The original posting of this story has been fixed to correct a large garbled portion. (It makes the lead ever so much more poignant.)
It’s hard to be a wise guy when it comes digital media. If you’re writing a book, you have to leave lots of time for production of the pages and distribution, not to mention this thing called “editing,” an antiquated concept. All of that can take months and months.
The trouble is, digital media moves so fast that in those months, lots of things can change. For example, ad blocking has been around for a long time but was considered merely an annoyance until just a month or two ago when it became a full-fledged crisis (and a golden opportunity for firms that endeavor to block the blockers). Apple's iOS9 seemed to do that.
Last month The Drum asked the authors of three recent media-themed books what they wish they could add to their books based on what happened in between the time they turned it and the time it got printed. It’s an interesting idea that yielded some good answers and one really surprising one.
That was from Alan Wolk, senior analyst for The Diffusion Group and author of Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry.
Wolk, for one,is sorry he didn’t get a chance to comment on CBS’s announcement that it will run the same ads for its online stream and the over-the-air telecast of Super Bowl 50.
“The CBS decision is important because right now we are still treating all OTT broadcasts (live or otherwise) as ‘digital’ and networks are selling different ads to different advertisers than they are on the linear stream,” Wolk told The Drum. “And that makes no sense to the consumer at home who really doesn’t see the difference. What’s more, it makes it harder on everyone— networks and advertisers— as the audiences are not markedly different.”
To Wolk and many others, the sooner Nielsen begins measuring OTT audiences as it does TV audiences, the better. Otherwise, the digital biz is in a big bad box. But since Nielsen is now doing its version of “speeding” toward providing a good useful measurement--starting soon!-- that means apples will soon be measured with apples, and so will CBS’s Super Bowl ads.
But the conundrum for me is that while that kind of measurement is important, there’s a screaming chorus of ad creators who think using the same ads on digital platforms that are used on TV misses the unique qualities of online audiences, who require a different touch, shorter ads and generally, a better approach. The plus side of the CBS Super Bowl ad deals is that advertisers are being required to buy both TV and digital as a package, which means the OTT stream of the game has achieved a kind of parity. That’s just the kind of smart, subtle point Wolk would observe.
Blotting out network ads on the ABC TV network’s app makes it unwatchable. In the Phladelphia area, where I watch WPVI that way, I get a few commercials and an insufferable number of the same old same old network and local promos where ads “should" be. You can get pretty cynical about “Empire” when you see it hawked 30 or 40 times in a week.
Commercials are much on the mind of Wolk and another featured author, Michael Wolff, author of Television Is The New Television: The Unexpected Triumph Of Old Media In The Digital Age. His after-publication take on ad blocking is consistent with the book's original theme. Now that all old media has a dual revenue stream (advertising and carriage fees), he notes, of course it drives digital businesses crazy to think technology could mess up the only golden-egg laying fowl it has in its barn: the commercials plastered everywhere on their sites. “While television is now 50% supported by non-advertising revenue, digital media is yet 100% supported by ads and hence 100% exposed to the prospect of losing them--hastening the day when it will have to embrace content that people will pay for (i.e. television),” he wrote.
I think he still has time to write that book.