Forrester Research forecasts digital ad spend (search , display advertising, social media and email) to top $103 billion by 2019, overtaking broadcast and cable TV ad spend combined.
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Today, on the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Gautham Nagesh wrote a post called “The Politics of Net Neutrality: Five Things to Watch” in which he outlines key facets of this issue. Gautham points out that:
Companies and Internet consumer advocates – not to mention lawyers and lobbyists – are parsing the news from last week that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is laying the groundwork for a new plan on how broadband Internet service is regulated. His emerging plan would expand the agency’s authority over broadband service. While the issue is highly technical, and legal, there are some strong political undercurrents as well.
He wisely points to these five things to watch (and takes a closer look at each in his column):
1. The plan’s effect on merger reviews
2. The timing
3. Control of Congress
4. The players
5. The markets
With regards for #2 on Nagesh’s list, even if the FCC gets a rule done by Dec 11, there is going to be a lawsuit to challenge this hybrid proposal. Verizon pretty much guaranteed it last week. That could stretch out the Net Neutrality debate over the next couple of years. And that’s the whole reason we’re in this position in the first place – because the FCC’s original plan was successfully challenged in court.
And as for #3, Nagesh may be overstating the impact of a Republican-controlled Congress on Net Neutrality or even telecom law. First, even if Congress could pass a law to stop the FCC from moving forward with these Net Neutrality rules, the President would surely veto it. As for telecom overhaul, the 1996 law got passed after about 5 years of debate and wrangling in Congress. And most agree that it looks like Senate Republicans face a very challenging election landscape in 2016.
Over the past week or so, several good pieces have been published about the Verizon-sponsored technology news site SugarString, each offering some excellent insights for organizations seeking to create their own content-centric site or to create sponsored content distributed elsewhere:
Verizon is launching a tech news site that bans stories on U.S. spying
(The Daily Dot, October 28, 2014)
The Daily Dot article focuses on the inherent dilemma created by a purported “news site” that expressly forbids its reporters “from writing about American spying or net neutrality around the world, two of the biggest issues in tech and politics today.”
Verizon fired back at The Daily Dot saying “SugarString is open to all topics that fit its mission and elevate the conversation around technology.”
Takeaway: Brands venturing into developing their own content sites – particularly news-focused ones – must work doubly hard to convince readers they are providing a fair and transparent view.
Is a news site a news site if it’s published by Verizon?
(Washington Post, October 31, 2014)
Washington Post blogger Nancy Scola takes a close look at the “thoughtful, tech-focused stories that track humanity’s climb toward what’s next.” She finds that, “to date, the site’s articles have been focused on simply affirming the mobile tech lifestyle.”
Scola also wisely raises the issue of labeling the content as branded content, pointing out that if this content appeared on a traditional media outlet, it would be labeled something along the lines of “sponsored advertising.” She also finds the small “Presented by Verizon tags” to be of questionable value in terms of transparency.
Takeaway: Clear labeling is unequivocally a best practice for any branded content, but it doesn’t solve the issues around value and transparency. In addition, given the variety of places content is consumed (social, mobile, etc.), creating labeling that works in any context remains a challenge.
Journalism, Independent and Not
(New York Times, November 2, 2014)
In his The Media Equation Column, David Carr writes that he stumbled across SugarString and found its coverage of privacy somewhat baffling…until he noticed some “teeny type that said ‘This article was written by an author contracted by Verizon.’”
Carr calls out a slew of other branded content sites in a variety of subject areas, some better than others, wisely noting that “publishing looks easy, but is filled with peril.” For Carr, the Verizon foray into brand-underwritten news is a cautionary tale about what we may have to do to fund the creation of content now and in the future.
Takeaway: Creating engaging, credible and trustworthy content, particularly news, is challenging even for mature media companies; brands diving in for the first time should check the water’s depth and err on the cautious side
Undoubtedly, others will continue to pick apart Verizon’s foray into creating its own tech news site to drive awareness and build its brand through content. Certainly, experimentation is important, but transparency and delivering valuable information that users can trust must be at the top of the list for any content initiative.
BI Intelligence, a subscription research service from Business Insider, expects US mobile ad spend to top $42 billion in 2018, growing at a 43% compound average growth rate (CAGR) in the five years from 2013.