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The Verizon-Yahoo Deal: What to Know

Verizon-Yahoo Deal

With headlines like “Yahoo Sells To Verizon In Saddest $5 Billion Deal In Tech History,” it would be hard to ignore last week’s news of Yahoo’s sale to Verizon after months of speculation. While the ink has barely dried on the Verizon-Yahoo deal, reporters and industry experts are racing to analyze the potential impact on advertisers, what this means for Verizon’s role in the future of mobile and what Marissa Mayer could have done differently during her role as CEO.

While the future of the companies is unclear, there’s no doubt the acquisition could potentially have huge implications across digital media, mobile experiences and privacy. For marketers, advertisers and PR professionals, here’s a look at the top three trends to pay close attention to as more details from the results of the Verizon-Yahoo deal emerge.

Digital Media

Verizon aims to merge Yahoo with AOL (which it acquired last year) to form a single organization that can compete with digital media giants Facebook and Google. (Remember that under the acquisition of AOL, Verizon also owns The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and a wide variety of digital video assets.) According to Fortune, the reason Facebook and Google have successfully made money on digital content is because they figured out a way to do it without actually getting into the messy business of producing new content. Verizon, on the other hand, is buying up assets that require huge resource investments in exactly that. Likewise, under Mayer, Yahoo poured millions into original content, hiring Katie Couric and producing television shows like Community. It’s an expensive investment and once it’s produced, there’s no guarantee people will watch it or advertisers will want to be associated with it, so it will be interesting how this plays out as Verizon races to catch up.

Mayer Verizon-Yahoo Deal

Image Credit: Reuters / Robert Galbraith

Mobile Experience

The combined scale of the two companies has the potential to reach billions of people. Yahoo brings with it an audience of one billion active worldwide users — including 600 million active mobile users, a host of influential consumer brand partnerships, a powerful programmatic advertising and data platform, and a robust editorial team. The potential benefits from the deal to both Yahoo/AOL and to the advertising industry are many. According to Jay Friedman, COO, Goodway Group, “this is the best outcome marketers could have hoped for in the industry. This acquisition puts AOL on solid ground as the third platform CMOs must take a meeting with behind Google and Facebook.”

Privacy

With access to vast amounts of user data, Verizon could have the ability to map a person to a specific journey on a mobile device with about 95 percent accuracy, including data from physical locations as well as the web. With all of this in-depth data, the more targeted ads Verizon can deliver, the better it can compete against the digital ad titans Facebook and Google. This presents a huge opportunity for advertisers while equally presenting new privacy challenges for Verizon. As with any company using customer data, there must be a delicate balance between offering personalized experiences without being creepy. Security experts have already noted the FCC and President Barack Obama’s administration “must ensure that deals like Verizon/Yahoo don’t further erode the little privacy Americans enjoy today when they use digital media,” signaling the opportunity to use the news as a platform for a broader conversation around digital privacy.

So what do you think – how will these trends play out after the completion of the Verizon-Yahoo Deal?

Should Native Advertising Become a PR Tactic?

native advertising newpaper

Though marketing, advertising, and public relations all play in the same “sandbox,” traditionalists in the world of PR will tell you that the industry doesn’t have much to do with paid placements or marketing pieces. And for the most part, they’re still correct – public relations by definition is about earned media and public perception crafted through “free” coverage. However, thanks to social media and the rise of content marketing, the lines are blurring. With the latest controversial push for native advertising, the lines are closer to disappearing completely.

What is native advertising?

Similar to the term content marketing, the definition of native advertising involves some gray area. Essentially, native advertising is a piece the mimics the form and function of the platform it appears in, such as an article in a magazine or a sponsored post within a user’s Facebook timeline. PR has utilized the “contributed article” in thought leadership programs for some time; the concept is similar, but differs in that native advertising is a paid placement.

Why is it controversial?

Forbes advertising

Check out the small black box – that’s native advertising at work.

Though nine out of 10 PR agencies in the UK believe they are best suited to control their clients’ native advertising pieces, the tool isn’t what PR typically looks like. With a contributed article, the idea is pitched, and editors typically only accept pieces that aren’t blatant sales pushes and add value for their readers. Getting articles placed is often easier when relationships with journalists have been built, and the client has a good public perception.

While most outlets offering native advertising aren’t going to just publish any old thing, it takes away a certain layer of trust for readers. Contributed articles must show value and actually come from a thought leader; native advertising articles can be placed for a certain price. In addition, the FTC set strict guidelines for native advertising and how it must be labeled recently, and most publishers aren’t following the rules. Whether it’s the intention or not, readers discovering an article was a paid placement when the publication wasn’t upfront about it can lead to a feeling of being duped.

In addition, many journalists and editors aren’t a fan. Forbes recently placed one of their native advertising pieces on the front cover, leading to questions about their ethics and integrity.

Should PR play a role?

While native advertising isn’t a typical PR tactic, there are arguments that it should become one. Though the content is paid, PR pros can still control the content and direction for clients. It’s easy enough to just write an article about how your client’s product is the greatest thing since sliced bread and pay to place it as a native ad, but does this really sound like something your target audience would like and get value from?

Pieces should still follow standard contributed article guidelines – no sales push, avoid holding up your product as the be-all, end-all, and think about your audience first. When paying for native advertising, get a clear answer on how it will be labeled. Though it might seem better to hope the publication is sliding under the FTC guidelines, transparency is always good. Articles should be labeled as a native ad, “sponsored content,” or “paid placement.” Honesty is appreciated by your audience.

And don’t discount traditional contributed pieces. There’s still room for these, and there are still editors who prefer this content over native advertising.