Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jun 21

Whither Digital Advertising, Mid-2017 Edition: NYTimes Take; Analytics to the Rescue!

Posted: under adsense clickfraud, advertising, newspaper crisis, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers.
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Are we about to see advertisers “flee to quality”?

And would a complete overhaul of digital advertising be good for journalists and netizens who produce honest, high-quality content (and more importantly, bad for Fake News)? Mark Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times (a publication that now is the poster child for abandoning advertising in favor of subscription revenue), unloaded on the complex ad-delivery technology that’s arisen in the past 10 years, pointing out all the flaws that have been glaringly evident to anyone who has paid attention to the space. Do a quick search for “clickfraud” and count backwards to when the articles started appearing – hell, I’ve been yammering about it on this blog for at least 5 years myself.

ad clickfraud search results june 2017 digital advertising

Not just the sheer number of results – check out the related searches as well. Right out there in the open: tools for you to launch your very own online fraud business.

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Apr 08

What is “native advertising” anyway?

Posted: under advertising, Digital Migration.
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The IAB has published their view. I have my own opinion.

One of the biggest problems with “native advertising” is that it is such a new, made-up term of digital art, that it’s taken on an Alice in Wonderland-esque quality, in which the phrase means whatever the speaker thinks it means in that moment, while the listener pretty much has their own interpretation.

 “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

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Jan 19

Predictions for 2015: Ad v. Subscription Journalism Fight Gets Deadly

Posted: under Uncategorized.
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As the “New” wears off of “New Media,” investors start to expect results

Years ago, I did the first big case study for the NAA, back when newspaper revenues were in free fall, and publishers were desperately flailing around for a revenue stream – any revenue stream – that might provide a lifeline with their news organizations. At the time, paywalls were still a very dirty word with the digerati, as they seemed to reflect the very worst of Old Media Thinking.

Annenberg Media Center converged newsroom

Is the modern newsroom going to turn into something of an ad production studio? Or will there be some other way for it to survive?

Information wants to be free after all, and back then, there were some very prominent failures with trying to get people to pay for content. El Pais, which had been the market leading national newspaper of Spain, put up a paywall in the early 2000s, and then three years later, took it down after it had basically destroyed their standing in the marketplace. El Pais spent millions of dollars trying to win back the audience that had deserted them.

But then along came the crash in 2008, and the bottom fell out of the ad market (again). This time, unlike the dot-com crash of 2001, the revenues did not bottom out in 6 months, and then start climbing back again. No, this time there were insidious new technologies on the rise that have pretty much destroyed the value of the banner ad: the rise of RTB (real-time bidding) or “programmatic ad buying.”

In a nutshell, RTB allows an advertiser to reach an audience, no matter where it is on the web. Say you want to reach housewives under 35 with kids in school, who looked at washing machines in the past year. No problem. Just sign up with a programmatic bidding outlet, and you can buy banner ads across the internet that will deliver you that audience.

Great for advertisers. Disastrous for publishers.

Why? Well, because the supply of space on the web is basically infinite. That means our old friends supply and demand kick in – with a vengeance. The result has been that CPMs for ads are on a race to rock-bottom. Banner advertising is essentially going to be utterly worthless soon, which means that there is going to have to be yet another shift in how premium content publishers support themselves.

And no, we cannot just crank up subscription rates to the point where the readers pay for everything. Even at the mighty New York Times, with its much-lauded paywall, there is a recognition that doubling the subscription rates will pretty much kill the business. Not to mention the fact that putting all good & decent information behind a paywall pretty much ensures that anyone without means – that is, ordinary folks – are going to have to subsist on a diet of cheap&shoddy news. Yep. Find the flaw in that plan.

The situation gets even more dire when we consider the headlong rush to the mobile web. Banner ads are even less effective and valuable there – here, take it from the New York Times again:

The appeal of being able to buy targeted audiences at scale and the simple efficiency of automated advertising makes it a no brainer for most advertisers, and thus most publishers.

Meanwhile, the shift to mobile makes developing effective native ads even more important because, as Levien says, “we have not yet arrived at an effective interruptive format, a banner format, in mobile”.

Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter are taking the lion’s share of mobile ad revenue in part because their ads come in the same container as the rest of their content, which works better on mobile devices. The thinking is that publishers need to do the same to compete.

…and here at last we arrive at what is shaping up to be the big fight of 2015. Call it “native advertising,” call it “content marketing,” call it what you will. It’s advertising messages that are inextricably mixed into the news content on news sites. You’ve already seen it in your Facebook feed, on Twitter, on blogs, hell, for the longest time, even in the midst of radio shows.

Why is this going to be A Thing? Well, check out what John Oliver has to say about it:

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May 08

Turning “Likes” into Schwag: American Airlines and Klout

Posted: under advertising.
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One in an occasional, erratic and occasionally erratic series

Time is money. Image is everything. Manners maketh man. Your reputation precedes you.

And now, having a high (enough) Klout score wins you entry into the American Airlines first-class lounge, where you can look down your nose at the hoi polloi, and raid the “Continental breakfast with liquor” setup before your flight.

American Airlnes Klout score

I know this is going to result in me getting spammed mercilessly by American Airlines for the next millennium. The question, as always, is – is it worth it?

The mutability of your online reputation, as measured by any of the upstarts trying to put a wrench onto this social media/word of mouth monster, into actual real-world rewards is a very tricky thing. Having a lot of YouTube followers (or blog readers) gets you onto the red carpet for movie premieres.  Mommy bloggers get to test-drive new models of minivans.

But in the past, these kinds of corporate reacharounds usually had the intervention of a PR agency. This iteration goes through Klout, and asks you to connect AA directly with your Klout account (and thru Klout, to all the social media sites you included in Klout to try to boost your score).

Insidious? Evil? Useful? I guess it depends on how sanguine you are to turn over all your personal data & connections to friends in return for something that can run a couple hundred bucks, and make waiting for your flight a lot more pleasant. Certainly a consideration, if the sequester cuts ever kick back in, and we face 8-hour delays again.

Still: “When you don’t know what the product being sold is … the product is you.”

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Mar 11

Facebook Ads & the Curated Social Web: A Way to Tame the Firehose

Posted: under advertising.
Tags: , , ,

Basically, this boils down to “are we willing to pay – either with our privacy (the coin of the online realm) or in actual ca$h dinero – for the relentless stream of information to be filtered down to stuff that we actually want to see, or that we need to see?” 

Interesting that Megan McArdle comes to this via an experiment to boost her Facebook engagement levels. 

Here’s the nut grafs: 

But after a decade out in the open, we are moving back behind walls. More and more we’re using gatekeepers like Google and Facebook to contain the chaos. Doing so serves their purposes—but it also serves ours. In a 2012 Pew Survey, 21 percent of Americans reported getting news from Twitter or Facebook in the last day, and the number is only increasing; the Atlantic Media Group recently reported that almost half its traffic comes from social media.

Complain as we might about privacy violations and the invisible hand and all that, the reason this is happening is because, in some sense, we want it to. We’re the ones herding onto Facebook and Twitter to get our news rather than using older, more open technologies like RSS readers. We’re the ones who have chosen to let their algorithms aggregate for us what, in the dizzying world of Internet content, we would otherwise have to uncover for ourselves. We’re the ones who complain bitterly whenever anyone on the Internet tries to charge for anything. But how did we think all those servers and Web developers would be paid?

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Dec 26

The Ongoing Digital Migration: Spin Magazine

Posted: under advertising, Digital Migration.
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Spin magazine is killing its print edition-tell me how paywalls would help this situation?

I keep hearing over and over again that the demise of Murdoch’s The Daily means that digital magazines don’t work, the real solution to the revenue problems is to “fix the original sin” and put all content behind a paywall.

The thinking seems to be that since the New York Times has said that circulation revenues are equal to ad revenues, that must mean that paywalls are the long-awaited saviour for the news business.
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Comes now the case of Spin magazine, the venerable Rolling Stone also-ran. Can’t spin these numbers as anything other than a full blown collapse of the underlying ad market:

Over the course of the last decade, ad pages gradually declined from 661 in 2003 to 378 in 2011, a 43% drop, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. More recently, ad pages plunged another 40% from 287 in the first nine months of 2011 to 171 in the first nine months of 2012.

On the circulation front, in the six months ending December 2011 (the most recent period for which data is available) Spin had a total circulation of nearly 460,000 down 15% from 540,901 in the same period of 2005, according to the Alliance of Audited Media, formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

(H/t Mediapost)

OK, so take a second and mull over those numbers. When your ad revenues diminish by 75% while your circulation is only down 15%, what does that really mean? Does it mean that the audience has abandoned your product?

Or does it mean that advertisers have abandoned your product?

Of course, it means the latter. The young, hip audience that buys music (and all the related lifestyle accoutrements you see in music mags, such as t-shirts, DeVry University classes on how to be a music producer, black light posters & urine-cleansing supplements), is now getting their music online, not from the no-longer-existent music stores.

Why buy an ad in a print product that doesn’t offer a quick and easy way for the now-engaged audience to seamlessly buy what you’re selling? It’s more effective than print, and (due to continuing wrongheaded ad sales policies) cheaper too.

The challenge here, once you make the shift to all-digital, is going to be offering some kind of as product or experience that differentiates your music mag from all the music blogs out there that have much lower cost overheads.

I’ve always said that the places to watch for innovation are music and video games. Keep an eye on this space. If there are going to be innovations, they are likely to show up here first.

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Oct 17

Where is the media heading?

Posted: under advertising, Digital Migration, newspaper crisis, Newspaper Deathwatch, Online Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

First in a series of videos taken during a panel discussion for PR Newswire at the LA Times building. 

 

On the panel with me, the delightfully funny and plainspoken Serena Ehrlich, who knows more about how to handle media in the digital age than the last three Presidential Press Secretaries put together. Although there is a marked resemblance there to C.J Craig of the late, lamented Bartlett administration. 

Anyway, this is a bit of an intro to what the conditions are like for the media, and what the big forces shaping the future are going to look like. 

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Sep 24

Print Schadenfreude: TV Up Next to the Chopping Block

Posted: under advertising, New Marketing, Online Video, television.
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A collective snicker/groan radiated out through the interwebs today with the publication of this AdAge piece on how video is like the news business was in 1998, as legions of print journalists who have seen the number and budgets of the news outlets for which they once worked steadily dwindle.

Welcome to Disintermediation 2.0, where the content is video. It’s
entertainment not news. And the stakes (at least the monetary ones) are
much higher.

While everyone in online video is challenged by the reality that digital
presents to any media — measurement, targeting, accountability —
traditional “editors” are also being squeezed by the very same process
that beset news in the late 90’s.

The article goes on to (correctly) identify the growth of highspeed broadband as the catalyst for the coming collapse of the traditional broadcast video model. I’d add to that the increasing popularity of DVRs, which are teaching the audience that we don’t necessarily all have to gather at 9 o’clock Eastern, 8 o’clock central, to begin our nightly turn-off-the-Alpha-waves sessions. Instead, the time-shifting that in the 80s had David Letterman jokingly producing a “morning Late Night show” because so many of his fans were using VCRs to watch him while scarfing their ham&eggs — that has become commonplace.

From econtent:

This has led to a new
rating system, called either “C3” or “live-plus-three”; instead of only
counting viewers who watch shows live, Nielsen counts anyone who records
and plays back the program up to 3 days later. This captures more of
the time-shifted viewing audience. By the end of 2010, McDonough says,
Nielsen’s ratings will combine both DVR’d and online streaming content.

Kate
Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director for
Starcom MediaVest Group, sees the DVR, particularly the TiVo, as
fundamentally changing the way Americans view television. “We have three
in our house,” Sirkin says. “My 5-year-old doesn’t understand live TV;
she’s always had a DVR.”

The other effect of DVRs, of course, is the commercial-skipping. Used to be that you had to hack your TiVo to be able to skip 30 seconds at a time. Now that comes programmed directly into the remote on the DirecTV HD controller (but I still prefer the TiVo, since it skipped you automatically 30 seconds forward in time, rather than making you watch blurred fast-forwarded action).

But the biggest eye-opener for me is that articles predicting that broadcast TV, the cash cow for so long for the advertising industry, is about to head into the abyss … well, that’s news. Because what took down newspapers was not that nobody was reading them anymore – in fact, the stats show that more people are reading newspaper content than ever before.

What has laid print newspapers low is that the revenue streams from traditional print advertising have dried up & blown away.

Most, if not all, of the major media buyers that I’ve run into over the last three years at various ad industry events, have all admitted that they know that advertising on TV really doesn’t work the way that it used to. The profusion of channels on cable and satellite, the DVRs, the growth of internet, all mean that they are getting less reach than they used to. Meanwhile, they’re getting charged through the nose for that same 30-second spot.

This relationship is inherently abusive, much like the relationship was between newspapers and their advertisers. When a viable alternative comes along, and you’ve managed to piss off your customers, guess what they do?

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Aug 30

California Tourism Ads Featuring the Governator

Posted: under advertising, Amusing Nonsense.
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For at least a couple more months, this is the face of California tourism.

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Aug 02

Bill Cosby is Not Dead Yet: A Viral Marketing Set-up?

Posted: under advertising, Amusing Nonsense.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

First day back from a much-needed “decompression” trip to the redwood forests of West Marin, and I’m greeted by the strangest trending topics when I fire up Tweetdeck for my re-immersion in the raging info-torrent:

twitscoop shows bill cosby denying his demise as top trending topic

So many people are ReTweeting Cosby's denial of his demise that the keywords are showing up all over trending topics.

Strange. The words “Cosby,” “demise,” “rumors,” “confirming,” and the Palin-esque portmanteau “rebuttaling” are trending. So when I click through to see what everyone’s talking about, this comes up:

twitter users retweeting cosby demise denial

Check out how many people are just hitting the "RT" button to repeat what Cosby said -- without any sort of editing of the message whatsoever. Thus including the bit.ly link.

Wow. OK, either there’s some sort of radio or TV contest going on here, or there’s a genuine story brewing. How can I tell that it’s not just one Twitspammer clogging up the Twitosphere? Well, check out the sources of the Tweets: Twidroid, web, UberTwitter (not shown: Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and about a dozen other clients).

Spammers give themselves away by using only one (or at most two) channels to shovel their dreck. Usually they just compromise one platform and then quickly cram their message through the crack in the security wall before someone notices and plasters it over again.

Still, there’s a possibility that there was a massive exploit of user’s Twitter accounts, and that the weblink will lead to a page where the Trojans & Spyware lurk. So, setting the various anti-virus & script-blockers to “Red Alert” status, I clicked on through. Turns out that the Cos actually does have an app.

Bill Cosby's twittered rebuttal of his demise

A simple message - and one that has been picked up by a significant portion of his million-plus followers.

Now, I’m not sure if this was entirely scam-free. Cosby is a shrewd marketer & hustler; I wouldn’t put it past him to stage a non-event like this to take advantage of the overheated, overhyped nature of the Twitosphere to get his name out there (and how many times in the past six months have you actually even heard Bill Cosby’s name? Yeah, like that). One of the surest ways to cause a kerfuffle was proved a year ago when the news of Michael Jackson’s death caused the FailWhale to appear … so maybe Cosby & his web team figured out that sock-puppeting a rumor of Cosby’s sudden death would be enough to set off a ruckus.

Which Cosby could then take advantage of by issuing a denial … and tying that denial to a message plugging his new money-making app.

Convoluted? Damn Skippy. Like setting up a three-cushion shot on an uneven billiards table. Being carried in the back of a flatbed truck. Over a rutted backwoods Arkansas dirt road.

Then again, Bill Cosby was something of a hustling pool player, once upon a time…

Bill was not always "Mr. Establishment." He had a funky side - maybe it was Sidney Poitier that brought it out of him...

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