The Premium Content Comeback; Is Facebook Still Safe For Content Marketers?

February 28, 2017

Earlier this year at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Hollywood, Florida, I was speaking to Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of Procter & Gamble, when he said ‘I don’t trust anyone’, referring to the digital content industry’s sometimes dubious quality of advertising and audience.

Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble, Marc Pritchard (via The Drum)

Publishers could take this negative connotation pessimistically, thinking potential advertisers and clients are associating them with the quality (or lack thereof) advertising cluttering the web today. I think instead there’s optimism for what publishers can provide to the market – premium is in fashion and gaining popularity.

After a decade-long hiatus, where the online advertising industry chased audience with no concern for where that audience came from, or its legitimacy, the industry has acknowledged there is value in premium content again: it attracts real audiences and the right audiences. This change in attitude will be felt by marketers, publishers, and Facebook.


Facebook newsfeeds increasingly fill with political news and advertising.

You open up your Facebook newsfeed and see an ad for home renovation supplies, a download call-to-action for Candy Crush, and a trailer for The Lego Batman movie, all mixed in with the endless political coverage, debate, and news surrounding current events. Is advertising going to be effective in this context?

Reading political news in this environment, not to mention the accompanying comments section, may evoke emotions of fear, anger, worry and anxiety. Yes, marketers want to reach you, but not when you are feeling this way.

It matters where content and marketing messages appear. There is an appreciation for context alongside audience targeting. Marketers want to reach their audience while they are open to receiving marketing messages.


“If you do not seek to address fake news and the systems, processes, technologies, transactions, and relationships that allow it to flourish, then you are consciously abdicating responsibility for its outcome” – IAB President and Chief Executive Randall Rothenberg

Marketers have woken up and realized they are the ones funding fake news. Many of them feel guilty and perhaps even responsible for the recent phenomenon and are putting pressure on platforms like Facebook and Google.

This is hard for platforms to police. They are user-generated and user-curated destinations, and that is their value. They may cut out a chunk of fake news, but they are unlikely to cut it all out while their users are still rampantly consuming it. Marketers are losing trust in these platforms as a safe place for their brands to share content while maintaining credibility.

The wider digital advertising industry is plagued with fraud issues with WhiteOps claiming one organization is making over $5 million a day through fraudulent clicks. Marketers have woken up to this issue too—with news of some advertisers pulling funding from digital advertising campaigns due to unresolved fake news and fraud issues, and putting their media agencies under review when it comes to where they are purchasing inventory.


Facebook had a stellar Q4-2016, with ad revenue exceeding 50% growth both year-over-year and from the previous quarter due in no small part to increased traffic during the 2016 American elections.

Publishers have long conceded that their political coverage and traffic is not monetizable at the same rate as the rest of their site traffic; generally, advertisers don’t want to pour resources into those sections for the aforementioned reasons.

Given Facebook, Twitter and other social media environments have transformed into political coverage sources, they will start to feel the pain as a certain tier of brand advertisers will migrate away from this subject matter in their online marketing plans.


Publishers have an opportunity, as social platforms face the challenge of becoming political news environments, especially in this current political environment. Compounding this is the ongoing threat of fake news eroding reader trust in those spaces. Ad networks and exchanges are challenged with fake news as well, plus the realization by marketers that there is a great deal of ad fraud occurring within their inventory.

Meanwhile, premium publishers continue to provide premium content, coupled with legitimate, quality audiences. They are the trusted brands and it makes sense for advertisers to align with them to achieve their marketing goals, helping publishers stake a claim to the $13 billion opportunity at their doorsteps.


JULY 2017

Polar’s Snapshot of Global Branded Content Performance presents the complete picture for major markets and publishers this past quarter.