Maybe even more acutely than advertisers, the twin monsters of digital -- viewability and ad blocking -- are scarier to publishers. Both of those hot-button items came up early and often during the opening sessions of MediaPost’s Publishing Insider Summit which began Monday at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.
Mike Dodge -- COO for Evolve Media, which operates sites like Crave Online and Totally Her -- says he fears that if ad blocking grows as some believe, 35% of its users might equip themselves in the next couple or months -- about double the 16%-17% who are now blocking on laptops.
“That’s a real impact on our business. We don’t have a solution for that now,” he said on a panel. Doug Harbrech, director of digital media for financial advice publisher for Kiplinger, and other members onstage, said a possible answer might be to move toward pay sites, or just possibly appeal to the better angels online.
The Washington Post and other sites are now pushing users to disable their ad blockers by explaining to readers that the ads they are blocking jeopardize the quality content they want to keep getting. Harbrecht said that might work at Kiplingers because “we have a kind of NPR audience” that understands their role in monetizing publisher sites.
Richard Routman, chief revenue officer of The Sporting News-backed Web sites, which are jam packed with sports clips, acknowledged after the session that offering an ad-free site is no walk in the park. “Pay-video is a tough business,” particularly in a deeply competitive sports video business. But he noted, in Germany, 40% of its users are using blockers.
On the business of viewability, Toby Hudson -- the sales director, Southeast for Business Insider -- said he wishes both sides would come together on a reasonable, attainable standard. “It feels a little bit childish to me, frankly,” he said. “We have to all get together and figure it out.” More bluntly, Routmansaid, “I think the ad tech side is moving faster than the media side,” and publishers “are being held to metrics that aren’t even attainable.”
And he wondered about the logic of it all. He said that if offered the option of 50% viewability on a quality site or 100% viewability on a site no one has ever heard of, “every CMO who would be on a panel like this would say, ‘I don’t want that trash.’ “
In another session, Scott Gatz, founder and CEO of Q.Digital, which operates gay-themed sites like Queerty, LGBTQ Nation and GayCities, gave a short session on advertising on a “passion-centered community site." The biggest takeaway? Don’t fake it.
“Be unmistakably vocal,” Gatz said. When advertising to an exact segment like that, or publishing for them, he said, “really let them know you’re talking to them.” That means doing better than putting a gay couple in an ad; instead, designing the copy to be more specific. His best example was an Alaska Airlines ad that rather than presenting a happy, smiling gay couple with a generic tag, instead used this one: “Who you love is not a choice. How you fly with them is.”