Jim Norton, Chief Business Officer/President of Revenue at Condé Nast – which owns titles like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired – discussed this topic at the 2017 Annual Leadership Meeting held by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).
More specifically, he suggested that while "fake news", currently a buzzword in the media and political arenas alike, is far from a new concept, the technology-driven attempts to monetize such material are unprecedented.
"In a world where content is supposed to be king, clickbait has become the queen," reported Norton, who is also the IAB's Chairman. (For more details, read Warc's free to access report: Can quality content rescue the chaos of digital marketing?)
Given this underlying context, Norton proposed that brand custodians should take definitive steps to ensure their messages appear alongside accurate, trustworthy content.
"Quality content remains the essential tool to earn customers' attention, to earn their engagement and trust," Norton said.
"And poorly produced, poorly researched, and poorly written content is a threat to our industry's existence. It is also a threat to our marketing partners' brands."
During the last few years, however, the main debates in the digital ecosystem have focused almost exclusively on the technical specifics. "Mostly, it has been about efficiency in platforms, ad tech and algorithms," said Norton.
This emphasis, in turn, encouraged a "slow death spiral" as publishers were effectively pressured to deliver more supply and depreciating ad rates, often "cutting corners" on content creation to achieve those ends.
"Marketers tempted by the offer of high-scale reach and super-efficient rates turned around and directed their agencies to engage in a race to the bottom to find cheap impressions," Norton said.
"That led to arbitrary metrics and barriers that had very little correlation with quality content or real consumer engagement … And then the cycle started over and over again.
"And every time we allowed media plans to be placed against poor quality content, we contributed to that cycle. We fed the bad actors."
Data sourced from Warc