Editorial or advertising – which should come first?

It’s a bit chicken and egg.

It’s a bit chicken and egg. You need the advertising revenue to pay for the editorial content, but without great editorial content you won’t get any advertising revenue.

For publishers, it’s a question of constant balance. The tension between what editorial wants to do – create amazing content – and what the advertising department needs to do – bring in the cash – can make publishing content a tight rope of conflicting demands.

Too much advertising and you’ll lose your audience. People come to your site to be entertained, or to learn something, or to feel part of your community. Cover the site with banner ads or irrelevant affiliate links and suddenly the experience you create isn’t so good, and people may drift away. But cut down too much on the advertising revenue, and there’s no money to make that fantastic content. Sorry guys, no product reviews this month because there’s no one left in the team to put them together!

So what’s the answer? Sadly, there isn’t a hard and fast one, (but you knew that already). However there are some general rules that make managing the tension between editorial and advertising easier.

1. Protect their trust

Your audience’s trust in you is your biggest asset. It’s why they seek out your content, and why advertisers will pay you for space on your site.  To protect it, make sure you develop relationships with advertisers you trust too. Links on your site are effectively statements about your brand, so take responsibility for these. Make sure the whole experience of being on your site – links and all – engenders a feeling of trust.

2. Stay relevant

If you know your audience, you’ll know what they’re interested in. Sponsored links to products you know they’ll want won’t ruffle too many feathers, but get it wrong and your site loses its spirit. For example, ads for help with Erectile Dysfunction on a Make Up tips blog feels wrong. (I have just watched one, and it definitely doesn’t feel right!).  Don’t sacrifice the relevancy of your content for short-term financial gain.

3. Guard the look and feel of your site

Make a decision about the space you’ll devote to advertising content and stick to it.  If your sidebar is always the place you publish your new featured content, then keep it that way. You want your audience to feel at home, so don’t move round the furniture too much without good reason. And a one-off ad isn’t a good enough reason.

The key overall is to keep producing the kind of entertaining, useful, helpful content your audience loves. That’s what will keep people coming to your site, and that’s what will give you the power control the relationships you form with advertisers. Keep your audience’s interests at firmly heart, and everyone will be happy.

Posted by simonholliday