Teads has released new eye-tracking insights that show the impact of various content environments on the performance of mobile advertising. The study found that advertising placed in premium editorial articles increases consumers’ purchase intent by 27%. They also found that when users are on premium publisher sites, their scroll rate slows down, thus building a slower, more concentrated experience, driving a higher chance of attracting attention to engaging advertising.
Premium content drives highest engagement.
Native video ads within premium content are more likely to be viewed.
Longer exposure on skippable pre-roll doesn’t guarantee stronger ad impact.
In-article native video ads put the user first and drive the most campaign impact.
In-article native video ads resonate even more with millennials.
Teads also made recommendations for mobile video ad optimization:
Advertise within premium content to drive increased viewership and to extend average dwell time.
Leverage in-article native video to drive increases purchase intent.
Consider using formats outside of pre-roll, which doesn’t guarantee a quality view.
Use in-article native video to impact younger consumers.
In our world of eye-popping stats, John Herrman recently shared a new one from a Morgan Stanley analyst that shakes the wobbly legs of the digital media industry in this New York Times column: “In the first quarter of 2016, 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising will go to Google or Facebook.” Industry sources quickly tried to discredit this number as way too high even though for years many, including DCN, have noted overall market consolidation with this IAB/PWC report tracking the top ten’s growth from 70% to now 75% of the market.
But 85% to only these two companies?
Well, last week, IAB/PWC also released its quarterly U.S. advertising report, which was quickly followed by a “groundhog day” press release from the IAB, the industry trade group for the advertising sector, announcing the rapid rise of digital ad revenue. The Report notes that first quarter U.S. internet ad revenues hit a record-setting high after the highest growth in four years hitting a “21% rise over the same time period in 2015.” We don’t dispute this number. We just think it’s important to highlight that only two IAB members are benefitting from this increasingly lopsided ecosystem.
Using Facebook and Google’s public earnings, it’s very simple to back into the math. The table below illustrates the estimated U.S. ad revenue growth for Google, Facebook and what I affectionately like to call “Everyone Else.” These calculations show nearly 90% of the growth going to the two companies. If you’re in the “Everyone Else” group, you’re competing for $300 million of the $2.7 billion in Q1 growth.
Stop and let that sink in for a minute.
It seems the only other ways money is being made in the digital advertising ecosystem is through:
Intermediaries who capture 55% of the supply chain according to IAB research on the “Ad Tech Tax” that marketers are funding;
Other shenanigans, which the ANA reported on last week in its groundbreaking Transparency Report.
And whether we like it or not, no discussion of ad revenue is complete without factoring in ad blocking. I want to once again applaud the IAB for bringing together its members last week to discuss user experience issues in light of ad blocking. I was pleased to be able to listen through the entire day and appreciated that most of the agenda was filled with DCN’s premium publisher members. Because DCN’s members depend on trusted and direct relationships with consumers and advertisers, our members are often closest to the value exchange with the consumer and to the impact from the installation of ad blockers across the web.
Senior strategy executive Mark Frost of Strategic Ink, opened the event by sharing the key findings from a recent IAB, 4As and ANA workshop. Most important was the self-awareness about the failures of ad tech, retargeting and unbridled data collection that often doesn’t serve the consumer. As we’ve written many times, the fact that digital advertising consistently ranks as the least trusted form of advertising speaks volumes. And, it is interesting in light of the revelation that Google and Facebook have a near-monopoly on digital advertising, that a recent report from Wells Fargo Securities and Optimal showed that consumers trust Google and Facebook least of all with their data.
This brings me to my final point. Princeton released research last month showing that Google and Facebook together account for all of the top ten third-party data collectors across the web. The impressively-credentialed researchers Arvind Narayanan and Steven Englehardt wrote, “In fact, Google, Facebook, and [their increasingly poor cousin, my words] Twitter are the only third-party entities present on more than 10% of sites.” It’s worth noting that Twitter is the only one of these three companies to publicly honor Do Not Track.
Google alone owns all of the top five third-party domains across the top one million websites. In the words of Harvard Business School Association Professor Ben Edelman, “No other firm engages in even a fraction of this tracking.” Importantly, his comment came in a filing of concern about the FCC opening up the set-top box business. While there are consumer merits to the FCC’s position, there is also significant concern we’ll be lowering the privacy bar so that Google and others can spoil another ecosystem with tracking and copyright issues. And this at a time when all bars need to be raised to protect consumers and the content they often enjoy for “free”— that is, at the cost of their time spent viewing advertising.
All of this information is vital to understanding the dynamics around data ownership and ad blocking — two complex issues which will impact our ability to evolve and improve the web we want as an industry. Facebook, due to its closed platform, and Google, due its dominance in browsers, ad tech, search and advertising, will have a large seat at nearly any industry or regulatory table discussing critical issues. So we urge the industry to keep your eyes wide open. Lax rules around data collection and use and incomplete solutions to ad blocking may very well play into their hands as they angle to swallow up that last 10%.
The media environment still presents numerous growth opportunities despite the competitive marketplace and the struggle for consumer attention. Importantly, PwC’s Annual Global Entertainment and Media Outlook Report projects the U.S. media and entertainment revenue will increase and account for $632 billion, or 29.4% of the worldwide total of over $2.1 trillion. Further, the entertainment and media revenues are expected to grow at a compound rate (CAGR) of 4.4% from $1.7 trillion in 2015 to $2.1 trillion in 2020. In order to provide this forecast for 2016 to 2020, PwC analyzed historical and projection data for advertising and consumer spending in 13 major industry segments across 54 countries.
Internet advertising in the U.S. continues as the largest market in internet advertising revenue, projected to grow from $59.6 billion in 2015 to $93.5 billion by 2020 with a 9.4% CAGR. Important to note, internet advertising ($75.3 billion) is expected to surpass broadcast TV advertising ($70.4 billion) in 2017.
Mobile has been a key driver of digital advertising revenue comprising 34.7% or $20.7 billion in 2015 of U.S. total internet revenue. PwC projects mobile video advertising revenue will grow from $3.5 billion in 2015 to $13.3 billion in 2020 for an increase of 30.3% CAGR.
Video on Demand (VOD) and over-the-top services (OTT) will drive TV and video revenue from $121.4 billion to $124.2 billion in 2020 (0.5% CAGR). In addition, TV advertising revenue is expected to rise from $69.9 billion to $81.7 billion in 2020 (3.2%CAGR).
Continued declines are anticipated for newspaper publishing, declines of 2.9% CAGR by 2020. Further publisher consolidations are expected. As well, magazine publishing revenue is not expected to decline but register a fractional increase, from $30.5 billion in 2015 to $30.7 billion in 2020. In addition, radio is predicted to increase from $21.4 billion to $23.1 billion in 2020 (1.6% CAGR).
Virtual reality devices and games will be the impetus for rising video games revenue from $17.0 billion to $20.3 billion by 2020 (3.6% CAGR). Virtual reality devices and games will be the impetus for rising video games revenue from $17.0 billion to $20.3 billion by 2020 (3.6% CAGR).
Overall, PwC projects that consumers will look for less expensive content bundles, streaming offers and less commercial interruptions. As a result, consumers’ share of time for ad-supported media will not increase. For advertisers and content providers, this means a detailed examination of the consumer experience to identify drivers of engagement and understand their impact on time spent and their influence on advertising effectiveness.
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to build traction and gain ground as the leading force in connected ingenuity. Nowhere was this more apparent than at TU-Automotive Detroit 2016, a recent automotive industry expo and conference that centered on the connected car.
The leading enterprises in the tech and auto industry showcased their concept platforms and concept cars all geared toward accessing more and better data while driving. Though participation was international, the show could be seen as the pinnacle of an American ideal – with each user’s vehicle representing their autonomy as an individual and all available cloud-based data as new horsepower to help drive their daily lives.
With each new device and implementation, IoT continues to fire users’ imaginations and build momentum, but there has been a dynamic shift in IoT, one which lends not only speed but also trajectory. Perhaps we are even defining a destination – from high-velocity data to useful and user-friendly information, all by applying greater context.
Context is King Recently, Google introduced the new Android Awareness API, which brings together all of the data drawn from the sensors on mobile devices to provide the clearest picture of the user. The API will offer data from seven signals including time, location, places, beacons, headphones, activity, and yes, weather.
What the API offers is the “next big thing” in IoT – contextual relevance.
Now content publishers and their advertisers continuously strive to find new ways to offer just the information users need when they need it, all driven by greater temporal and geographic resolution. With better practices for aggregating and parsing available data, we can now not only tell where users are, we can tell how fast they are traveling. We can tell based on their rate of travel whether they are walking, biking, or driving and even build a sense of what they are doing and where they might be going. Needless to say, this information goes a long way toward delivering on that objective:
If the user is driving on the highway between New Jersey and New York, it may be relevant to tell them about the road closure 25 miles away. Much more relevant than if they are walking down the street in Minneapolis. If it happens to be cold and flurrying snow, we might want to remind them about hot coffee available in the next ten miles.
What we are moving toward is a generation of user-friendly devices that provide information on a predictive basis. Publishers and advertisers can provide content relevant to not only where the user is but also where she is headed, which cuts out the static of unnecessary data and creates a better experience.
Forward Looking Solutions
At the TU-Automotive Detroit show, AccuWeather demoed a concept with NNG for a state-of-the-art connected car with AccuWeather’s MinuteCast Along A Route™. The map-based minute-by-minute forecast shows forecasts with Superior Accuracy for every step of their trip. This new level of personalization will help users make decisions about when to keep driving and when to take breaks to avoid severe weather – saving time, keeping users safer, and providing an extra level of peace of mind.
In this connected car concept, we can tell not only where the user is but also make educated guesses about where the user is going and how fast they are traveling based on changing locations. That way we can provide warnings on dense fog or slowed traffic 50 miles away – warnings which would not be useful to someone making a ten-mile crawl into a metropolitan area for their morning commute.
Of course cars offer a pretty flashy context for this concept. However, the same idea of greater temporal and geographic resolution can be applied to other implementations, such as wearables. Each device has the opportunity to add its own unique information to the overall visibility into the user’s actions, often provided directly by the user:
If a user is wearing her brand new Samsung Gear Fit 2, she is able to track her activity on a regular basis and volunteers that information. The user is also getting regular forecasts and alerts from AccuWeather, so we know what kind of exercise she’s interested in and can help her stay out of the rain while doing it.
Of course, with all this data anonymously aggregated these connected devices are opening new possibilities for big data driven studies, like the one we did with Withings which correlates weather and levels of activity for major cities across the world.
Reaching the Goal for Publishers Users may be daunted by this rush of new data that’s being collected; Enterprises could be similarly stunned by the sudden range of feedback that can be collected and correlated by users to the publishers and device manufacturers. While there are serious considerations such as balancing user experience vs. user privacy (AccuWeather addresses this by anonymizing all user data), you need to keep moving forward so that you don’t miss out on massive opportunity.
Whether your content is news and entertainment or transactionally based, the same principles of knowing your customer better, providing your content or service in a more relevant way, and building stronger relationships and opportunities for you and potential advertisers apply.
Each new form factor and device seems to present a new set of available data. Google valued whether the user was wearing head phones enough to make it one of the seven parameters for its Awareness API, which is logical since it says something about what the user is doing and how they can be approached. Particularly relevant information since voice command is opening up new types of IoT implementations an innovators like AccuWeather partner SoundHound are making that possible for just about any connected device.
With the proliferation of IoT devices, comes the challenge of coding your content for so many platforms. But what could be viewed as audience fragmentation is really a broad opening up of a ubiquitous global audience that can build a relationship with a savvy brand that is able to consistently deliver valuable content with context that would have been unthinkable ten years ago.
Whether your audience is wearing your data on their wrists, around their necks like headphones, or listening and interacting through speakers, you will have a better idea than ever of what they need and how and when to deliver it to them.
Of course, a trusted brand and quality content will always stay in style. You can already find the world’s most trusted, accurate forecasts from big weather data leader AccuWeather just by looking at your smart TV app, glancing at your refrigerator display, or talking to your wireless speaker. Or smart home center. The data has become as plentiful and varied as the people who use it and the possibilities are enormous.
In David’s role as Vice President of Digital Media, Emerging Platforms, he is responsible for AccuWeather Inc.’s suite of universally-accessible mobile and connected products within the emerging platforms marketplace. He spearheads the integration of current and new weather data sets within emerging platforms – including smartphones, tablets, connected TVs and appliances, wearable devices, smart cars, and smart homes.
We live in a visual world. To make a story or campaign compelling, visuals or video are absolutely essential. In fact, it is commonly cited that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. People are captivated by short, instant bursts of content—even content that disappears after a few seconds like Snapchat.
Platforms like Pandora and Vine offer bite-sized video content with homegrown, organic videos that go viral in a matter of days. Recently, Pepsi announced a collection of five-second ads designed to to gratify millennials. Pepsi plans to make 100 different ads for TV and digital this summer to promote their new emoji-themed bottles. And YouTube will soon show 6-second “Bumper” ads before videos, which cannot be skipped.
The market for online video has evolved immensely. When online video first launched, brands re-purposed existing 30 & 60-second TV commercials. The ads looked more clunky, required click-to-start, and didn’t assimilate with the surrounding content.
Instant gratification has become the norm—with advertisers and publishers adapting to meet the consumption behavior of today’s shortened attention span. Video ads are easier than ever to consume with the broad installation and access to broadband on desktop and mobile. Shorter videos ads have higher viewability and completion rates since the content is near instant. In effect, shorter ads may be more successful since consumers are more likely to watch the ads and remember the advertiser.
Today, online video ads are custom-created for each channel, the ads auto-play and compete for attention with a surplus of surrounding ads. Eighty-five percent of online video ads are un-skippable. MediaRadar found that almost all of the video ads (98%) that run less than 10 seconds are un-skippable.
According to MediaRadar data, there were over 1,100 new video advertisers in Q1 2016 alone who didn’t place ads in 2015. Online video is a key driver in digital ad spend with $9.6 billion predicted ad spend for 2016. In 2015, $1.5 billion dollars shifted from linear TV to digital. And yet there remains ample opportunity to grow. Only 10% of TV advertisers bought online video ads in Q1 2016.
Publishers are constantly innovating and introducing new products or ad offerings too. From premium page takeovers to YouTube’s new Breakout Videos that will highlight the fastest-growing videos as an indicator of viral potential.
Todd Krizelman is Co-Founder and CEO of MediaRadar (@MediaRadar). Growing up near the epicenter of technological innovation in Palo Alto, California encouraged him to become an entrepreneur and co-found of one of the world’s first social media sites, theGlobe.com. Krizelman also held leadership positions at Bertelsmann’s Gruner + Jahr and Random House. With his expertise in ad sales and innovation, Krizelman joined veteran web architect, Jesse Keller, to found MediaRadar in 2007.
Each year, analyst Mary Meeker — a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — releases her massive Internet Trends report, with businesses scurrying to take advantage of her insights into what’s hot and what’s not. This year, Meeker released the report while at the Code Conference, for maximum high-level impact. There’s a lot to chew on, but here are the most important trends for content creators and online publishers.
Google, Facebook Dominate; Mobile Undersold While U.S. Internet advertising is growing, Google and Facebook remain the dominant platforms for selling advertising on the Internet. The two platforms collectively control a 76% share of the growth in U.S. online advertising, Meeker noted, using numbers from last year’s IAB/PwC Advertising Report. All others besides Google and Facebook saw growth of 13% in online ads in 2015.
On another front, advertising growth has yet to actually reach its full potential because marketers aren’t spending enough on mobile. As Wired’s Davey Alba wrote, “They’re still committing too many of their dollars to so-called legacy media.” As such, the $22 billion that is spent on mobile advertising in the U.S. is a tiny amount of what it should be, according to Meeker’s report. Indeed, only 12% of all advertising right now is mobile. While this presents a boon for content created or optimized for mobile, it’s also a huge risk and concern for traditional media players, as Larry Downes wrote in the Washington Post.
One big hurdle for mobile is the rise of ad-blocking. Four hundred and twenty million people around the world are now using some form of ad blocking software on their mobile phones, according to PageFair. When looking at the reasoning behind the rise of ad blocking, including privacy concerns, the onus is on publishers and marketers. They must not only appeal to consumer behaviors, but also to their aesthetics and feelings of what good advertising should be. Advertising on Snapchat, for example, is in part successful because it’s short, sweet and integrated into the platform seamlessly so that it’s part of the user’s natural experience. (And it’s outside the realm of ad-blocking.)
Messaging and Visual Communication Rising Among Millennials and Generation Z, visual communication is king. As Recode’s Noah Kulwin pointed out, “People worldwide shared almost twice as many photos in 2015 as they did in 2014, and almost half of that happened on a service owned by Facebook.”
And whether it’s a photo, video or live-stream — such as Candace Payne’s viral Facebook Live video trying on a Chewbacca mask — advertisers can very much take advantage of the sharability of visual communications. Take the Candance Payne example, as Larry Downes wrote in the Washington Post: She mentioned Kohl’s department store twice in her video — and that video was viewed more than 150 million times in one day. In turn, the company’s app leaped to the top of the charts in the iOS App Store. If user-generated video can redefine advertising in such a way, expect more videos with branded content.
And when it comes to messaging apps, that means commerce communication is officially entering the fold. “Messaging apps are continuously becoming the second home screen,” Meeker said during her presentation. If the best way to connect with Millennials — now representing 27% of the population, with a spending power that’s going to rise — is on messenging apps, then that’s the natural destination for advertisers. The rise of voice-recognition software on these apps also means that the commercial applications can’t be ignored. Perhaps dictating the purchase of a product via speech on a messaging app may not be far off.
Global Internet Growth is Slowing — Except for India Global Internet growth is slowing, except for India, where user growth is actually accelerating at 40%. India has now surpassed the U.S. to become the second most connected population after China. With more Indians purchasing mobile phones — which will be the entry point for the majority of Indians accessing the Internet — the potential for publishers and advertisers in this space is huge.
India then serves as an interesting case study through which marketers can better understand how to target new Internet users. As Meeker discussed during her presentation, new Internet users are becoming increasingly harder to find because they come from poorer, developing countries, where the cost of a smartphone is a significant portion of a person’s income. The cost of a smartphone in India is relatively low compared to other countries, however, so it would behoove advertisers to capitalize on this market potential.
CBS Interactive Advanced Media has tapped into a market ripe for reinvention: the home video fitness industry–though “home” might be a misnomer given the fact that mobile increasingly dominates video and consumption. CBSi Advanced Media just debuted TrainerPass, which features hundreds of workouts from fitness pros, which is offering via website access and on iOS and Android Apps.
“It’s an interesting time for fitness,” says David Katz, Vice President and General Manager of CBS Interactive Advanced Media. “Home fitness was dominated by a huge DVD market for a time, but that’s fading away and nothing has replaced it.” Though there have certainly been web-based forays into this market, Katz feels confident that TrainerPass is the first to aggregate such a large variety of trainers’ content in one place.
According to Katz, cross-platform delivery was a given because of the way mobile has effected users’ behaviors and expectations of anytime anywhere content access. He points out that users won’t just want to access content from home or hotel room — certain types of technique-oriented content, for example, may prompt them to review a short video at the gym or before heading out on a bike ride.
Another distinctive aspect of TrainerPass is that it highlights interaction. Features include direct messaging that trainers can use to react quickly and respond to user needs and requests. While not every trainer who has signed on will feel that audience interaction is essential to their content offering, Katz looks forward to seeing how the opportunity to connect with audiences impacts different trainers’ engagement level and popularity. “It’s quite possible that one who hustles and listens and hears their fans and delivers what they want may even be more successful than better known trainers who aren’t as engaged.”
And while CBSi Advanced Media is enthusiastic about any trainer bringing their own audience to the platform, Katz is confident that, given his company’s reach as the eighth most trafficked brand online, they will be able to deliver significant audiences to all those participating. He notes that creating an offering like this one under the larger CBS umbrella has the added advantage of allowing him to “leverage all of the great technology, learning and experience that happens within this company all of the time across our disparate sites and services from CNET to CBS’ College Sports Live to CBS All Access.”
One key component of this is in helping to develop a business model around a specific content vertical. TrainerPass offers two types of memberships so subscribers can sample a variety of workouts across disciplines or dive deeper into the complete workout libraries of individual trainers. The FlexPass subscription ($4.99 per month) features access to more than 100 videos from multiple celebrity trainers and workout programs, including yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, boot camp and barre, allowing users to discover the program that fits them best. The Trainer’s Pass subscription (starting at $6.99 per month) offers complete access to a specific trainer’s workout library, as well as nutrition tips and more.
TrainerPass, which is built on CBS Interactive Advanced Media’s suite of digital product offerings, gives trainers the flexibility to manage their content and subscription pricing and interact with their followers through videos, blog posts, and social media integration. Trainers can continuously add new content to their libraries to help followers keep their workout routines fresh—all with the support of CBSi’s customer services team.
Katz foresees the TrainerPass model being emulated for a variety of different verticals. Next up: identifying areas that “may or may not have an existing audience, whose business model has been disrupted or in which there’s not yet a fully-developed digital business model” and then leveraging the technological and publishing acumen at CBSi to create new interest-based offerings that meet the needs of consumers and foster the growth of the digital content marketplace.
One in three podcast listeners expect to increase their podcast consumption over the next six months, following a similar increase in their behavior in the past six months. The results were revealed as part of comScore’s first study dedicated to podcasting, commissioned by audio on-demand network Wondery.
Significantly, among all forms of advertising on mobile devices, podcasts create the highest improvement in perception. And among all forms of digital advertising, podcast ads are considered the least intrusive.
Key findings include:
Over two-thirds of online Americans aged 18-49 are aware of podcasting and nearly one in five listen to podcasts at least once a month.
Incidence of podcast listening is highest among males aged 18-34, at 30%, who spend an average of more than 11 hours per month listening.
About half of podcast consumption is done via mobile devices.
Podcast listeners like the educational and entertainment value of the experience, and report an increase in positive emotions after listening to an episode.
Two-thirds of podcast listeners say they have engaged in various research and/or purchase related behaviors as a result of advertising exposure from podcasts.
More than half of non-podcast listeners say they would be interested in listening if they knew where and how to find podcast episodes.
The study was commissioned between March and April of 2016 among over 2,000 respondents in the US aged 18-49. Full results are available upon request at wondery.com/contact-us.
New York Times President and CEO, Mark Thompson addressed the IAB Ad Blocking Summit, held June 6, 2016 in New York City. In his talk, An Update from The New York Times on Its Approach to Ad Blocking, Thompson took a hard look at the factors contributing to the rise of ad blocking and urged the entire industry to take responsibility for fostering a climate in which digital advertising degrades the user experience and fuels the adoption of ad blockers. Through the lens of The New York Times experience, Thompson provided insights into productive and proactive steps that digital content companies – and the entire industry – can take to address ad blocking.
Below is the full text of the talk he delivered:
Thanks Randall [Randall Rothenberg. President and CEO of the IAB].
I want to make five points this morning. The first is that we have to clean up our own act as an industry.
To a significant extent, the root cause of digital ad-blocking is digital ads and the way many websites deploy them on their sites.
Too many ads. Intrusive and distracting ads. Ads which slow page-load to a crawl, or are slow to load in and of themselves. Boring and uncreative ads, which no user can possibly enjoy viewing. ‘Relevance’ –if it means endlessly retargeting users with ads for something they searched for and bought or lost interest in weeks ago. The pervasive and indiscriminate tracking and sharing of user data.
We’re not all equally guilty. At The New York Times, we’ve kept the number of display ads on the page low. We’ve worked hard with our advertising partners to develop campaigns that are creative and compelling. We’ve developed new units and ideas – like Flex Frames which we launched last year as Mobile Moments on smartphone and which we’ll extend to all platforms this September.
But we shouldn’t kid ourselves. If a user installs an ad-blocker because of unacceptable ad experiences somewhere else then, guilty or not, we still face the challenge of persuading them to uninstall it or, more plausibly, to whitelist us so that their ad blocker allows our ads to load. Our first task as an industry is get rid of the bad experiences which make that whole tricky process necessary.
And our second is to develop and promote digital advertising whose originality and quality engages and delights users and, because of that, also delivers real results for advertisers.
In a world of phones and feeds, marketers need to think like programmers rather than as traditional advertisers, not trying to steal attention which is directed at something else, but offering consumers content which actually has value to them, in the right context and user-experience.
Our branded content business at The Times is all about that – creating and distributing high quality programming for marketers. It didn’t exist in 2013. It delivered more than $13m of revenue in 2014, and $34 million in 2015. We expect it to grow very substantially again in 2016.
For us, branded content does not mean fake journalism trying to pass itself off as genuine newsroom output. It’s work like the animated virtual reality film we made for GE for the launch of our VR app and the distribution of a million Google cardboards. High quality content well worth consuming in its own right.
And it’s not just about branded content; we’re also focusing quite a bit of energy on making display advertising better. Fewer, faster ads, delivered at the pace of mobile and more compelling at the point of discovery, where the user first sees the ad. Clearly labeled but an integral part of the main news feed, on both the phone and the desktop. Bigger, punchier units that provide a better canvas for creativity.
Third, we must do a much better job of explaining our business model – and the connection between advertising revenue and high quality content – to our users.
Let me talk about The New York Times first, then turn to digital publishing as a whole.
At The Times we have two big revenue streams in both print and digital: subscription and advertising. In print, where we make around $1 billion of revenue a year, the proportion is currently about 60/40, with $600 million coming from home delivery subscription and newsstand sales, and $400 million from print advertising. In digital, at present it’s more or less 50/50.
Our digital news subscription business is the largest and most successful in the world and it’s still growing rapidly. In the first quarter of 2016, we added 67,000 net new subscriptions – that’s more than we did in any of the three previous years. Our model is accelerating, in other words.
But delivering national and international journalism to the quality to which The Times aspires and our users expect means massive investment. We believe we can grow our digital subscription business until we have many times the current number of subscription relationships, which across print, digital, news and crosswords stands at around two and a half million. We do not believe that we will ever be able to sustain Times journalism or The New York Times as a flourishing business without an advertising business of real scale.
We need to spell this out clearly to our users. The journalism they enjoy costs real money and needs to be paid for. Advertising is a vital part of the revenue mix.
Everyone knows and accepts that physical newspapers cost money to produce and that someone who steals a copy of a newspaper from a newsstand is a thief. That’s not a word I’d use of those who install ad blockers – the Internet has left many people with the erroneous impression that digital high quality content doesn’t cost anything to produce – but there are some awkward facts to be faced.
If you consume great journalism without making any contribution towards paying for the journalists and the editors and photographers and videographers and graphics artists and engineers, and if enough people follow your example, that journalism will either be diluted or restricted to the relatively small number of people who have the willingness and ability to buy a subscription. And not just you but everyone will be impoverished as a result.
We want our journalism to be widely available and for non-subscribers as well as subscribers to be able to sample large amounts of it. Of the around 110 million people who come to us each month, more than 107 million are not subscribers. If ad blocking becomes ubiquitous, that kind of free reach will no longer make economic sense.
We believe in the civic value of our journalism and we want it to be widely read across America and the world, but not if that undermines our ability to continue to produce it.
No one who refuses to contribute to the creation of high quality journalism has the right to consume it. We are not there yet but, if we judge that it will strengthen the long-term prospects of that journalism to prevent non-subscribers who employ ad blockers and refuse to whitelist us from reading it, we’ll do it.
But if this is a real issue for us, consider those publishers who do not have a digital subscription model and who are entirely reliant on digital advertising, to replace falling print revenues in the case of legacy companies, and for the whole of their revenue in the case of digital ones.
I don’t need to tell anyone here that digital advertising is going through a wider disruption with the astonishingly rapid switch of consumption to smartphone, the decline of standard web rotational display, the power of the major social and search platforms and so on. My friend Shane Smith talked recently about a likely bloodbath among advertising-dependent publishers this year. I’m British and I find the word ‘bloodbath’ a shade melodramatic – especially from a Canadian – but I agree with Shane’s analysis.
This is why proportionate but meaningful industry-wide action on ad blocking is so important.
So put my first three points together and think of them as a potential new agreement between publishers and users. We have a responsibility to work with advertisers to deliver rich, enjoyable, valuable ad experiences, and to use and pass on data about their visits to our sites fairly and transparently. They have a responsibility to contribute to the economic sustainability of quality content creation.
In the end, free riding will not just damage us and the wider public realm. It will damage them.
Let’s now turn to my fourth point, which is a practical one. There is early but encouraging evidence that a significant proportion of users will respond to clear messaging about ad blocking and the threat it poses to quality content.
And that point is grounded in a basic idea that has become a requirement of digital business: when you empower your customers by providing them with choice, good things can happen.
Over the past few months, as part of a wider program of experiments and surveys, we’ve tested both dismissible and undismissible messages about ad blocking. Both sets of messages sought to explain to users who had installed an ad blocker the connection between advertising revenue and the journalism they wanted to consume.
With the dismissible messages, the user could click and close the message and go on to read the story they had come to The Times for in the first place. undismissible messages prevented users who got them from reading the journalism at all, unless they agreed to whitelist us in their ad blocker.
We tested both dismissible and undismissible messages with non-subscribers. You won’t be surprised to hear that, at least in these limited tests, undismissible messages were much more effective than dismissible ones. Indeed, more than 40% of those who encountered the undismissible message agreed to whitelist The Times.
Times subscribers are already making a significant contribution to the funding of our journalism, so we think of them very differently. We did not put undismissible messages in front of these valued paying customers. But we did try dismissible messages – and no fewer than 30% of the ad blocker-using subscribers we tested agreed to whitelist The New York Times.
We’re still testing and analyzing, but even at this early stage we have confidence that – if we decide to move in this direction – we will be able to convince many of those who use ad blockers to whitelist us so that ads still load on The New York Times site. It may be that, in both cases, the percentages of those agreeing to whitelist would grow over time – though we also recognize that some ad blocking non-subscribers, who are repeatedly confronted with such messages but who are unwilling to whitelist, might give up using our site altogether.
That would be a pity, but neither they nor we can have it both ways. It’s not fair to continue to consume something you’re not prepared to support in any way. As for us, in principle we don’t want to stop anyone from sampling Times journalism, but we also have to accept that someone who won’t subscribe or look at ads doesn’t help us succeed in any way at all.
But we do want to offer all of our users as much choice as we can, and we recognize that there are some users – both subscribers and current non-subscribers – who would prefer to have an ad-free experience.
So we are also exploring the possibility of offering a higher tier digital subscription offer which would allow users to enjoy Times journalism without seeing advertisements, while still making a fair contribution towards its creation.
My fifth and final point is that – although we recognize some of the frustrations that have led users to adopt ad blockers – there are technologies and practices associating with ad blocking which are unfair and deceptive. We intend to push back against them and we want to encourage the rest of the industry to do the same.
We are particularly troubled by the business model of some of the largest ad blockers who whitelist advertising in return for payment, thus effectively requiring digital publishers to pay in order to receive advertisements to their own users – including advertisements which are, by anyone’s definition, non-invasive.
The largest entity engaged in this practice is the private limited company Eyeo, which owns both the leading desktop ad blocker, Adblock Plus, and the so-called Acceptable Ads whitelist, which seeks a 30% of revenue from any firm that generates more than 10 million unblocked ad impressions a month as a result of appearing on its whitelist.
This is a manifestly unsavory business practice. Ad blockers often portray themselves as an answer to unsatisfactory digital advertising experiences. But Eyeo wasn’t founded by concerned citizens. It was founded by a digital ad veteran and represents the most cynical, most money-grasping end of the old unreformed digital ad business. We need to expose Eyeo, Adblock Plus and the Acceptable Ads whitelist, so that the public can see them for what they are.
Unlike most of the other ad blockers in the marketplace, Eyeo is not attempting to limit tagging to protect privacy – they permit trackers to pay to be included in their Acceptable Ads programs.
Eyeo’s secondary line of business has been to license the “Acceptable Ads” whitelist to other ad blockers, including some smaller mobile ad blockers. The second largest ad blocker, Ad Block, which was sold in October to and unknown buyer, also uses Eyeo’s Acceptable Ads list.
We want to encourage other publishers and counterparts throughout the industry, and the organizations which represent us, to be trenchant in publicly confronting ad blockers who engage in these coercive and misleading business practices. Recently, we have joined with other publishers in the NAA in filing a complaint with the FTC to investigate certain deceptive practices of ad blockers.
It is not just publishers who are vulnerable to these trade practices, and we encourage our partners across the industry to seek out opportunities to oppose them.
Five points then:
We have to clean up our own act as an industry.
We must develop digital advertising which is valuable and a pleasure to consume.
We must make sure our users understand the link between ad revenue and high quality content.
There is evidence that many users will respond to the right messages about ad blocking.
We must fight the unacceptable and deceptive business practices associated with some ad blockers.
Ad blocking is undeniably a challenge – I wouldn’t have said what I have this morning if it wasn’t – but let me finish by putting it into perspective.
We’re still certain that digital advertising will play a critical and positive role in our future success. As you’ve heard, we’re pivoting our ad business towards less intrusive, leaner, inline display; branded content; bold new smartphone executions, video, virtual reality and other kinds of visual storytelling. We believe that right now we’re offering our users the best digital advertising experiences in the history of digital publishing.
We’re already seeing tangible results – revenue from smartphone advertising, for instance, grew 149% year over year in the first quarter of the year – but the best is still to come.
So let’s take firm action on ad blocking. But let’s also unlock the full creative and economic potential of our ability to bring great content, great users and great creative advertisers together. Thank you.
Dueling studies aside, the Pew research team took a long look at people’s smartphone reading habits. Conventional wisdom suggests that we want to just dip in and out on our phones: We might review headlines, but we won’t do much more.
In fact, the Pew study found the opposite is true. We spend almost twice the amount of time reading long articles — 123 seconds for long form versus 57 for short — and long and short articles get almost the same number of visitors. (ForthepurposeofthestudyPewdefined long form as over a 1000 words and short form as 101-999 words. And lest you question the methodology, Pewclearlyputinthework.)
“All told, Center researchers spent months digging deeply into the details of 117 million anonymized, complete cellphone interactions with 74,840 articles from 30 news websites in the month of September 2015,” according to the research organization
My gut response to these findings would be, Duh! Of course people spend more time on longer articles than shorter ones — because they’re longer. But the fact we are reading these long articles on our smartphones at all is news in itself because it flies in the face of our preconceived notions of how we interact with content on our phones.
Julia Beizer, who is director of product at The Washington Post told Digital Content Next in a recent article, There‘smorethanonewaytosucceedatdigital that research suggests our smartphone usage might vary more than we believe.
“One of the early misplaced assumptions around mobile was that mobile users are standing in line waiting for coffee. A lot of people are doing that, but a lot of people are on their couches at home too. Research shows upwards of 70 percent are at home,” she said.
We are also on long flights and commuter trains and other places where we are captive and have a lot of time to kill with our phones in our hands. It makes sense that we would be using our phones — which are getting bigger and higher resolution screens — to do more reading.
But a single study doesn’t necessarily prove anything, even one as comprehensive as this one appears to be. That said, there are plenty of long form content initiatives that seem to be capturing their share of attention.
Last year the Huffington Post without the benefit of this study tookaleapoffaith and launched Highline, a long-form article site designed to let writers and readers dig into a story instead of getting a short, high-level view. Ayearlater, while the editors aren’t sharing their numbers, they’re still around and they claim it’s been a huge success and the articles on Highline are among the most read on the Huffington Post site. It suggests that when you produce quality work people will read the articles, no matter how long they might be or on what device they might be reading them.
What this all means is the attention studies could be wrong or at least misguided. Certainly, we lack patience. Wewon‘twaitaround if your content is taking too long to load, but it is important not to confuse that lack of patience (or the expectation of a good mobile experience) for short attention spans.
This is a big lesson for digital content creators, whether writing an article, creating content marketing pieces or writing website copy. If you write good stuff, you can keep people engaged regardless of the length. And given that time spent is increasingly being touted as the true measure of engagement, understanding the value of long form content is essential.
There‘stonsofotherdata in the Pew study including the impact of social media to drive traffic, the topics people like most (crime is big), the days and times we are more likely to engage with content and so much more. It’s worth digging into, but if your only take-away is that we will read an article whatever the length if it’s good enough, that’s more than enough.