The Case for Paid Discovery

Earlier this month, commenting system Disqus added “promoted discovery,” hoping to tap into the growing market for content marketing.

Digiday spoke with David Fleck, gm of Disqus and former gm of publishing at Federated Media, about content marketing, publisher challenges with commenting systems, and brands as publishers.

What’s the big challenge for content marketing?
One of the biggest problems is that all brands are publishers, but also most consumers are publishers too. There’s what I call the fragmentation of content. It’s really difficult to pierce that, to separate signal from noise out there. It’s discovery. You can’t assume, if you create great content anymore, that people are going to find it. You have to kind of prime the pump, get the ecosystem working in your direction. But, in general, that’s something I see as a huge problem. Once you get the audience to that content, they’ll start to use all the tools that are there for them to start to amplify that content. They’ll share on Facebook and Twitter, like it and comment on it, and get other people to then discover that content. You can’t assume if you create great content it will come.

Why do you think paid discovery’s going to be big in mobile?
The reason is pretty simple: you have a captive audience. When I’m on a site and I see — maybe its a recommendation — a banner on that site, it gets very few pixels. So you may not notice that. But if it’s a piece of content, there’s a higher likelihood to click on it as I don’t have 20 different tabs open. Maybe I’m in line at the supermarket, read that article, and see, what’s next? Oh cool, there’s an interesting article that’s how to market as a small business owner, maybe brought to you by American Express and Open Forum. If that’s who I am and is something that interests me, I’ll click on it and read it. That’s exactly the experience a brand marketer wants.

Sounds like the mobile experience, because the behavior is so radically different than desktop, can be a boon for publishers and advertisers in the paid discovery world?
Yeah. I think content marketing does very well on desktop, but I think it’s tailor made for the mobile experience. That’s where a lot of the dollars should go. The efficacy of it, from what we’re seeing, is powerful. And from our own personal business perspective, it’s one of those things that monetizes well for us too. People are willing to pay the same, if not more to find their target audience via mobile.

Should content marketing be clearly labeled as advertising?
I think it should be denoted. I don’t necessarily think you have to use the word “advertising” in a title that’s front and center. You should disclose it for sure. I do think it’s important to acknowledge that these are brought to you by sponsors. But I don’t think you necessarily have to label it with red letters across it. At the end of the day, the performance should speak for itself. If people are clicking on it and we do see that the traffic we’re referring via advertisements, via promoted discovery, perform better than referral sources, including search. So that just tells you, whether or not its advertising or not, these people are enjoying the experience. It’s what they thought it was when they clicked on it. The biggest thing is, and its a fine line, is to have an editorial eye and not mislead them and not allow advertisers to use link bait just to get someone that will be a low quality visit. I think the data should prove it out.

UPDATE: Originally, the article stated the new promoted discovery launched in June with Disqus 2012. According to a company spokesperson it launched in early October.

Image via Shutterstock

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