Making digital advertising accountable for impact (or not)

Recently I was telling a group of publishers that, unfortunately, much of the business that has supported journalism (advertising) has always been smoke and mirrors. Advertisers took it mostly on faith that they were getting what they were paying for (i.e., increased sales or influence). I don’t doubt that they got some of those benefits, but probably never nearly as much as the people selling ad space promised.

That’s a problem: If integrity is supposedly what you have to offer your audience or community, then it’s bad business to shaft your customers (the advertisers).

Then along came the age of digital advertising, and finally some direct evidence of advertising’s impact started creeping in to the picture: clickthroughs, etc. These metrics were flawed and digital advertising mostly sucked (but then again, so did most print and broadcast advertising), but it was a step toward accountability, at least theoretically.

And then there was a development that purported to go even further toward helping advertisers and marketers ensure that they were spending their money usefully across all media, digital and otherwise: the demand-side platform. Wikipedia currently defines this as:

A system that allows digital advertisers to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface. Real time bidding for displaying online ads takes place within the ad exchanges, and by utilizing a DSP, marketers can manage their bids for the banners and the pricing for the data that they are layering on to target their audiences.

DSPs are unique because they incorporate many of the facets previously offered by advertising networks, such as wide access to inventory and vertical and lateral targeting, with the ability to serve ads, real-time bid on ads, track the ads, and optimize. This is all kept within one interface which creates a unique opportunity for advertisers to truly control and maximize the impact of their ads. 

Sounds good — except that DSPs can be mostly smoke and mirrors all over again, just with more data attached.

Check out Confessions of a Demand-Side Platform Salesperson, from Digiday this week:

Anyone that has not worked at a DSP or a trading desk, consider yourself lucky. It is the cesspool of our industry, with the DSPs racing towards an acquisition or IPO and the trading desks trying to validate themselves as valuable within the holding companies. It is a sweatshop environment on both sides, with workers who are bludgeoned from the top down.

I think it is time for the major advertisers to get in and take responsibility for how their dollars are being spent. There is double-dipping within many agency/trading desks, and your advertising dollars are not as impactful as they have been. The tires need to be violently kicked at a trading desk before agreeing to allow your dollars to go through there. 

Also, the big publishers need to man up, regain their integrity and pull out. Madoff pulled off his scheme under the watchful eye of the SEC. You think the same thing isn’t happening under the oh-so frightening eye of the IAB?

 

Why the Qualcomm-Opera Mini deal could mean a boom in mobile web traffic

Earlier this week, Qualcomm announced a deal to make Opera Mini (a really slick, lean, fast mobile web browser) the default browser on its  BREW MP platform for feature phones.

So a new slew of cheap handsets with much better browsers will be hitting the stores as early as this summer.

Over on the blog for House of Local (a media consultancy I work with), I wrote about why this is such a big deal:

See: Qualcomm, Opera deal means cheap phones will be doing LOTS more web surfing

And for the Knight Digital Media Center, I explained why news organizations should care about this development, and start taking lean mobile more seriously in their mobile and business strategy:

See: Qualcomm, Opera deal could dramatically boost mobile web audience

The point is: Do you want to get most of the mobile audience now? Or neglect that audience so much that they decide you’re not worth their time?

This year is the big opportunity for building mobile audience. Smart publishers should try to not get their heads stuck up their apps.

Expanding a business brochure site into something that will really help your business

To illustrate advertising and informational pa...
These days, brochures aren’t enough to make your business findable. (Image via Wikipedia)

If you’re a semi-retired professional who wants to build a consulting business, and you’re not an internet whiz, what kind of web site will really help clients find you? And how can you easily build and maintain a useful professional network?

My dad, Jack Gahran, is a semi-retired management consultant who knows many other semi-retired professionals. Today he asked me to look over the brand-new web site of a colleague of his, to offer some advice as to how it might be improved in ways that will build this person’s business.

The site is a pretty standard brochure site — a few static pages of basic information. It had a nice but simple design, and the content seemed to use keywords appropriately — both of which help search engines like Google index the site well. However, Google generally isn’t very interested in small brochure sites that are infrequently updated and don’t attract many inbound links.

I offered my dad’s colleague four basic tips for improving his site in ways that will make it much more visible in search engines, and thus more likely to attract inbound links from other sites (another thing Google rewards).

I get asked for this kind of advice a lot, so I figured I’d make a blog post out of it, so everyone can benefit.

Here’s what I told him…
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Time’s “Mine” — Custom Magazine? Hardly

Yeah, I wasn't the only person who found Time's "Mine" magazine disappointing.

Yeah, I wasn't the only person who found Time's "Mine" magazine disappointing.

I really don’t like golf — at all. So I was surprised when, this weekend, my first issue of Mine (Time Inc.’s slick glossy foray into custom magazine publishing) included selected articles from Golf magazine.

Nearly a month ago I signed up on the Mine site to receive five issues of this custom biweekly magazine. I opted to include articles from these titles: Time, InStyle, RealSimple, Food & Wine, and Money. My issue of Mine arrived with only three out of five right — instead of Money and Food & Wine, it included stories from Golf and Travel & Leisure.

I found this amusing, because I remember thinking when I filled out the subscription form for Mine how little information about my lifestyle, interests, or preferences Time was asking for. I wondered how any publisher could deliver anything approaching a custom magazine based on my address, picking five out of eight general-interest magazines, and my answers to these four questions that are nebulous bordering on ridiculous:

  1. Which do you crave more: pizza or sushi?
  2. Do you like to sing in the car?
  3. Which would you like to learn: juggling or celebrity impersonation?
  4. Who would you like to have dinner with most: Leonardo da Vinci or Socrates?

According to the Associated Press, my experience wasn’t unique…

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Do Newspapers Count Online Readers Fairly?

apples and oranges
The way many newspapers count print vs. online readers is like comparing apples and oranges. (Image by telex via Flickr)

Newspaper publishers and advertising managers routinely toss around print and online readership numbers — but sometimes in ways that don’t make sense, and that might even miss opportunities to build revenue, business, and community.

Yesterday Dan Thornton, community marketing manager at Bauer Media, explained why it’s dangerous to compare print figures to Web site statistics.

It all boils down to this…

Thornton points out that in the UK, sales figures for print copies of the Guardian and Observer newspapers typically are multiplied by three to take into account shared readership, based on circulation research. However, online readership statistics generally fail to account for online reading that happens beyond the news organization’s Web site…

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Google News Archive Search: Old News is Good News

Space Shuttle Challenger
Old news still has value, and can draw traffic. (Image via Wikipedia)

News is never just about what’s happening today — it’s also about context, including what led up to this moment. That’s why lately I’ve been intrigued by the Google News archive search. This feature, introduced September 2008, its worth a look — and maybe worth including in order to make more money off your historical archives, or to augment current coverage.

The Official Google Blog explains in Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time that this service presents archived news articles online — either as they were printed, preserving original format/context (including, in some cases, surrounding stories); or with a link to a news org’s paid archives. It also presents a timeline, showing how popular a search term was in news from past years or decades.

For instance, a Google News archive search for “space shuttle” yields a timeline with significant spikes in 1981 (for the first shuttle mission), 1986 (when the Challenger exploded after launch), and 2003 (when the Columbia broke up on re-entry).

An example of the early shuttle coverage I found here includes this March 24, 1982 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story: NASA sees little problem with lost space shuttle tiles. That’s actually a jump from a page 1 story. Other stories also appearing on the page include: “Begin to stay on after Knesset vote,” “Will match missiles with subs, Soviets say,” and “Military coup ousts Guatemalan government” — an intriguing glimpse into the tenor of that time.

That archived story was available for free — but my search also pointed to several articles for sale from newspaper archives. For instance, the Christian Science Monitor is selling its July 21, 1975 story Space shuttle to involve Europe, too for $3.95.

Not every news org’s historical archives are available in the Google News archive. Apparently Google strikes partnerships with news orgs to scan and serve their archives, or to link to existing online archives.

Participating in this service could be a way to turn your history into traffic. The Official Google Blog noted: “Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we’ll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search Google.com, you’ll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well.” This means that participating news orgs could find their historic wealth increasingly findable, and thus potentially more compelling and/or lucrative.

(NOTE: I originally published this article on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. Thanks to Tech.Blorge for the tip.)

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Ethan Zuckerman: Print Ad Prices Are “Fundamentally Irrational”

Advertising has long been the main source of revenue for mainstream journalism — but have advertisers ever really gotten their money’s worth? On Jan. 16, Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard’s Berkman Institute on Internet and Society examined the economics of print vs. online advertising and posed a very basic — but crucial — question that everyone in the news business probably should consider carefully: Is ad-supported journalism viable in a pay-for-performance age?

Here’s his line of reasoning. I think he makes a very going point….
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