Advertising in the item, not the bundle

If a news organization makes money by displaying advertisements on its site, how can it continue to deliver those ad messages — and continue to generate the associated revenue — in a world where people find their news in bundles created by their friends and automated services?

The RSS

This Mashable profile of Diner Connection is part of a series sponsored by Microsoft. Since the ad message and its links have been inserted in the post as the first paragraph, that message also is delivered in RSS feeds. This is how it appeared in my Google Reader.

Mashable sponsored item within Google Reader

The channel

If someone clicked on a link from their friend’s tweet to this ReadWriteWeb data visualization post, they would be met with a ReadWriteHack “channel” heavily branded by sponsor Intel. Like the example above, first paragraph includes a note about the series, along with links to the sponsor’s site.

Read Write Hack channel

The thanks

TechCrunch advertisers don’t only appear in designated ad spots on their site or within RSS feeds, they actually create blog posts like this one thanking their sponsors. The post includes two links to each advertiser, along with a short description of each company’s products or services.

TechCrunch sponsors in a single post

The stream

This one isn’t actually outside of the bundle, but shows how a publisher can integrate advertising directly into a site’s content bundle. The Mashable homepage simply displays excerpts of its posts in reverse chronological order. But injected into that stream are these posts from, and links to, their jobs site.

Mashable Jobs within a stream of content

News bundling is far from dead

Special Delivery

People use the internet to get only the news they are looking for and nothing else, which presents a challenge for big media companies that have traditionally sold news and advertising in bundled formats (newspapers and broadcast news programs, for example).

But the internet did not kill bundled news, it just changed how those bundles are created. Where editors once selected the contents of news bundles, a modern information consumer use technologies that produce bundles based her choice of sources, topics of interest, interactions with that content, and recommendations from friends.

  • RSS readers like Google Reader allow people to subscribe to only certain sites, or specific topics from a site.
  • Personalized homepages like My Yahoo are bundles of customized informational widgets that display news in a more visual way than RSS feeds.
  • Social networks like Twitter and Facebook constantly stream a bundle of news in the form of text, links, images and sounds shared by friends.
  • Tablet apps like Flipboard bundle links being shared within a person’s social network into an interactive magazine.
  • Web apps like Paper.li bundle links from social networks in a similar fashion to what Flipboard does for the iPad.
  • Mobile apps like My6Sense bundle news based on how you’ve interacted with previous information.
  • Human aggregators like Matt Drudge continue to bundle information in a unique way that appeals to a wide audience.
  • Hybrid aggregators like memeorandum use human editors to help bundle content for niche audiences that has been selected by an algorithm that considers signals from the blogging ecosystem.

What next?

So how/do traditional organizations fit into these new bundles? Should they continue to provide bundled content on web sites? Should they continue to provide advertisers a way to reach the audience of that bundle? These aren’t rhetorical questions. They are real puzzles that have been discussed for years now. I’m still not sure if there are many clear answers.

Here are some important posts about the unbundling of news:

Image courtesy of Liz West via Flickr.