Is sponsored content the key to survival for media organisations in the digital world?
This topic generated the most heated discussion at today's SOPA Media Insider Talk on content marketing and the rise of digital media held at American Club, co-organized by The Society of Publishers in Asia and Marketing.
For Adam Najberg, Asia digital editor at The Wall Street Journal, said that the content is already created for its print newspaper and that the focus of the digital team is to get the publication's content moving across people's networks.
"Our digital platform is a content creation centre that focuses on how to make the content pop," Najberg said.
Another player in the digital media world is online news site Coconuts. Some of its content comes from its writers taking stories done by other reporters in mainstream media and re-written.
Coconuts Media multimedia director Alexander Hotz acknowledges this, saying, "Content aggregation is sort of a dirty word. We rewrite stories so that they are more interesting and readable for our readers. We are taking stories from other reporters and writing them in our own voice."
"People are hungry for that voice, which is not the dry voice of traditional journalism. There are limitations to the voice of traditional journalism whereas our voice is more flexible."
In reply, Najberg said, "You are building a church off of our state. I wouldn’t beat up other organisations for taking opportunities though, so we are working with the likes of Facebook on projects where we don’t have to carry the backpack of a legacy newspaper."
"Content feeds such as Buzzfeed and Huffington Post are beginning to create serious content too."
Native ads or sponsored content are beginning to be championed as a viable revenue stream but its proximity to editorial content and its potential to knock down the metaphorical wall between editorial content and advertising worries traditional journalists.
"Native ads and sponsored content pays for high quality content. Did our Kowloon Walled City package make money? No. But something has to pay for that kind of high quality journalism," Najberg said.
"You need content that is high quality and ethical. I want to go to sleep at night knowing that I’m not compromising what The Wall Street Journal stands for. To make money off of news, you need to change the way you operate – the platform, message and delivery."
Thomas Crampton, global managing director at Social@Ogilvy, points out a irony.
"Native ads present another challenge, which is they take away the time people spend reading stories on your platform, which means you are sort of competing with yourself," he said.