But in the age of user-generated content, many have argued that content has been commoditized and that no special skills and resources are required to produce compelling content. Some still cling to this notion.
While that notion is increasingly waning as it becomes evident that consumers and advertisers still value quality content, two recent stories have highlighted this quite well.
75% of consumers think that the inclusion of advertising with an online video is "reasonable" when the video is a full-length TV show or movie and 66% are willing to exchange their eyeballs for "free music videos, short news, or sports clips", according to Ipsos MediaCT's ongoing MOTION digital video study.
Unfortunately for YouTube and other online video services that are heavily reliant on user-generated content as part of their monetization strategies, only 52% of those surveyed would find advertising acceptable for "free amateur or homemade videos."
While it would be hard to argue that some of this isn't due to the fact that consumers have been conditioned to accept advertising alongside television shows and movies and that they haven't been conditioned to accept advertising alongside user-generated video, it's also quite logical that consumers are willing to watch ads when they perceive that the value of what they're getting in return is higher than the "cost" of watching the ads.
In other words, good content for "attention" is a worthwhile exchange for most consumers. Poor content for "attention" is not such a good exchange.
This is, of course, all to be expected and it also jives with advertisers' perceptions. As has been noted, while services like YouTube, which are heavy on user-generated content and lighter on legal professional content, struggle to monetize, services like Hulu are not having problems acquiring advertisers and sponsors.
According to a recent study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) entitled "Improving Ad Performance Online: The Impact of Advertising on Branded Content Sites":
"...ads on content sites have greater impact on the overall purchase process, including customer awareness, brand awareness, brand consideration, brand preference and purchase intent, especially among the consumer package goods, financial services, technology, telecommunications and travel sectors, giving credence to the idea that audiences are attracted to websites."
The study was conducted using data from a company called Dynamic Logic, whose "AdIndex" surveys gather data from more than 6m people through sites such as Hulu and Facebook.
As reported by AdAge:
"Of the metrics analyzed in the study, OPA notes that branded-content sites make inroads in two of the more notoriously difficult segments: brand favorability and purchase intent. Overall, brand favorability improves 29% over average online advertising. Purchase intent increases 20%. That number spikes further in relation to affluent demographics, to 24% in households with an income of $75,000 or more."
Of course, the OPA has a vested interest that happens to align with the results of their study. As such, I'm inclined to exercise a healthy dose of skepticism and assume that there's some spin here even though the numbers themselves do appear to be in line with the conclusions (unlike some other studies in which the conclusions conflict with the data).
When considered alongside the Ipsos MediaCT study, however, as well as the recent study which revealed that less than 13% of respondents found more than a quarter of the targeted ads to be relevant, it is quite clear - content impacts results for advertisers.
And because, in the online environment, quality content is usually found on certain types of properties, the results of the OPA study don't conflict with logic.
Instead of relying on some magical technology that will target relevant ads to consumers across all the websites they're browsing, the OPA's study hints that it may be smarter for advertisers to focus on content, content, content - which really means location, location, location on the internet.
In other words, betting on compelling content may make more sense than betting on (supposedly) compelling technology.