Traditional publishers like online newspapers and magazines often fear that commercial content will make them less credible. The fear is unfounded if done right.
Every time commercial content is mentioned a lot of journalists gets nervous twitches and starts to talk about great principles such as journalistic integrity, objectivity, and credibility. Being a journalist myself, I can fully appreciate all the animosity. Especially these days where those core journalistic values are more important than ever. But there is no reason for traditional publishers to fear commercial content if it’s done the right way.
In this blog post, I will tell you why and how.
It’s the economy stupid!
People love to consume online news, tips and tricks, entertainment stories and lots of other content from publishers. That is great. But there are four coherent challenges. The following is true for almost every traditional publisher on the planet:
1. Being a publisher is a business.
2. Journalism costs a lot of money to produce.
3. Banner advertising and native articles are not enough to cover the expenses.
4. Readers are reluctant (to put it mildly) to pay directly for the content.
In short: a lot of expenses with almost no income.
The readers are not stupid. Most of them have heard about the failing business model of traditional publishers before. That means they understand the need for alternative sources of income – and the vast majority won’t mind if they are reminded of it. I will get back to that in a bit.
I’m not saying that commercial content and the Heylink platform is the one and only answer publishers have waited for the last 20 years. Not at all! But it is a fact that Heylink can create an alternative source of income that publishers so desperately need. A non-intrusive way to keep readers engaged while making money that can be reinvested in producing great journalism.
Journalism and commercial content can thrive side by side
A lot of journalists thinks there is an innate antithesis between journalism and commercial content. They fear that it will open the floodgates, so their content drowns in commercial messages and buy buttons. They fear that readers will think they are somehow influenced by it.
I will argue that all the fears are important to remember because you will never forget the two key points in making great commercial content for traditional publishers:
1. Think content first – commercial possibilities second
It’s far from all content that is suitable for commercial possibilities. Whatever you do, the content must be the most important thing at all times – forget about how much money you potentially can make from it. Let the well-known core principles of journalism guide you. Here is an example: Recommend the best products in product guides. If you can make a little money by linking to that product with Heylink its great. If not so be it.
It’s also important to use the commercial links in the right context. Encourage readers to click on a link to read more about a product but be careful when pushing them to buy something. Give the readers useful content no matter if they click on a link and make a purchase or not. Remember: It’s not a supermarket leaflet.
Place the link(s), so you keep a fluid, effortlessly natural reading experience. But don’t overdo it. To many links can make the readers not click any of them.
2. Tell the readers what you are doing and why
Most readers will have no issue with commercial content as long as you are upfront about it and remind them of why you do it. Transparency is key. There is a lot of ways to do it. One of them is to have a short text with your context. With Heylink you can insert the text automatically.
Check with your lawyers what that text should be, but something like this will get you a long way:
“Disclaimer: Journalism costs a lot of money to produce. This article may include one or more links to webshops, products or services that we earn a small commission on when someone makes a purchase. None of the mentioned sellers have any influence at all on how and where in this article they are mentioned.”