Thursday, 8 October 2009

Advertising moving online - but where?

Some interesting stuff has come out over the last week or so about online advertising.

Last week, it was reported that online advertising had become the biggest advertising medium, overtaking TV for the first time. Great news for those working in online news, right? Hmmm.

Here's with their recommendations on where to spend your money online. And notable by the absence is any kind of advertising which news sites might currently benefit from. Paid search? Tick. Web design? Tick. Social media? Tick. Display ads, directories or classifieds? Er, no.

As one of the commenters says, you need to take this list with a pinch of salt as it comes from "an SEO company and is therefore biased towards a reductive click-based model of online marketing" but I'm not sure it's that far off the mark when it comes to where smart companies are thinking about spending their budgets. 
Take studies like this one from Qube which found in one particular case social media was 23 times more effective than banner ads (as a social media agency, they would say that, wouldn't they - but those figures are pretty striking).

Of course advertisers have always found ways to avoid shelling out for adverts. Every hack knows about the bogus survey - a poorly researched top of the pops on a subject vaguely related to the product, usually with a pointless embargo, which are a) easy and cheap to report b) insanely popular with readers. One dropped into my inbox yesterday. We ignored it, but a quick Google News search shows about two dozen plus sites did publish today. 

But the difference here is that social media allows brands to bypass mass media entirely. And it's not just commercial brands - it's also local authorities, celebrities, politicians, lots of the people who previously relied on the papers to get their message out there.

Are we feeling irrelevant yet?


Kevin Matthews said...

What is clear is that 'old media' style advertising doesn't work online. But the vast majority of ad staff for formerly print media companies simply haven't got their heads around the web.
Many are going about their business with their heads in the sand.
This is due in part to lack of training as well as a failure of media companies to adapt.
It is how these companies make the changes to transform themselves into truly multimedia organisations that will determine what future if any they have.

Alison Gow said...

We think about the problems the newspaper industry is facing we (well, I) tend to think about it from an editorial point of view. But Advertising departments have suffered the same cutbacks - both in terms of manpower and in the training/equipment budget - so I can understand why there's a certain amount of flailing going on right now about revenue targets and income levels.

I also think we keep fishing in the same ponds for our advertisers, and a) they have more options, b) they have less money and c) I suspect they can smell the desperation.

Companies are getting more savvy with regards to social media but it seems to me the big companies scoring with that right now are the pr firms who offer training packages like "How Twitter Can Boost Your Business" (book now £400 half-day session) - that's not a made-up example by the way.
The same pr companies then offer 'social media management solutions' and clean up for securing a contract to update a business's fan page on a regular basis.

Personally, I think newspaper companies (as media businesses) need to be offering these services to advertisers as part of the sales package - training days, how-to tips etc.
After all, we are media firms, and an advertising department could and should offer a 360 service in this.

Where I work in Liverpool the advertising and creative departments worked with another local company recently on a campaign that did just this, and it worked well. Hopefully, the success can be repeated on other projects too.

Anonymous said...

Like you, I've also been thinking about we (by 'we' I mean journalists, not newspapers) retain relevance. The old role of being the gateway to an audience is disapating fast whether you're on the advertising side or editorial side. So, in just the same way that journalists are going to re-define their role - so are ad people. I've met a couple along the way who are seeking to do that and the skill/knowledge sharing that Alison mentions seems to be as good as place as any to start. Collaboration's the name of the game now.

Jo Wadsworth said...

Alison - that's a really encouraging example, and an idea I will be stealing! And Sarah, I completely agree with you that collaboration is the way forward - as much for newspapers as for individual journalists.

I do still though have a nagging concern that given we're no longer the gateway to an audience, companies which are able to offer the same services without having to bankroll journalism are eventually going to have the advantage. But I hope I'm proved wrong.

Louise Bolotin said...

Not sure I can add much to the wisdom offered by Kevin, Alison and Sarah, especially as I've not been a staffer on a paper for 20 years.

Just to chuck something else into the mix though - my browser is Firefox and I use the Adblock Plus plugin to block ads on sites I surf. It's not 100% foolproof as some ads are so deeply embedded into a template you can't block them and no doubt there will be some kind of war soon between the Adblock Plus coders and those who code templates to ensure we see the ads. My point is that many people don't want to see ads online (probably because we are bombarded enough by them elsewhere). That's something that both the online press and the advertisers themselves are going to have to take into consideration when trying to create new revenue models or find ways of making the old work in the new.

I have no solutions but feel obliged to point out that the users themselves are media-savvy enough to not want ads and will find ever-more sophisticated ways to block them. An extra headache for those in the industry...