what works and promoting collaboration: The phenomenon and value of native advertising isn’t that it’s content. It’s because for the first time, in a long time, there is a product that is a collaboration across clients, agencies, and publishers. To solve challenges with native advertising, we can take what works and hasn’t to set a path for building a media business of the future. How can we make all campaigns and executions collaborative, and facilitate that ability through technology?

Taking ideologies to action: We’re entering an era of advertising honesty. It is time to be truthful in what the value and experience should be and have media companies invest in the ability to facilitate and lead by example. We are actively identifying why brands work with media companies, and how we can take what they have and deliver it in a way that gets the right reaction from consumers. That honesty is also an acknowledgement that media companies need to take ownership in order to make this change actually happen. How can we build tools and change mindset to help clients and advertisers get from a to b faster on and off platforms? It is our responsibility, as a publisher and media company, to build the tools that can help our clients and users have a great experience.

That moment of clarity, knowing that there must be investment on the media side to help change and take ownership of the business model, is crucial. Though it may sting in the short term, it will allow for a lead-by-example approach to the advertiser business model and put the media company in the director’s chair. This is the era of media companies as facilitators. How can we build and leverage tools that move the entire advertising ecosystem forward?

Media is now a proactive economy, not a reactive one. Not just in terms of differentiation, but as a course for survival. Media and journalism aren’t in trouble. It’s the business of media and journalism that is, and that’s what we need to fix. And will.

Jarrod Dicker is vice president for innovation at The Washington Post.

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