Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
Throughout this week (and beyond) on the portal we are discussing native advertising. The discussion was opened with an excellent article by Kamilo Antolović, it was continued by Bob Garfield, we then published a discussion between a few people from the Croatian advertising industry, and now here I am to say a few things.
In essence, it’s very simple. Native advertising is an article edited and published in the media like any other article, except that it HAS to be labelled as a paid text. And this is where the problem arises. Advertisers do not want their article to be marked as paid, because it then doesn’t attract the reader’s attention. Most readers probably think: “If that was true, why would it have to be paid for? It would’ve been published like any other article.” I thought the same thing all these years. Almost every week I get two to three queries about how much it costs to publish a PR article on the portal. My answer has always been the same: “Send the text. If it’s good, we’ll publish it for free, if not, there’s no money in the world that could pay for it to be published.” We live off information and we are grateful to everyone who sends us good information to publish.
I held that belief until November last year when I went to Berlin for five days to sit with the other members of the Epica Awards jury and assess the entries. One day I had lunch with Hando Sinisalu from Estonia. He has a similar portal to Media Marketing. It covers that whole region, just like ours. I ask him about his business model, he tells me they finance themselves through native advertising and organizing events and lectures. Unlike Hando I’m not smart enough to hold lectures – who would listen to me – nor do we organize events or deal with native advertising. Therefore, we don’t have a business model that works. I told Hando about my attitude regarding paid texts, and it only took him a minute to convince me I was wrong. Hando says: “Ekrem, he who pays has every interest in delivering a good and interesting text, because otherwise they are throwing money away, and nobody wants to do that.” That night I thought for a long time about what he had said. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that someone should pay to place an article that we like and that is good for our readers. And how would I determine whom to charge or not? I can’t charge everyone, because what if they all refuse? We would end up without content, and the portal would shut down. Our whole reputation was built on our independent editorial policy, and how do we now… you pay – you don’t have to pay. After all, our most important target group are agencies, and agencies don’t like to pay. They – with some honourable exceptions – only like to take. So I decided to continue with my old ways, and to ask for money only when we receive a text that is not suitable for publication, expecting that it will then be withdrawn because no one will want to pay.
Shortly after returning from Berlin, I received one such article from an agency (the article was about the agency). As soon as I read it I said that we would release it only if it was paid for and I threw in a hefty price. “Fine,” I said to myself when I sent the mail, “that’s a problem solved.” A minute later, “bling”, you have new mail. I open it, it reads, “Send the invoice”. And we published the text. When it went online, I thought I would die of shame for publishing it. Not that we’ve never had junk on the portal, but it’s been in the most minimal quantities so no one’s been poisoned, but still, I can’t say I haven’t blushed sometimes. But this time I was truly ashamed. I wish I had marked the article as paid, but I didn’t. Oh, Hando, what have you made me do.
I don’t know who came up with native advertising, but I’m almost certain that it is a fabrication of media who don’t know how to attract meaningful money. The media industry is in crisis – a terrible crisis. Print media don’t live off the sale of circulation because the cost of sale amounts to 50 percent of the sales price (rebate, cost of delivery to kiosks, cost of return of unsold copies …). They live off advertising. The money for advertising is dwindling, but print media are increasing in number (one dies, two new ones appear). They haven’t found the right answer to the tide of internet media, at least not in our Adriatic region. Clients are demanding higher discounts, media agencies buy large and cheap, and they don’t really bother to give an answer when challenged. I remember when Robert Čoban wrote in one of his columns that media agencies didn’t want to respond to a special issue of Hello magazine that was dedicated to the wedding of Novak Đoković. Hello had exclusive rights worldwide for photos from the wedding. Serbia went nuts. Color Press had to print additional copies of the magazine. Everyone was interested – except for the media agencies, who were too lazy to change their Excel spreadsheets with finalized plans for advertising. “Screw that. Who would change that now?” Robert’s colleagues in marketing offered advertisements directly to clients and sold everything out. It was the issue with the highest number of advertising pages by far until then.
Because print media are earning less money they are paying their journalists less. A poorly paid journalist is a journalist in a bad mood, and that kind of journalist sees everything as black and writes only about bad things because he has it so bad so it must be the same for everyone around him. Bad and only bad news (the blacker the better) put readers in a bad mood. A frightened and disgruntled reader spends less and doesn’t want to invest and so we all sink into a bad mood.
But even the print media are great compared to TV’s standing among advertisers and media agencies. Minimum 50%, optimum 75% discount. There are even too many TV stations. The competition is too high and advertisers and media agencies use that, like common usurers, taking both the watch and the chain. It just goes to show at least three things:
- Companies are led by unfulfilled and unaware managers. If this weren’t the case, they wouldn’t act the way they do. They would operate with the opposite logic. A strong media industry, well-paid and motivated journalists, positive attitudes, positive consumers, higher consumption, more investment – all creating a prosperous and profitable society.
- Media “bosses” (private media) today are mostly semi-literates, racketeers and loan sharks who want only two things: money and power (money gives power) or power and money (when you have power it’s easier to take money). When their castle starts crumbling, they throw themselves into the arms of politics, whose elite also acts like a mafia and there the story ends. How it happened that the media dropped their real (positive) power, and allowed advertisers and media agencies to throw them to their knees, I don’t know, but a revolution is definitely necessary. The only thing is, in order to have a revolution you need smart people, and they are very hard to find in today’s media. You could count them on one hand.
- Media agencies are assuming a completely wrong role here, stepping over to the side of advertisers in strangling the media. Advertisers are not the most important partners of media agencies – but of the media, as suggested by their very name. Strong media as partners – media that are read, watched and listened to, media that do not hide their data and do not lie about their circulation, media that are members of ABC because they do not fear the truth about their business, creative media, positive media – these are partners advertisers won’t deteriorate with, but, on the contrary, their business will flourish. But with advertisers and media agencies such as they are, the media industry is inevitably going down the tubes. The nation has been numbed to mindless and therefore the most watched programs are Farm and Big Brother, shows that should be prohibited by law, if there were any brains left. We are all prime patients for Naša Mala Klinika (Our Little Clinic, a comedy show running on TV stations in the region).
In this general chaos, native was conceived as a new mantra that is now sold to advertisers, but not as a marked paid article. Thus it becomes fraud and racketeering. It’s a racket in terms of: pay me if you want me to write nicely about you. Today, the media can destroy a company or individual by false reporting without suffering any punishment. In court, they simply cite an ‘anonymous’ source of information for their report, and that’s the end of the story. So says the law. The law gives the media the opportunity to behave the way they behave. Today you can’t sue the media for a lie that destroyed your company or you personally, and thus return the favour if your claims are proven. That’s just not the law.
In order for native to ’emerge’ with a label that would show that it’s a paid article, at least two conditions must be met. That the text is good and that it was written by a relevant author, someone I trust. These days native texts are not well-written, they are classic ads written with the concept “me, only me and no one like me” and are written by anonymous people, mostly juniors in the agency because no serious person wants to do it. And that’s why native hides under the guise of regular articles, without the ‘paid’ label. That’s why it’s not read. That’s why it’s a lie and money out the window.
And that’s why my message is still: If you have a good article that’s in line with our concept, we’ll publish it for free, if not, there’s no money in the world that could pay for it to be published. If we tell you that you have to pay, it means that we don’t want to publish it, we just don’t want to tell you that so harshly. If you accept to pay… well, we’ll just have to tell you then.