The effectiveness of advertising depends, to some degree, on the content that surrounds it. In other words, content context has a direct impact on the way advertising is received. A new research study, “Why premium editorial content” from Teads, a native video advertising marketplace, analyzes why premium editorial content creates more impactful environments.
Teads partnered with Neuro-Insight, a neurological research firm, to better understand how premium content neurologically changes the way people recall advertising messaging. Four premium publishers, Conde Nast, Forbes, Time Inc. and The Atlantic participated in the research to expose video ads within their premium editorials on mobile. Consumers were also exposed to the same video ads within their personal Facebook feed in order to compare the two experiences.
The research revealed that premium editorial content is 16% more personally relevant and engaging than social news feeds. Interestingly, regardless of the personalization capabilities in a user’s Facebook feed, consumers still felt more personal relevance to the premium content. Users invest more of themselves in the premium editorial consumption experience.
What makes this finding so important? Premium editorial delivers a more powerful memory impact and a more memorable advertising experience. For the detailed-oriented left-side of the brain, premium editorial had a 19% greater impact on memory and for the emotional right-side of the brain, it had an 8% greater impact on memory. Memory encoding drives higher ad effectiveness and is an influencer of consumer purchase behavior.
Interestingly, both premium editorial content and Facebook social feeds create high impacts on long-term memory, however, premium content generates a greater and more even activation in both the left and the right sides of the brain. The triggering of both sides of the brain offers the best opportunity for broad video advertising creative approaches to influence a consumer’s long-term memory. Premium content is unique because of its impact to both the left- and right-side of the brain, meaning, it has an equal and considerable opportunity to influence consumers.
It’s not just that premium publishers offer advertisers a quality audience, their content also creates a higher impact on advertising. Teads’ research concludes that content with a high level of engagement is more likely to impact the memorability of online video advertising. Importantly, premium content raises the level of impact that social platforms cannot duplicate.
An explosive investigation in The Times of London found advertising from reputable brands like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and the NGO Marie Curie running on YouTube videos promoting extremism and pornographic content. So, by extension, those companies were helping to fund pro-Nazi, ISIS and other terrorist propaganda.
Despite YouTube’s investment in software to weed out such content, its continued existence — coupled with the advertising that appears on it — shines a harsh light on advertising’s poor quality control. And News Corp.’s CEO Robert Thomson released an incisive statement in reaction, saying that the industry’s actions are undermining its stated priorities, and vouching to bring its advertising under its own authority.
It’s clear that attaining actual solutions to this problem requires much more soul-searching within the entire industry, and a change in current operations.
A Looming Problem
In many ways, the recent report in The Times is not that surprising. Publishers and advertisers have found themselves in unwanted territory on the internet before, as we previously wrote in DCN. The attention fake news garnered at the end of last year was a game-changer in that regard, as it spotlighted the money to be made from hyper-partisan sites with misinformation. Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft’s pledge last December to share information, to better eliminate extremist content, was therefore a lauded effort.
But even though Google says it has a “zero tolerance policy for content that incites violence or hatred,” blacklisting is apparently not enough. And ad quality has long been an issue before “fake news” became the term du jour in media and marketing circles. The pervasiveness of fraud and viewability issues has demanded better standards for metrics, and better advertising so that consumers don’t just reach for the ad blocker. Google doubled-down by removing 1.7 billion ads last year that defied its policies — which was more than twice the number of ads it took down in 2015.
But with Facebook and Google together controlling well over half of the digital ad market, that leaves smaller players in a desperate scramble for the scraps, undermining concerns about integrity.
Who’s to Blame?
Which brings us to the question: Is programmatic advertising to blame, or is it a scapegoat for other problems the industry can’t yet address? Marie Curie, for instance, claims it was absolutely unaware its ads were appearing alongside the content of a pro-Nazi group. Sandals Resorts, which had its advertising appear next to an Al-Shabaab video, meanwhile, blamed Google’s mishandling, stating the video hadn’t been categorized as “sensitive.”
The advertisers were quick to express their deep concern and withdraw their advertisements, but the “hands off, we didn’t realize it” response is not the kind of reaction that engenders trust. And that is the bigger concern here. News Corp’s Chief Executive Robert Thomson called this out in a statement. Some of his choice lines deserve highlighting:
“We are in an era in which integrity is priceless, yet digital distributors have long been a platform for the fake, the faux and the fallacious, highlighting an issue which we have long stressed – that they have eroded the integrity of content by undermining its provenance.”
“Ad agencies and their programmatic networks are also at fault because they have sometimes artificially aggregated audiences, and these are then plied with content of dubious provenance – the agencies win, the fabricators of the fake win, and advertisers and society both lose. Affinity and integrity are core elements of a sustainable relationship between advertiser and consumer, and yet affinity and integrity are far too often missing in the modern marketplace.”
If the demand for money and efficiency is eroding the integrity of content — not to mention that of brands and platforms — everyone involved must collaborate to gain that trust back. And that means investing the time, energy and resources in some not so quick-and-easy moves.
One potential solution that puts the advertising industry back into the hands of advertisers is to rely less on programmatic and more on in-house ad networks. News Corp, for instance, is testing its own digital ad network to ensure a “high quality audience for advertisers.” The Scandinavian publisher Schibsted also has its own in-house ad network, and focusing on that has helped decrease ad-page load times while doubling viewability from 40 to 80 percent. Vox too has its own in-house ad platform. And alongside BuzzFeed, Mic and other publishers, it’s expressed an aversion to programmatic. Digital Content Next recently announced the formation of TrustX, a cooperative digital advertising marketplace made up of many DCN member companies, including NewsCorp and Vox.
The reality is that individual ad networks are not yet mainstream by any means. Most advertisers are not big enough or rich enough to opt out of automated advertising, and smaller publishers don’t have the size to build their own network.
What is possible, though, is a more consistent, industry-wide approach to addressing these issues and testing solutions. That means worrying less about the bottom line — at least for now — and taking collective responsibility for this problem. And more human oversight over the entire industry — even over programmatic advertising — is the first big step. Just as Facebook has acknowledged it can’t just rely on an algorithm to stamp out fake news on its platform, marketers know that it can’t rely on automation alone. Doing so only stands to create more problems for an industry already on the edges of consumer trust.
Podcasts are earning a strong foothold in digital media. The popularity of podcasts such as “Serial” and “This American Life” aided the medium in reaching new audiences. In fact, Edison Research reports an estimated 57 million Americans over the age of 12 listened to a podcast in January and February of 2016.
The Knight Foundation recently made several investments to support podcasting programming and on-demand audio formats. In the report “From Airwaves to Earbuds,” the Knight Foundation partnered with Lutman & Associates and Dot Connector Studio to identify and assess the impact of these investments. To date, the Knight grantees are successful in growing their audiences and finding new ways to attract younger listeners as well as revenue.
The grantees in the digital transformation of audio content include:
Project Carbon supports the development of a seamless digital listening platform across all NPR affiliates and available through all digital devices.
Radiotopia helps independent media makers develop audiences and revenue for their work.
Gimlet Media develops and release podcasts for its network.
New York Public Radio develops and share the Discover app, WNYC’s mobile app for on-demand listening.
RadioPublic PBC helps listeners discover, engage with, and reward creators of stories, podcasts, and other audio.
The research identified 10 key themes:
Podcast audiences are growing. At least one-fifth of U.S. consumers (21%) have listened to a podcast compared to 12% in 2015 according to Edison Research. As you can see from the chart, the podcast audience listens to less radio and more podcasts than the average.
Digital-first companies are building podcast audiences without a need for legacy broadcast systems or audiences to maintain and are more agile to develop strategies to capture useful audience data.
On-demand listening offers new and creative ways to offer local news stories.
Racial and gender diversity is needed in podcast hosts, only 22% of podcasts are hosted by women, although that’s up from 12% in 2015.
Public Radio is a key talent pool for the podcasting medium.
Podcasting is a great space for experimenting new skills, styles and techniques.
Data standards and methods of shared metrics are needed in on-demand audio and podcasts.
Identifying new revenue paths is important. Podcasting recently used CPMs to enlist advertisers.
Podcasting and on-demand audio formats are partners in the radio space. Leveraging this synergy could prove a positive move
Podcasting can offer a powerful discussion. It presents a unique experience because the content evolves in the mind of the listener.
The report raises several questions about the future growth of the medium: Is there enough scale in podcasting today to be a profitable medium? Can it serve as a medium for interesting and original brand integrations? At this stage, there’s no one-answer-fits-all for how podcasting should generate revenue. However it is clear that podcasting offers a level of engagement with audiences that offers an opportunity to experiment with new forms of revenue generation.
Once upon a time, the world was a much simpler place for marketers. Not that many years ago, a 30-second television commercial would more-or-less tell consumers exactly what they were going to buy the next morning. The brand would describe a problem and present the immediate solution that consumers would then rush to purchase. Looking back, it was almost like magic. But the age of a short, predictable consumer journey has come to an end.
The Internet has changed everything. Today, the consumer knows almost as much about the product and the brand as the company. They come to purchase prepared with an arsenal of facts and figures to ensure they are making the right decision.
Conquering the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)
Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) Research found that consumers interact with an average of 10.4 items of content throughout their journey to buy. So the question becomes: How many of these pieces of content that will influence the consumer’s decision belong to you?
Brands that aren’t actively doing something to be a part of the online consumer journey and conversation are leaving an opening for their competitors. They also make themselves more vulnerable to the impact of bad reviews, or unflattering articles, that tarnish their brand’s story. The risk of not being a part of this path to purchase is significant. An ad campaign loses much of its effectiveness and becomes exceedingly more expensive if the first time a consumer sees it they have already made up their mind about the brand.
Meet the Consumer at The Right Time and Place
There are three opportunities to grab the consumer’s attention and engage them as part of their online journey.
Search – “I need something, I google it. Whoever answers my needs first wins.”
Social – “I’m on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat. I share, scroll, like. Whoever reaches my friends is also a friend of mine and gets my attention.”
Discovery – “I consume content that is interesting to me on leading premium publishers. Whatever interests me wins my attention.”
Adjusting to the Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery is upon is. It is an age when everyone gets to choose what they want, when they want it. This is especially true with the younger generation: They aren’t willing to be bombarded with information. They want their content, but aren’t willing to get it in exchange for being interrupted. eMarketer research estimates that more than 25% of internet users this year will have used ad blockers. This figure represents more than 85 million people in the USA, and more than 400 million people worldwide. The age of aggressive advertisements is over. The future is in exploration-based marketing, also known as discovery.
Letting People Discover for Themselves
Understanding that potential customers will consume a number of content pieces before making their purchase decision, provides an opportunity to control as much of these content encounters as possible. Otherwise, a competing brand might do so, effectively control most of your (would-be) consumer’s journey.
What this means is that brands need to collect, organize and, in some cases, create a large assortment of content. This might take the form of customer reviews, a flattering video, funny short clips, an article in a leading content website, a reference in a well-regarded blog or news piece, or a blog post. And in order for more audiences to discover this content, brands need to consider multiple distribution channels — many of them paid.
The consumer’s conversation happens on many levels and a variety of content helps the consumer feel that they have adopted a balanced and objective opinion. The more control you can have over the content they consume, the closer you will come to influencing the consumer’s journey.
Choose Your Path Wisely
Once you’ve decided to prioritize discovery to attract new customers, it is just as important to determine where this discovery will take place. Social networks get a lot of traffic and are an easy platform to reach the masses, but when your content is up against a picture of a colleague’s adorable daughter or a friend’s awesome trip to Barcelona, you may find that you are at a disadvantage.
When people discover your content through a leading and trustworthy website, having already enjoyed or sought out another story, you immediately have the advantage of their attention. Our data suggests that the choices audiences make about what content to engage with is significantly impacted by what channel they are on.
Always Be On
Unlike advertisements, promoting content in this manner works in a way that it is “Always On” and effective throughout the whole year. Content discovery mode ensures that users meet your content at the moment when it is most appropriate for them. When consumers are exploring a leading content website, they are in a mind set to consume more comparable content. And this doesn’t just mean text-based articles, but a wide range of content such as videos, quizzes, and reviews.
Going on the Journey with Your Customers
In order to see the true impact of an investment in discovery, you must make a strategic decision for content to be a substantial part of the consumer journey. The consumer’s journey is constantly expanding—and within it, many decisions are made. All this happens long before the customer sees an advertisement. More opportunities to connect with your customer means more opportunities to for them to discover your brand. It’s time to control of the story and conversations that you truly want them to keep top of mind.
Sophie is the head of marketing APAC & EEMEA at Outbrain. She is a Global Brand Strategist, Co-Founder, and Entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience with a measurable track record of creating successful online and offline strategic branding concepts, product lines and events, each time finding the brand story that inspires action and create a strategy to meet ambitious new growth goals. She shares a passion for innovation, a curious mind, and expertise in defining business initiatives and plans, adapting to a changing business and technological landscape.
Signal Media co-founders: Miguel Martinez and David Benigson
In December, Hearst Ventures participated in the Series A round of funding for Signal Media, an artificial intelligence-powered information company that helps its clients monitor the world’s news media. Signal CEO David Benigson offers insights into the platform’s technology, which is designed to help businesses make smarter and faster decisions.
How does Signal track and monitor news cycles across global markets?
David Benigson: Signal is an artificial intelligence company with the goal of transforming the world’s news into accessible, actionable bits of knowledge. We apply cutting-edge technology that we have developed here, in house, to enable clients to monitor the news for whatever they deem important: company mentions, client news, trending storylines and more. Our motoring tool analyzes news in real time across over 100 markets and 40 different languages. We are trying to bring clarity to the news and get users the information they need to know, along with information they didn’t even know they needed.
What types of clients does Signal serve?
Benigson: We have found success with clients across a range of fields—from big financial institutions to communications firms. One of our initial areas of focus was transforming the way public relations departments work and receive coverage concerning their brands. Increasingly, we are seeing the value of our service diversify into areas that are beyond the scope of our initial plans, including client intelligence, horizon scanning, and regulatory change.
Ultimately, we enable our users to search for companies, topics and themes of interest. This provides them with the ability to track their reputation, understand wider market insights and operate more effectively across the board.
How do you see clients most effectively using Signal on a daily basis?
Benigson: Let’s take a big wealth management firm as an example: Previously, they were only able to track mentions of themselves in the news. Today, they are able to not only monitor each of the subdivisions of their very large company, but also monitor their competition, key spokespeople, clients and key trending topics that impact the regulation of their business. And they are able to do all of this within our single platform.
What we have been able to do is allow our clients to have specific and narrow searches which provide only relevant information. Our search results give a holistic view of the interests of the company and the sphere in which they are operating. Additionally, users are getting this information in real time and from all across the globe.
Can you share some details about the experiences that led you to create Signal?
Benigson: Initially,I studied law and then worked with a few startups. After that, I worked with chef Jamie Oliver, who himself created a media company. I founded Signal when I was 24 years old, so I had very little direct managing experience. The process of launching a company has been both amazing and challenging. I’ve learned so much over the past three and half years as the company has scaled up.
The original idea for Signal came from speaking with people in the industry about how they were receiving news every day and what tools they were using to obtain that information. It rapidly became clear that there was a big gap in the market for a tool that could more effectively help people make sense of the vast and ever-growing web of information available online.
What makes Signal different from the other services that are offered in this field?
Benigson: It really starts with our artificial intelligence technology. Signal is looking to automate things that have, up until now, been done manually. Artificial intelligence means that, in a sense, we can be uniquely ambitious. There are millions and millions of new documents added to the internet each day, and processing that data and connecting that information to users in real time is only possible because of our powerful, intelligent technology.
On top of that, our user experience and customer service is a real draw. We have spent a lot of time thinking about what happens when a client is trying to work with Signal, and we want to make that process as frictionless as possible. Our strength is that we are able to combine the power of our technology with the human experience of using our platform. Because of that, our product delivers an unparalleled experience that sets us apart from the competition.
Benigson: We have gone through quite seismic changes since developing the initial concept, and we are now servicing around 100 corporate clients. Signal has concentrated on adding value to our users by identifying what they continue to struggle with when it comes to monitoring their brands. We want to provide end-to-end solutions, so we continue to seek user feedback. Signal has employed user-centric design processes that ensure we have regular interactions with our clients—this all feeds directly into the product development process.
Who makes up the Signal team?
Benigson: Our team has grown to around 50 people. Two years ago there were only 10 of us, so we are expanding rather quickly. Half of the team is made up of product developers, tech engineers and data scientists, and the other half is made up of sales, marketing and client relations employees. Our latest round of fundraising will allow us to invest in both of these key areas at a larger scale.
How are you working to secure more clients based outside of the U.K.?
Benigson: Signal has a small operation already running in New York, but we want to continue scaling that up. We see the U.S. as being the largest and most attractive market for us, and we are extremely keen to make that work. We are always working with our sales and marketing teams to improve how we reach people outside of our current core areas.
What’s next for Signal in 2017?
Benigson: We are continuing to expand the data sets that we use, including in the legislative and research fields. The broader the selection of data we aggregate, the more we are able to apply our products to people in large organizations. We are also looking to launch new products on top of our core platform. Right now, we are gearing up to launch a specific product that allows our clients to track changes in regulation as they happen, helping them to remain compliant. We also have a mobile app that we are preparing to launch, as well as a few new tools within the platform itself.
From the Signal perspective, what are some of the biggest benefits to your partnership with Hearst?
Benigson: A big part of Signal’s platform is how we leverage news media, and there is no better organization at the edge of innovation in news distribution than Hearst. They have offered unparalleled strategic advice when it comes to our expansion and how to leverage technology to get the most value. I also think that when looking at U.S. expansion, Hearst will be a key player in helping us build a network. We are really excited for the opportunity to work with, and learn from, the Hearst Ventures team.
About a year ago, Josh Benton of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab asked me how concerned I was about ad blocking on a scale of 1-10. I answered “eight or nine.” And one year later, the situation has not improved: As of today it’s still a nine.
In the spirit of transparency, I thought the time was right to look at where we are in terms of ad blocking, if for no other reason than I don’t want my silence on the topic to suggest that the issue is less dire than it was during the flurry of discussion around it in 2015. Since then, DCN has conducted research on the ad blocking ecosystem – some of which has been released only to our member companies. We have also posed many questions about Google, the ad tech ecosystem and the actual flow of the monies.
The state of ad blocking today
Unfortunately, the ecosystem remains every bit as murky. The ambitions and fate of those profiting and suffering from ad blocking (including Google) have not yet been fully revealed. But one thing is crystal clear: The companies that create original content are being hurt the most by ad blocking because it prevents them from monetizing the audiences they attract. And the two companies, now known as the “duopoly” are likely hurt the least.
As predicted, the adoption of ad blockers continues to grow linearly according to PageFair’s latest Ad Block Report. While the sky is not falling, the U.S. desktop penetration did grow from 15% to 18% last year and this number matters … a lot. Despite this growth, the IAB oddly recently claimed victory over ad blockers “rendering them toothless” and suggesting the risk of “network-level ad-blocking has virtually disappeared.” This kind of thinking is where things get dangerous.
We have won neither the battle nor the war. In fact, PageFair’s report—which we have every reason to believe—clearly points to the contrary. Frankly, it’s for this reason that I’m writing now in parallel to our continued participation and support with other organizations on the new Coalition for Better Ads.
The danger is real
Here are three reasons we need to remain focused on ad blocking in order to maintain our ability to monetize audiences attracted by high-quality content:
The companies in the ad tech ecosystem—where many of the ad blocking issues are forged—have very little incentive to be concerned about ad blocking. Their collective migration to the latest ad tech craze, header bidding, has increased their inventory and revenue access by an order of magnitude. It’s also widely recognized to have increased latency, data leakage and other vulnerabilities. So potentially good for revenues, arguably bad for consumers. The additional inventory dwarfs any modest increase in ad blocking so the ad tech companies’ incentives are in many ways at odds with consumers and content creators.
Consumers are shifting to mobile, where ad blocking penetration is estimated at an immaterial 1% in the U.S. However, the value proposition of a mobile ad blocker is significantly higher (heightened concerns for security, user experience, data charges, privacy). So it’s risky to expect penetration to stay at 1% given that it’s currently 60% in parts of Asia, where ad blocking is built into the browser. The same functionality is already available in the States (through the Brave and Opera browsers). And not incidentally: In China, mobile users know how to change the proxy servers on their phones, so I’d expect Generation Z may soon be doing the same, in droves. And this is just one of the numerous ways in which ad blocking may rapidly impact mobile apps.
Network-level ad blocking concerns will likely grow. The number one goal of the new administration’s FCC is to throw out the net neutrality rules. Yes, there is a rational argument against the current regulation. However, nearly 100% of the public wants something in place that protects the neutrality of the Internet against blocking, throttling and other nefarious practices. I’m pretty sure it is not a good idea to fight the Internet. To the point of ad blocking, if the FCC rules are thrown out and not properly replaced by Congress, there is nothing to prevent a carrier (why hello there T-Mobile!) from launching its own ad blocking plan. Meanwhile, the most powerful trade bodies in our industry have yet to take a stand in support of net neutrality (other than DCN, which is not conflicted on the issue).
So now that we’ve established that victory has not yet been achieved against ad blockers, here are some of the questions keeping me up at night:
The financial impact of ad blocking trails its penetration mostly because advertising supply greatly outweighs demand. As long as there is considerably more desktop inventory than demand, then the financial impact is mitigated. But what happens when it doesn’t?
The largest advertising company in the world, Google, is virtually untouched by ad blocking. Google has avoided most of the impact by paying to be whitelisted – as they’ve publicly disclosed – giving them a privileged position that, as far as I know, none of the nearly 80 companies inside of DCN have. Let that sink in. When a monopoly gets to set the rules…
Privacy continues to be the third rail in the industry. The CMO of the largest advertiser in the world, Procter& Gamble, clearly expressed this concern a few weeks ago. The Chairman of the largest media buyer in the world, GroupM, has also called out this same concern. Meanwhile, the industry is aggressively pushing to keep the bar as low as possible, while cloaking the rapidly increasing level of tracking in darkness. This is happening through policy, as much of industry pushes to remove the FCC privacy rules on ISPs. It’s also happening through technology, as tracking has moved into digital fingerprinting and server to server sharing of browsing history. I know many people want to ignore it, but what if data leakage in the ad tech ecosystem is actually the common thread across the performance, security, transparency and consumer privacy issues that have resulted in a loss of consumer trust and rising ad block usage? There are both industry advocates and executives who make this argument.
Facebook has opted to engage in a tech arms race against the very same engineers who are paid by the ad block whitelisting program. Facebook continues to fight a desktop war against ad blockers by circumventing the technology. Almost all of Facebook’s ad revenue growth on desktop came as a result of this tech hacking, according to their CFO during their earnings call. In mobile, Facebook is aggressively shifting content experiences away from the open web, reportedly even ignoring their browser experience, so that they can keep consumers in their app and fight back against ad blockers. Who is monitoring this?
Who owns the number two blocker, Ad Block? At the very least, it’s dubious that a company with undisclosed ownership can block this much advertising. At the worst, it’s a clear-cut antitrust or national security issue to have that much control in the hands of an unknown actor. Can no one solve this riddle?
In the face of this uncertainty and looming unanswered questions, industry leaders need to refocus on meeting the underlying consumer needs. Yes, many articles have been written and many committees created. However, I challenge the industry to work with us, to dig deeper into the dynamics of ad blocking. As much as you might want to believe ad blocking to be a 2015 meme that’s now under control, that is entirely incorrect. Sitting idle while one company, whether it be Ad Block Plus or Google, controls much of the current future ecosystem could be the most dangerous failure of the Internet yet.
A recent report from White Ops estimates that a Russian bot operation — dubbed Methbot because of references to ‘meth’ in its code — is netting up to $5 million per day for its owners in fraudulent online advertising. Considering that this is just one, albeit huge, operation, and that White Ops readily acknowledges that the operation could be netting far more dollars, it’s easy to work the math and arrive at the conclusion that online ad fraud is a multi-billion dollar global ad industry.
What’s more, this particular operation doesn’t have the telltale characteristics that digital veterans typically associate with ad fraud — low end properties tricking users into clicking but quickly leaving. Rather, it is characterized by “falsified websites designed to look like premium publisher inventory”. (Indeed, the report cites specific examples from The Economist, Fox, and International Business Times, among others.)
To add insult, this report comes on the heels of a tumultuous year for the digital ad business. In 2016, industry opinion-makers like the Wall Street Journal, AdAge, and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) began to treat the subject of fraudulence seriously and with increasing frequency. Perhaps the most vicious commentary came from a guest post on CNBC, dubbed “The Subprime Advertising Crisis is Here,” likening it to cause of the 2008 Great Recession.
With digital marketing budgets continuing to expand quickly, and entire marketing operations becoming increase reliant on digital as their driver, CMOs and marketing leaders can’t afford to be unprepared when the subject of fraud comes up with their managers and peers.
Here’s what CMOs need to know:
Marketers Don’t Need to Fret The Hype (Yet). To be sure, ad fraud is a problem that needs to be successfully corralled in the coming years. But it’s not yet enough of an issue to slow down industry growth by much more than a couple of percentage points each year. On a relative basis, even using aggressive estimates, fraud chews up 15% of the market. This is not ideal, but not catastrophic, either. Digital works, warts and all, and it’s still the most accountable of the major media available.
Publishers Need to Do More Message & Damage Control. The impact of fraud on publishers is more acute, and the category would benefit from playing a more proactive role in defining the ad fraud discussion (which seems to have been hijacked by P&G’s Marc Pritchard) and aggressively employing new technologies to combat the issue (and publicizing those efforts). Though Google and Facebook control as much as 80% of the sector, they aren’t as dependent on digital advertising as their traditional publishing counterparts, so can’t be depended on to solve this problem in a timely manner.
Be Prepared to Explain What Fraud Is & How It Works. Conceptually, the mechanics behind digital ad fraud are fairly straightforward. According to Integral AdScience, illegal operators have “found ways to game the system and earn money by serving ads in ways that have no potential to be seen by a real person.” They do this by creating fake pages and generating fake clicks. Specifically, the tactics used by fraudsters are increasingly complex, and not easily understood by even experienced marketing technologists.
Steer The Conversation to ROI & Flexibility. The biggest strength of digital marketing since the early days is trackability, and this remains unchanged in the face of fraud. With enormous confidence, marketers are able to monitor ROI in near real-time and make strategy and budgets on-the-fly to take advantage of marketplace shifts. The combination of accountability plus flexibility allows brands more opportunities to manage to ROI.
Get Ahead of the Issue. For brands spending more than $10 million per year on digital advertising, installing a resource (internal or external) to monitor and combat fraud probably makes financial sense. As DCN has espoused (and partnered with comScore to research), smart digital media buying resulting careful placement in quality environments reduces the instance of fraud. The educate the executive team on marketing KPIs, including the impact of fraud, through monthly reports and performance review meetings. Lacking the surprise and shock factor, ad fraud issues can be more readily explained as a cost of doing business; knowing that it’s being proactively managed can minimize the sting.
Be Prepared To Move. No matter how strong the argument you make, or how vigilant the monitoring, executive leadership and boards may require a forensic assessment to measure the impact of fraud. Understandably, fraud can be a bitter pill to swallow. Whether you’re a marketer or publisher, you’ll want to be on top of this issue — with potential partners and solutions at the ready — so the issue isn’t hijacked by an aggressive CFO or board member.
In today’s digital environment, there are multiple consumer pathways to access digital news. Online news consumers are almost equally as likely to get their news directly from a news website (36%) as they are from postings on social media (35%) reports Pew Research Center, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in their study, “How Americans encounter, recall and act upon digital news.”
Online consumers are aware of the news sources they consume. In fact, over half of respondents (56%) could provide a name of the digital news source if the followed a link to the story. The links come from social media; news organizations’ emails, texts and alerts; or the emails and texts of friends or family.
Path to content
The report also identifies the pathways online news consumers use for specific content categories. Business and finance news, for example, are 53% more likely to be accessed directly on a news website than social media (12%). Entertainment news, in contrast, is more likely to be found on social media (53%) than on a news website (25%).
Consistent with previous findings, about half of both 18 to 29-year-olds (47%) and 30 to 49-year-old (42%) online news consumers received their news through social media as compared with less than of quarter of older adults (23%). Interestingly, women who consume news online (39%) obtain news through social media slightly more often than male online news consumers (30%). In contrast, more males who consumer news online (43%) go directly to websites than women who consume news online (29%). When 18 to 29-year-old online news consumers click on news links, they remember the source about half the time (47%) compared to 30 to 49-year-olds and 50 and older (57% and 61%, respectively).
Name that source
In terms of naming their news sources, CNN was recalled by 14% of those who followed links, Fox News 12% and Facebook 10%. Important to note, Facebook is not a publisher, it only distributes news, it does not produce content. The New York Times, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, Yahoo, ESPN, The Washington Post and CBS were reported between 3% to 6%.
Online consumers seek out the news online about 40% of the time, compared to 24% of the time when online news consumers come across news story while already getting news about something else.
Follow-up, recall and call to action
Online news consumers are just as likely to follow up (58%) on news content they consume as often as they do not (42%). In terms of follow up actions, speaking with someone in person or over the phone is the most common action to take (30%) searching for more information (16%) and posting on social media (10%).
The study also found that news that comes directly from a news site tends to be recalled more often but is less likely to bring about any action such as discussing, sharing or commenting. In contrast, news that comes through a personal connection, an email and text from friends or family, is most likely to bring about a follow-up action.
Additionally, the follow-up actions taken tend to remain within the landscape in which the online news originated. In other words, news found on social media is more likely to then be shared on social media sites, while news that comes through search engines is more likely to lead to additional searches.
Today’s online news environment faces many challenges. It’s important for digital publishers to identify and understand the different digital media habits, especially since consumer attention is splintered across multiple news sources and platforms. Publishers can now align their strategies, to strengthen brand equity, build engagement and encourage social action, by identifying the best pathway to showcase their online news coverage.
From the U.S. Election and Brexit to the summer Olympics; from terrorism to the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, 2016 was filled with stories that 2016 captured our attention. But everyone wants to know what type of content captures the most engagement.
It is heartening to see that it was quality journalism from well-established media outlets, not fake news, that people engaged with most. Chartbeat’s Most Engaging Stories of 2016 ranked the most captivating articles of the year from quality publishers as defined by Total Engaged Time — the total amount of time visitors spent actively engaged in content.
From 538’s General Election predictor, which received more Engaged Time than the top five stories of 2015 combined, to personal narrative, longform and interactive, the top stories span categories and formats. More importantly, they teach us many lessons about how news is consumed and shared.
Interactive, data-rich storytelling is alive and well. It’s no surprise that the topic that garnered the most amount of Engaged Time during 2016 was politics, which had nine of the top ten stories. In many ways, this was also the Year of the Interactive. Election prediction pages, live results pages and interactive maps from the likes of 538, BBC, Fox News, CNN and the NY Times captivated our attention and drove billions of engagement minutes.
First person journalism resonates and gets shared. From major investigative pieces rooted in undercover work to the moving letter from a Stanford student to her assailant, first-hand accounts affecting personal and societal rights captured attention as well as empathy. (See “A sexual assault victim’s powerful message to her Stanford attacker,” a first-person narrative from The Washington Post). These powerful, personal narratives were strongly driven by social traffic, demonstrating that when we emotionally connect with a story, we’re more apt to share and discuss it with our network.
The context of premium publisher environments matter. The articles that made the list and came out on top, regardless of topic, were those that stayed true to a publisher’s voice and audience. According to our research, readers that came direct to a publisher’s site were the most loyal and engaged in terms of time spent. Those who came from social and search were less engaged. In other words: All impressions are not created equal.
Promoting articles is not just an art; it is a science.
It is not enough to just write compelling content anymore. Consumer reading behavior varies by device, time of day and referrer channel (i.e. social, search). It also demonstrates specific patterns based on content type (i.e. breaking news vs longform). For example, as we’ve seen in previous Chartbeat research, in times of breaking news like the election, consumers use search first to find what they are looking for, then after the event, they turn to social to interact and share.For publishers producing quality content, it is critical to understand these audience platform patterns across social and search and how best to promote your stories.
We expect consumer engagement around quality journalism to continue well into 2017.
Publishers didn’t shy away from covering the truth in 2016, and if the early stories of 2017 are any indication, we expect this to continue. In fact, readership so far in January (of politics in particular) is seeing extremely high pageview and concurrent levels, indicating that consumers value quality journalism more than ever.
Terri Walter, the Chief Marketing Officer of Chartbeat, works every day to ensure that publishers and newsrooms have the tools and insights they need for quality content to thrive. A digital marketing veteran of 20 years, Terri has worked over the course of her career to position high potential brands and spearhead thought leadership in media and analytics at companies including DoubleClick, Razorfish and Microsoft Advertising.
Snap Inc., the parent company of the millennial-loved Snapchat app and makers of camera-equipped sunglasses, Spectacles, recently filed paperwork for an initial public offering, targeting a valuation between $20 billion and $25 billion. With a coveted core base — the app claims to reach 41% of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. on a given day — and a business model matching the advertising industry’s ongoing shift to mobile, the five-year-old company remains a media darling in an environment dearth of other significant offerings.
Snap wants to raise at least $3 billion, but it has yet to turn the kind of profit that justifies such an expensive offering. Closer inspection on the company’s revenue sources, losses, competition and stagnating growth rates shows that despite the attention, the company might present challenges to investors — and publishers who are investing time and money in the platform. The company lost $514.6 million in 2016 and has warned prospective shareholders that it “may never achieve or maintain profitability.”
The Pluses for Snap — and Publishers But Snapchat has certainly made hay with its walled garden, Discover, showcasing content from premium publishers eager to get daily content in front of that juicy core audience. And the New York Times recently signed on to deliver its Morning Brief for Discover, citing Snapchat as the “ideal place” to deliver “smart, visual digital journalism” to younger audiences. According to new research from eMarketer, nearly half of Snapchat’s revenues last year — 43%, to be precise — came from ads on Discover.
Unlike the 30-second standard ads for television commercials, or even YouTube’s 15- or 30-second pre-roll ads, the quick and easy 10-second spots on Discover are just right for an audience used to on-demand television. And advertisers must tailor their creative to the audience, in order to drive swipes and attention. Plus, eMarketer projects that Snapchat’s total revenues will more than double in 2017, from $348 million to $804 million, while the company says it is aiming for $1 billion in revenues this year.
The Downfalls for Publishers That’s great for Snap but not so hot for most publishers, who have received little more than tepid gains from their work on Snapchat, according to research from Digital Content Next. DCN found that their members surveyed reaped the least revenues from Snapchat in the first half of 2016 — $192,819 per publisher, compared to $773,567 earned on YouTube, $560,144 from Facebook and $482,788 on Twitter. DCN publishers also cited Snapchat as the most difficult company to work with.
While Snapchat has alluded to future offerings of better metrics for advertisers, and announced a pay-up-front licensing model that may help publishers monetize on Discover more effectively — a model akin to what TV networks use when purchasing programming — that’s not exactly a foolproof profit plan, at least not yet. While Snapchat has managed to avoid the onslaught of fake news that’s polluted other platforms, publishers would be right to continue to be wary of giving complete control to the platform — even a hot one like Snapchat with a lock (for now) on millennials.
The Stresses of Being a Hot Commodity Of course, Snapchat’s biggest rival, Facebook, isn’t standing still. Like Snapchat, Facebook also wants to be the next TV, and a much more visual network. From Instagram Stories to tests of disappearing messages on Messenger, Facebook hasn’t been discreet about cloning Snapchat, and this intense competition may prove difficult for the upstart in the long run. (Note that Snap rejected a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook previously.)
In its prospectus, Snapchat cited “increased competition” as one of the key reasons user growth slowed considerably at the end of last year, a trend that prompted comparisons to Twitter — another company with a hot IPO that’s failed to attract new users and growth. And unlike Facebook — which has grown to be the most powerful network in countries like India, where mobile connectivity is the de-facto way users access the Internet — Snapchat’s reliance on strong mobile infrastructure and cheap bandwidth costs means that its international growth is limited. It also faces competition from regional apps like Asia’s Snow.
Then there’s the concern that Snapchat will fail to reach users over the age of 30, whereas Facebook has proved to be friendly for multiple generations. Better ad targeting and deeper engagement, therefore, is crucial for Snapchat. But it’s running neck-and-neck with Instagram when it comes to being an important network for teens, according to a fall 2016 survey by Piper Jaffray, with 80% of teens using Snapchat to 79% opting for Instagram. Not only that, but one in three users on both Instagram and Snapchat said they hardly noticed the ads on their platform of choice, according to eMarketer.
Snap certainly has some tall orders to fill if it wants to match its valuation hype, as the buzz builds around its IPO. Publishers, especially magazine and digital native outlets, will continue to shower attention on Snapchat and get a payoff, but for the platform to really reach beyond its core millennials, that will take more time and investment.