Get proactive: save thought leadership from online advertising

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It’s taking some time for the advertising world to figure out the most effective means of playing to online audiences, but they’re making progress. As online video becomes more mainstream, the format is getting more familiar to the ad world. That means more sales, which means climbing rates, which means more mainstream providers in the limelight, which means user generated content gets out-branded. It’s a theory worth investigating, so…

Let’s start here, as Kenneth Corbin reports on InternetNews.com that online ad spending is growing at Jack-and-the-beanstalk rates. Projections run to $106.6 billion by 2011, grabbing 13.6 percent of the market. More to the point:

Analysts cite a variety of reasons for advertisers’ slowness to warm up to the Web, including the ongoing development of good tools to measure a campaign’s effectiveness. Another favorite explanation is that advertisers historically have been skeptical about new media and tend to spend conservatively until they are convinced the emerging format is a viable way to reach their audience. It happened with broadcast television in the ’50s; it happened with cable television in the ’80s; it’s happening today with the Internet.

Now for the application. YouTube is getting all ad-savvy on us, and leveraging partnerships to share customers with outlets like iTunes. And the NYT reports that Google and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane are teaming up to produce original, high quality web content – and advertising is a big part of the plan. Among traditional sponsorship and product placement, the production studio will leverage Google’s reach to capture revenue:

Media Rights Capital, a boutique production company that has the ability to invest about $400 million a year in movies, television and Internet episodes, thinks it has figured out a sustainable business model with the Google Content Network. Every time someone clicks on one of the syndicated videos, the associated advertiser pays a fee, with shares going to Mr. MacFarlane, Media Rights, Google and the Web site that generated the click.

This is a natural part of online evolution. I support it.

The down side is that professional services providers are just getting their toes on the playing field of online media. They are warming up nicely, with white paper distribution, some quality blogs, podcasts, and video on the short horizon. The lower budgets allow a range of deserving and inspired thinkers to enter the fray through a variety of channels.

But when advertisers finally get the hang of this, studio-quality production will edge out the appeal of user-generated content. Keeping pace at that level will demand higher budgets, eliminating an outstanding medium for thought leaders to bring their insights to the fore.

Thought leaders may need to leapfrog this sea-change. There will always be a new frontier of communication, and instead of lagging years behind — as is the professional services way — perhaps it is time to claim the front of the line in communications advances.

Note: No, I don’t know what those advances are or where the line forms. But I’m working on it…

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