Two weeks ago, I got to spend time with Noel, a former co-worker of mine from the dot-com 1.0 daze. He shared a story that stuck with me enough to write about, because there was a simple lesson in it for all of us selling for a living.
Micropayments for publishing have been the subject of significant debate for a number of years, garnering a combination of staunch supporters and loud critics. In general, supporters think that micropayments will encourage readers to pay for content that they find valuable.
Advertisers and sponsors clamor to be involved with sports, given the unique opportunity for brands to align themselves with the passion fans feel. The sports industry as a whole has evolved to meet the needs of a growing fan base, and advertisers that are hoping to capture fans' attention, in all aspects except one: The digital advertising side still falls short.
Eighty-five percent of all digital advertising dollars don't get spent with premium online publishers. Instead, that ad spend goes to just two companies. What makes this so alarming is that the eyeballs are there. Traditionally, that's the issue with any struggling media -- the consumers aren't there -- but that's never been the problem with online publishers. Fraud, non-human traffic and viewability issues are mild symptoms at best. If those issues went away tomorrow, 85% of all digital ad dollars would still not be spent on premium publishers. So what's the problem?
For the past few days I've had the pleasure of participating in the Advertising Research Foundation's 2016 Audience Measurement conference. While my overall experience has been great, the conference was off to a bad start for me. The closing session on Sunday afternoon, titled "Ad Fraud & Blocking: The Industry Update from the Front Lines," featured several industry luminaries, including Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). During that session, Liodice managed to rankle me -- not once but twice.
After a few months of relative quiet, the issue of transparency is once again rearing its ugly head, thanks to a recent report by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) titled "An Independent Study of Media Transparency in the U.S. Advertising Industry." Not surprisingly, the report has generated a lot of noise in the industry, and advertisers are once again up in arms about what they perceive to be shady, if not outright illegitimate business practices on the part of agencies. While I would not condone illegitimate business practices, I find the outrage to be highly hypocritical and, frankly, pretty ...
When people hear complicated communication, they nod their heads so they don't seem confused - but inside, their gut is pushing the "someone is trying to sell us something" panic button. The words used to describe private exchanges are still unnecessarily complicated.
Online publishers capture amazing amounts of data about their readers. As a student of consumer behavior, I see a great opportunity to use the data in a novel way: try to identify and categorize patterns of behaviors, and then use a combination of performance data and possibly some neuromarketing experiments to figure out when and where readers are most likely to be receptive to advertising.
The premium publishing business online is an unequivocal disaster because we operate it as if consumers will always visit our sites regardless of how badly we treat them. The mentality from the very beginning was, don't worry about this month's audience returning to the site. There will be a brand-new group next month. So let's call them unique monthly users, and let's use them back however we see fit.
Timing, as they say, is everything. This age-old saying appears to have been completely forgotten in today's digital world: If you ask online publishers and advertisers when is the best time to reach a reader with a promotional message, the answer seems to be "any time." And this, in my opinion, is the most egregious mistake that publishers are making in the way they treat their readers.