Content: the good, the bad, and the revenue generating

Call it branded content or native advertising, history is full of good and bad examples of content creation, the central topic of the Council of Public Relations Firms' Critical Issue Forum on Thursday.

NEW YORK: Call it branded content or native advertising, history is full of good and bad examples of content creation, the central topic of the Council of Public Relations Firms' Critical Issue Forum on Thursday.

Chris Graves, global CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, kicked off the first session, “Content Frenzy: Holy Grail or Spam-a-Lot?” with a funny video highlighting some questionable efforts. These included the New York Giants hawking Camel cigarettes in the 1930s and, more recently, Spotify partnering with Campbell's to “build a playlist around the personae of soup.”

One of the panelists, Raju Narisetti, SVP and deputy head of strategy at News Corp., relayed how Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker called native advertising a “Faustian pact” that will damage the reputation of media institutions.

Narisetti added that “there is significant revenue in brands wanting to be storytellers. It would be insane to pass that up.” He added that readers are smart enough to know this is “different content,” noting that it is important to make sure the content is good and critical to ensure it is clearly labeled, a point most of the panelists echoed.

Amy Webb, founder and CEO of the Webbmedia Group, said that in this day and age of endless data, the problem lies in the fact that brands aren't doing anything new in terms of how they present content. She added that brands have to step up their game and look seven years out “when we will be living with sensors, screenless computers, and anticipatory computing.”

Across the panel, participants said that content creation is accounting for a growing source of revenue. Lewis Dvorkin, chief product officer at Forbes Media, says the company made 20% of its revenue from native advertising, and that number will grow to 30% next year. BuzzFeed EVP of business operations Eric Harris said his company is working on about 700 programs with brands, 600 of which it is creating. The other 100 are being spearheaded by trained brand associates.

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