I’ve been tracking native advertising for some time and also looking at its historical antecedents prior to the 20th century. At some point, it became desirable to clarify what was advertising, what supposedly impartial reportage, what editorial. Few actually observed these distinctions, at least judging from a lot of scandalous evidence.
But the clumsiness of contemporary native advertising makes me wonder about better tactics in engaging readers in ways that go beyond titillating or otherwise exciting their interest. I don’t mean to suggest gamification, though that is an option and one that has considerable potential. Rather, I mean to suggest techniques that relate the product to a user’s (or consumer’s) plausible ability to add a kind of value to it. Amazon’s book reviews is probably not a bad instance of this: the books are there for the reading but the reviews make the books something more than commodities that are then passively consumed. There is an element of action and engagement, a structure of commitment.
This sort of commitment can be measured and the data used to identify consumer fatigue or distraction and then prompt tactics to counter that. (It’s understood that all of us will get bored at some point.) Something similar can also be used in open source communities, where the issue is not to produce consumers but producers, and to enable collaboration.
I doubt that either Taboola or Outbrain would work well for open source communities, though I don’t dismiss either (or any of their ilk) out of hand. Previously, what I’ve done is write content myself for the projects; or used Google to find relevant material. But I think that content discovery tools can be adapted interestingly here for specialized markets, as can forms of native advertising that promote relevant content and are clearly labeled as promotions. (E.g., new & improved tools for fast developer communications.)
Filed under: critique