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The 2010 Media Watch List

advertising, magazines, mobile internet, newspapers, online publishing By January 3, 2010 Tags: , 13 Comments

No predictions, just a few of many hot topics for the newborn year.

Paywalls. 2010 could see a significant number of newspapers jumping into the paid-for option. Among the conditions to be met:

– Grouping around a toll collector. It could be Journalism Online in the US, a big media group in Europe, or even Google — should a truce occur between the search giant and publishers. From the user’s standpoint, the payment intermediary must be friction free, able to operate on any platform (web, mobile) and across brands.
Publishers will have to devise a clever price structure. If a knee-jerk move takes them back to the tired basic-content vs. premium-content duality, they are doomed.
– State-of-the-art web analytics affords much more refined tactics around users, platforms segmentation, etc. In addition, a paid-for system must be able to deal with many sources of income, such as monthly subscriptions, pay by-the-click, metering system based on downloads, time spent, etc.
– Publishers must act in concert. In every market, the biggest players will have to carefully coordinate their move to paid-models: everybody must jump at the same time. This is easier said than done: there is always the risk a rogue player will “cheat”, that is break the pact in order to secure a better market position. Also, too much “coordination” could encourage a disgruntled competitor to sue on anti-trust grounds.Daily newspapers shifting to periodicals. How many dailies in the world will shift from seven or five issues a week to three or two? Undoubtedly, many. This is a better trend than it sounds. For breaking news, print is no longer relevant, but it will remain the medium of choice for long-form pieces. Newspapers publishing a few times a week will gain by becoming more magazine-like in their news coverage; they’ll save their story-breaking capabilities for web versions. In this regard, the mobile web will soon become bigger than the original, PC-based variant.
The “instant web” such as Twitter and its offspring will thrive in 2010. The likeliest offshoot is video-twittering as pocket size camcorders continue to spread (see Gizmodo comparison here). These will be supplemented by an upcoming generation of high-definition devices with Net connectivity through wifi or 3G networks.

Advertising Disintermediation. The media buying side is definitely not the sector to be in for the next decade. First of all, ad spending will continue its adjustment to the actual time spent on various medias. In 2008, print captured 20% of advertising dollars for only 8% of the time spent; in comparison, digital got 29% or our time but 8% of ad spending. Those numbers, those discrepancies tell us the correction is far from over.
Unless they devise smarter ways to analyze web audiences (see below, the audience measurement issue) and, as a result, clearly define the true value of each group of users, there is no longer a need for the media buyers’ costly intermediation. The trend is there: the most agile web sites will go directly to brands and advertisers, they will propose sophisticated integration mechanisms for their sites and mobile platforms. So do social networks such as the 25m users French Skyrock (see our case study).
Anyway, Google will settle the intermediation issue as its boss candidly puts it in Ken Auletta’s books (1): “Google wants to be the agent that sells the ads on all distribution platforms, whether it is print, television, radio or the internet. (…) As our technology gets better, we will be able to replace some of their [large companies] internal captive sales forces”. Media buyers, consider yourself notified: you’re toast.
As for the creative side, we hope advertising agencies will, at last, wake up and think of new ways to integrate their messages in digital media layouts (as in print), rather than trying to divert users away from media sites (see previous Monday Note on the inherent design flaws of the internet).

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Measuring time spent on a web page

online publishing By May 24, 2009 13 Comments

How much time is actually spent on websites? New technologies are emerging, starting with time spent on individual pages and drilling down to page segments. Such technologies will lead to improved monetization; they could even spell good news for paid sites.  Here is why.

First, display ads. Banners and other modules still represent  30% to 45%  of the sector (depending on the market). For a brand, display ads remain the best way to actually be seen on a web page, as it is seen in a magazine or in a newspaper. At least in theory. In fact, there are several catches. The first one is the discrepancy between the size of the average computer screen and the length of the average web page. It takes about 5-6 scrolls to get to the bottom of a page. (Some sites require as many as 25-30 scrolls – the gateway to carpal tunnel syndrome.)

Evidently, not all modules get the same amount of viewer attention. As a result, all modules do not hold the same value for the media, nor do they create the same ROI for the advertiser. However, today, ad spaces are sold roughly at the same price, the main variable being the type of page and the editorial context (home page or article page, in a sport, business or politics section of the site).

The second catch is the advertising module’s actual goal: is it supposed to be just seen (Chanel brand awareness, for instance) or clicked-on (win a trip to the Bahamas)? The latter sort, clicked-on, conflicts with the editorial environment. On the one hand, the media (its editors, at least) work hard at making the content compelling, relevant and interesting; therefore, the last thing they want is visitors clicking away and going to the Bahamas vacation site. On the other hand, the advertiser wants editorial context without too much ability to retain attention. In short, so-so content will make visitors more inclined to click on the Bahamas banner. In these conflicting goals lies one of the main problems of internet advertising: a growing number of advertisers want to pay for performance, i.e., when people actually click on the module.

This makes time-measurement relevant.

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