Posted on March 12, 2013 in Archive

Digital Advertising Can Be So Much More Than Search

I know it’s getting a bit late to write an article on what we can learn about such-and-such from 2012, but this post by Derek Thompson over on The Atlantic is worth further scrutiny. As you might expect for an article called “The Scariest Thing About the Newspaper Business Isn’t Print’s Decline, It’s Digital’s Growth,” it’s about the newspaper industry’s failure to bring in serious revenue through digital channels, specifically advertising.

The vast majority of the print industry has yet to find a digital strategy that’s both practical and profitable. This is usually attributed to the old-fashioned attitudes of the industry or the lack of a strong audience for digital publications. However, as Thompson points out with some frightening graphs, a major problem is the lack of digital advertising spend going to newspapers (and magazines aren’t faring much better). The lion’s share of digital ad spend seems to be going to Google – for search advertising – and Thompson thinks that this is unavoidable.

Advertising has always been print’s bread and butter, so it’s vital for the industry to face trends like this. Luckily, digital publishing can provide a solution. While it’s true that people are more inclined than ever to pay for unadulterated content rather than endure a bevy of ads to get something for free, the fact that content is king applies to ads as well.

Search advertising provides a neat and direct channel to interested customers and from that perspective, it’s very useful. But advertising is about more than just increasing page impressions and counting clicks – text-based search ads can only do so much. With the advent of powerful, cross-platform technologies like HTML5, advertisers are well placed to create entertaining, engaging and informative digital ads. Take this recent Microsoft Surface ad in Wired, which allows you to play with the Windows 8 interface from the ad itself.

Microsoft in WIRED as example of digital advertising

There’s no user-friendly way to house an ad like that in a search page or even a magazine website, but it fits perfectly inside a digital publication. With a forward-looking digital publishing system behind them, interactive ads can provide detailed analytics to show how long people looked at the ad, where they tapped & swiped and so on. Publishers can even sell the same space multiple times by showing different ads in different countries.

Print publishers haven’t missed the opportunity for digital advertising, it’s only recently presented itself!