What Publishers Can Do To Spark The Move To HTML5

Remember back in February of this year, when the Interactive Advertising Bureau vented its frustration at brands for dawdling in making the fundamental shift away from the limitations of flash advertising to the superiority of HTML5? Timed with the IAB’s Annual Leadership Conference, the trade group pulled no punches in an open letter to advertisers imploring them to move to HTML5.

This letter was supported and co-signed by elite publishers including AOL, Conde Nast, Forbes and Time Inc. As an unabashed evangelist for HTML5, I was happy to see these powerful and influential media companies throw their weight behind the IAB to catalyze and standardize rich, enjoyable and highly measurable ad campaigns that work across all devices, browsers, placements and sizes responsively. HTML5 will make mobile as meaningful and measurable as other channels and will truly facilitate integrated cross-channel digital marketing, thereby removing the barriers and inefficiency created by retrofit desktop technologies and the limitations of flash-based digital ads.



However, the momentum created a few months ago will dissipate unless the publishing industry fully puts their money—as well as priorities, resources and commitment—where their mouths are. It’s crucial that publishers take the steps towards HTML5 implementation now, as brands are pushing back on an increasing number of backups served to new devices. As publishers, if you’re paying attention, you know an industry-wide shift is imminent and you want to be on board, but no one is telling you how.

Breathe easy. The task is surmountable with proper knowledge and a plan.

First, let’s clear the air. In the time since its rollout, HTML5, and the Javascript libraries on which it relies, have been under constant development including new versions, feature adds, and bug fixes. Newer browser versions are constantly adding newer and better support for the most cutting edge technology in HTML5. This has resulted in HTML5, in most cases, exceeding the capabilities of Flash. The most important of these capabilities being the fact that Flash does not, nor will it ever, work on mobile and hand-held devices, while HTML5 works everywhere. With mobile and tablet traffic accounting for 35% (and rising) of overall web traffic, this is a limitation we can no longer ignore.

Internal education on the benefits of HTML5 and its features is a vital first step in the switchover process. The top-down implementation of this education will be important when thinking through process changes for publisher production teams moving to a cross-platform methodology. Ad production teams have had 15+ years to build habits, find work-arounds, and build workflows that get creative out the door in a timely manner. It’s important to find ways to fit HTML5 into current workflows rather than the other way around. Using tools and libraries with a similar interface or coding style can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes for a team to adopt a new technology. If a designer or developer can be shown equivalency rather than an entirely updated tool, it will be simpler for them to update their skill sets to modern standards. Production managers will want to research as many tools and technologies as necessary to ensure that this education process is a smooth transition rather than a rough upheaval.

All this education and transition will have no effect, however, if your inventory is still being sold as separate, independent, line items.

Ads will only run cross-platform in a meaningful and effective way if the property they are running on has been built with the same thought process. Whether the iteration is a desktop site, tablet app, mobile site, or anything in between, cohesive UI and UX are required to deliver a brand message that will have the same appeal across multiple platforms. With a strategy like this, it is easy to start selling your property as an audience again. The audience that visits on a desktop browser at work are the same people that read your content on a phone while commuting and on an iPad while on the couch.

If you can reach the same people with the same content and the same brand message across multiple devices, you will generate the most powerful impact for your media brand. And that is only possible through the power of HTML5.

4 comments about "What Publishers Can Do To Spark The Move To HTML5".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, July 3, 2014 at 4:40 p.m.

    You say mobile is at 35 percent and growing? No way, I am only seeing 3 to 4 percent. That number is so inflated also because a person can be using there mobile phone, desktop and laptop at the same time. The 35 percent is being cherry picked out and ignoring the true reality of what is happening on the net.

    Second most publishers prefer HTML over Java. Java creates problems for publishers and slows down the website. The slower the website the worse in Search Rankings.

    Convince me and I will be a fan to change to HTML5. So far you have not.

  2. John Percival from Amazon, July 3, 2014 at 9:15 p.m.

    I never comment but this was a great post.

    "Ads will only run cross-platform in a meaningful and effective way if the property they are running on has been built with the same thought process."

    Perfectly stated. From the I/O all the way to traffic - Its a large shift in thinking and disrupts many of the 15+ years of habits in ad tech (good or bad).

  3. Doug Casellini from ActiveVideo Networks, July 7, 2014 at 3:22 p.m.

    Buzz, great post. You may be interested to know about CloudTV™ AdCast by ActiveVideo ( Our platform renders HTML5 in the cloud and streams the resulting UI as video to devices that in many cases do not have the ability to support a native browser. This brings a whole myriad of non-HTML5 compliant devices into the fold such as cable set-top boxes, and increases an advertiser's reach and resulting campaign ROI even more.

  4. Ned Newhouse from Conde Nast , July 9, 2014 at 3:14 p.m.

    Thank you Buzz for a reminder on how important and meaningful HTML5 rich media ads can benefit marketers and performance for all. It's not just talk. Conde Nast is backing this mission by offering a suite of templated rich media video, pull downs, image gallery and other units that we will build for free - NO production charge when a mobile campaign is purchased. All the advertiser needs to do is provide clearly defined raw materials and we'll turn it around in a few days. During and at the end of the campaign we provide a written report to prove viewability and engagement benefits. We want advertisers to have a great experience with mobile, and this is right way to ensure ads deliver the marketers story and perform.

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