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Applying the Amazon Principles to Online Publishing

By Scott Olson on Thu, Apr 04, 2013 @ 04:48 PM |


amazon understands how to take context into consideration, not just contentWe’ve all been there, Amazon.com, and we’re out there searching for the latest thing we need that Amazon sells, which today is pretty much everything. As we’re scrolling down to read the ‘Customer Reviews’ we pass through what others bought and looked at, and we wonder how Amazon knows to put all that together. Then we leave the site, head to our Gmail accounts, and see an ad for the very item we just looked at, or one of those associated items, and our brain starts digging into the ‘hows.’ For most of us this doesn’t last long because we realize Amazon is smarter than us, and we’ll just get frustrated if we think too hard about how they’re putting it all together.

As amazing as Amazon is, and continues to be, the rest of the digital world is catching up, including publishers who are determining how to take the Amazon principles of ‘context’ and letting that trump the old virtue of ‘Content as King.’ The first time I heard this concept I was sitting in the audience at HubSpot’s Inbound 2012 conference. ‘Content as King’ had been the catch phrase. It’s what everyone was using to guide their marketing and what everyone was talking about. However, ‘context’ is way better than ‘content.’ And according to Gary V., ‘if gary vaynerchuk is an expert wine dealer and motivational speaker. book him for your next gig, you won't be sorry.content is king, context if God.’ Content is a one-way street, from me to you, like this blog. But context takes into consideration what you really care about, what you’re looking for, looking at, reading, watching, following, tweeting, sharing and liking.

According to paidContent.org, publishers are getting on board and understanding the value in not only tracking, but connecting content and the page views of readers. This is being done for two main purposes: the first is to serve more appropriate sidebars and additional articles readers would be interested in; the second, and more important for advertisers, is to serve the ads most relevant to the demographics of the readers reading particular stories. Now the rabbit hole can get pretty deep, and to not completely turn you off with my nerd-dom I’ll stay near the surface.

The short of it is that ‘[t]he algorithm will be the new editor,’ as the paidContent.org article states. What that means is we can put Google and Amazon on the shelf (figuratively of course, we’ll always need them for searching and shopping), and have confidence that what we’re being served by publishers is the content we are actually looking for. The kicker is that what we’re going to be served on a regular basis will not just be based on what we’re looking at on any particular website. The ‘algorithm as the editor’ concept means our web history will determine what we’re being served regardless of the sites we’re visiting.

This is only going to get bigger and more expansive. Have you heard of Twitter? Of course you have. Did you know Twitter is projected to generate $1B in revenue in 2014? That’s a lot of cash. And it’s based on the idea that contextual advertising can include who you’re following, what you’re following, when you’re following it, and how it ties into the rest of your web history and activity.

Regardless of what you’re being served, whether ads or content, what matters in the end is the quality. If it’s garbage, you won’t pay attention to it. You’re going to ignore it, for the most part. According to a quote from Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction in a Digiday.com story, “All this shit about advertising not working anymore is a load of crap.” And I agree. If you have good messaging and creative, and you know who you’re after and how to reach them, your advertising will work. If you are missing any of those elements, you’re just sending your dollars up in smoke.

If you want to put your advertising dollars to work, instead of into the fire, check out our eBook on putting digital and print media together, so you can take advantage of both media and reach your target consumers.

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Scott Olson is the director of marketing at Mediaspace Solutions. His career has spanned marketing positions in the non-profit, software and utility sectors providing various marketing experiences. You can connect with Scott on FacebookGoogle+Twitter or LinkedIn.

digital publishing online publishing context marketing