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I’m starting to wonder whether publishers might end up in competition with their own advertisers.

Looking at the 22 reasons people go online, it’s not hard to see why publishers can’t sell their ad space the way they used to. People go online primarily to learn, have fun, and socialize, and the web gives them on-demand access to those activities, so they ignore content that doesn’t lend itself to those activities — content that they’re not looking for, such as advertising.

So what marketers end up having to do is create marketing experiences that do lend themselves to those activities — interactive marketing experiences. As Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research reports for AdAge:

[…] marketers have learned that interactive marketing is more effective, and advertising less effective, per dollar spent. While budgets for online have decreased, they decreased less than other budgets. Six out of ten marketers we surveyed agreed with the statement “we will increase budget for interactive by shifting money away from traditional marketing.” Only 7% said “we have no plans to increase our marketing budget.”

As if publishers didn’t have enough competition from an over-saturated content-marketplace, but now marketers too are vying for a slice of the entertainment pie. Of course, it makes sense for marketers to cut-out the middle-man as much as possible, but if they’ll never cut them out completel because independent publishers help legitimate the value of content consumption in the first place.

So what does this mean for publishers? Well, it means that they’re going to have to find new ways of working with advertisers without completely compromising their independence and authority.

While consumer publications can fall back mostly on a symbiotic editorial model (such as Vice Magazine has done), the model has limited potential for journalism outlets. After all, an independent editorial is part of journalism’s core product offering.

Of course, just as news journalism can’t accommodate symbiotic editorial as much as its more consumerist counterpart, marketers seem less likely to compete directly with journalism outlets. So perhaps the answer for journalism outlets is in becoming social news organizations that offer marketers better targeted campaigns through cloudvertising.

In any case, now that marketers are able to cut out some of the middle-man, advertising is never going to be the same again — but you didn’t need me to tell you that. And something else you don’t need me to tell you is that the publishing industry is undergoing a violent evolution.

The funny thing about evolution, though, is that sometimes it produces bastardized hybrids that end up changing the ecosystem they adapted to in the first place, and out-competing themselves into extinction. So it’ll be interesting to see whether marketing evolves into some kind monolithic monstronsity that cannibalizes its own young.

It probably won’t, but it sure is fun to entertain the idea.


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