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?

 

Adapt or your business model will die!

I’ve long been frustrated with how stuck-in-the-mud much of the news industry and many journalists regarding their own business models or career path. Seems to me, the key skill to survive and thrive in chaotic, disruptive times is adaptability.

Here’s a great example of adaptability: How the much reviled flavor-of-the-month web startup Chatroulette has found a way to make money off its inevitable tide of exhibitionists:

Fast Company: Chatroulette Founder Andrey Ternovskiy Raises New Funding: “50,000 Naked Men”

“Chatroulette can’t fully wean itself off nudity yet. “You’ll still see some naked men, about one every hour,” Ternovskiy says. Of the roughly 500,000 visitors Chatroulette receives daily, about 10% are males itching to show their business. So Ternovskiy parlays that business into profit.

“Everyday, about 50,000 new men are trying to get naked,” he says. “What we’re doing is selling the naked men to a couple of websites–it’s an investment for us.”

When users flag someone enough times for indecent behavior (by clicking a button), the offender is automatically transferred to a partner site. Thanks to deals with adult dating services like FriendFinder.com, Chatroulette is earning cash hand over fist from the referral traffic.

“Basically, once we detect a person is naked, he’ll be kicked from our service to another website,” Ternovskiy says. ”So, we’re actually getting revenue from naked men right now.”

 

YouTube founders buy Delicious, but I’ve moved on

For a long time I was a devoted fan of the social bookmarking service Delicious. It was my backup brain, and I used it to feed content to this blog when I didn’t have time to write. But after Yahoo bought it a couple of years ago, they just let it wither on the vine. It was sad.

So I was happy to see this news today:

YouTube Founders Buy Delicious; First Step To Taking On Google?

…Of course, I’ve moved on. Diigo is now my new backup brain. I’ll keep an eye on how Delicious evolves, but it would take a hell of an upgrade to tempt me to switch back.

Free Kindles, local mobile news, and pissed off fanboys: My recent CNN.com Tech mobile stories

It’s been a very busy month and a half for me. I spent a week in Los Angeles as a featured presenter for the Mobile News Week at the journalism school there, and now I’m finishing preparations to travel to two other journalism schools next week for the Knight Digital Media Center’s Mobile Symposium. So I haven’t been letting Contentious.com readers know what I’ve been writing elsewhere.

But I’ve been logging a lot of cool mobile stuff for CNN.com Tech. So here’s a quick list of what I’ve been covering there…

Continue reading

Local, mobile, paywalls, Google, more: My latest KDMC news for digital journalists posts

Over the last month I’ve fallen behind on noting here what I’ve been writing at the News for Digital Journalists blog on the web site of the Knight Digital Media Center. Here’s a quick roundup of what I’ve covered there since late February…

Continue reading

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.

MetroPCS takes leapfrog approach to wireless network technology

Last week on CNN.com Tech I wrote a story about an interesting new offer from MetroPCS: No-contract smartphone may lure first-time users. In a nutshell, this discount carrier (which is one of the most popular carriers here in Oakland, CA), which previously has offered only feature phones and low-end BlackBerries, is starting to offer an unlocked smartphone running Android 2.2 under an affordable no-contract plan: $50/month for 1GB data, and $60/month unlimited data. (Plus unlimited talk, text, etc. on both plans.)

This is not the first discount wireless carrier to offer a no-contract smartphone. But it is the first such offering from a carrier that has already rolled out its high-speed LTE network in 13 metro areas.  And here’s why that’s interesting in terms of business strategy, and for consumers…

Continue reading

ComScore Digital Year in Review 2010: My takeaways

Last week, ComScore published its big annual Digital Year in Review statistics compilation for 2010. I covered this report for both CNN.com Tech and the Knight Digital Media Center. While the report covers many media, communications, and tech topics, I focused on what it had to say about mobile.

My key takeaways…

Continue reading