Notifications: What the Apple Watch Will Mean for Publishers

It’s difficult to ignore the media hype around the upcoming release of the Apple Watch.Like most Apple products, the watch has engendered high expectations as to both its potential pricing and to what the Apple Watch will do that other smart watches already on the market do not. At the end of the day, the Apple Watch will not be much of a plus for publishers, and we’d better hope that it won’t be a negative.

Unlike the smart phone and tablet, which have proven to be a boon to publishers like Buzzfeed who know how to reach readers and viewers on the go,  the Watch won’t be appropriate for reading text or watching video.  In fact, at least in this iteration it will be more like an extension of your smartphone but with much less functionality.

And that’s where both the problems and the possibilities come in for publishers. The possibilities lie in the ability to notify consumers more easily about things they may be interested in. No longer will someone have to take his phone out of his pocket (or her purse) to learn about breaking news, nearby sales, or fast moves in the financial markets. The watch, in addition to being a step tracker, will also enable notification streams from any phone app that permits them. So far, it could be a net gain for publishers who know how to write clever headlines or headlines with urgency.

But here’s the problem: a constant stream of notifications, unless they are important, can drive users to turn off notifications entirely rather than be buzzed by non-stop interruptions. It’s not much more polite to keep looking at your watch during a meeting or a lunch than it is to get out your Phone to read notifications. The flood of notifications to the wrist could drive away potential visitors to a publisher site or a story, especially if your notifications get lumped into a category with trivial information and the watch owner throws out your baby with the bath water. The notification space could potentially become very competitive as every app developer vies for the watch owner’s attention. The news business will have to make on-the-fly decisions about how often to disturb people with information that may be important, and will have to swallow its pride and write even more “click-bait”ish headlines.

If we were Apple, we’d force developers making applications for the Apple Watch to cap the number of notifications any single app can send, so if a user chooses to receive notifications from a dozen different apps she’s not getting five an hour from each. This is a challenge, and we’re guessing it will take a while to solve. Writing notifications for the watch will be much like writing headlines for news stories and should be done with consideration for what the wearer of the watch really needs to see. It may come down to whose notifications are the most necessary.

Most tech industry analysts have agreed that Apple probably won’t be able do much more with its watch than most previous marketers of smart watches have been able to do, largely because of limited screen real estate, battery life constraints, and privacy issues.  Some of the functionality of any smart device is dependent on sensors, and the watch is also dependent on the state of sensor technology. Moreover, there has already been an announcement that at least in its early versions some of the health apps Apple planned for the Watch probably can’t be on it due to regulatory issues.

So whether the watch is successful will depend largely on the quality of the notification streams. And publishers, that’s your responsibility.

 

Changing Trends in High Impact Advertising

Everybody  is jumping into the digital rat race to grab a slice of the advertising pie. But with display advertising still doing nothing truly high impact, all big brand advertisers still prefer TV. Sometimes they choose social (Facebook) advertising medium but often they don’t run advertising on the Internet at all.

Those who have been in the online advertising industry for more than a decade all agree that brand advertisers in India don’t believe much in Internet advertising. Therefore it is time Internet advertising companies improve this by developing new innovate advertising opportunities – that have high impact and are as good as TV advertising.

A good example of a new high impact digital advertising opportunity is the Full Screen TV Ad on the web, where the TV Commercial spreads across the screen. It looks just like a TVC on the TV. It not only grabs the users’ attention but the ad performance is also very high, the reason why it is called high impact advertising.

The CTR of standard banners is officially 0.09% in India (or maybe lower). However, full screen TV Ads on the web are better value for money. If numbers speak volumes than it would only be fair to compare the Impressions, Clicks and CTR between standard banner ads and running Full Screen TV Commercials on the web.

Advertisers like this and are increasingly running campaigns on this path-breaking innovation which guarantees high impact, complete engagement, branding and higher viewability. More and more TV advertisers are looking at online advertising to widen their reach. High impact ad formats have opened up a gamut of supply for the advertisers and agencies, who are advertising primarily on TV. Advertisers see this as the right time to reach India and make a higher impact with their existing, often award winning TV Commercials.

 

ZEDO Releases New Version of Popular InArticle Format

Good products are often improved once they have been introduced to customers who can give valuable feedback. That has certainly been the case with ZINC’s InArticle format, which launched a mini upgraded version last week.

When it hit the market, InArticle immediately became one of ZINC”s most popular high impact formats, because it allowed advertisers to scale campaigns with unduplicated reach. And now listening to customers has made InArticle even better. A new design, coupled with an entirely new version of InArticle for desktop browsers, makes this ad unit work better than ever before. The ad loads politely, does not autoplay audio, and clicks to full screen.

Closing the full screen takes the user to a a landing page, a feature that’s on by default but can be turned off. Sound comes only on mouseover, and the unit can be closed by clicking a close button on the top right hand corner. Sound starts only upon mouseover.

For VAST, the video continues to play in a smaller (160×120) window in the right rail when the user scrolls past.

Earlier versions of InArticle for Desktop had used an outsourced player, which we thought was too slow, because it downloaded a 234KB file to the desktop. It also had only limited customization capability.

We made the decision to build our own player, which greatly improves the performance of InArticle. InArticle 3.1 is faster than ever before, too. Because it stays ready with the video ad, it is 2x faster to deliver the ad and makes for an improved overall experience.

Version 3.1 of InArticle runs on ZEDO’s own flash player, which is VAST 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 compliant and only 73.5 KB in size. It also has an API-based design, permitting greater customization.

The unit works the same way it always did, only better. We’ve answered some customer concerns with this version. The unit now uses the full width of the article, can be skipped using a close button, and keeps the aspect ratio intact. A 16:9 ad will now always be shown with the 16:9 dimension. 4:3 ads will be shown with 4:3 player dimension only for an article width 6 pixels or less, and this value is configurable. In the leave behind, if the video is finished a complete view is counted.

When the user scrolls back to the top of the page, the leave behind disappears and the larger unit continues playing. For VAST, after the video is finished the unit stays open with an advertiser messages that clicks to a landing page. There is also a replay icon that appears at the bottom right after the video is finished, although if the user replays it, no event is tracked.

If a publisher prefers, the unit can also be configured to close after the video is finished, although this is not recommended. Version 3.1 tracks all IAB defined VAST events.

Version 3.1 also enables passbacks. If the VAST tag returns a NULL response, the unit passes back and serves the next partner. If the VPAID tag fails to serve a video, the unit passes back and serves the next partner, and if the VPAID tag returns a NULL response the unit passes back and serves the next partner.

We have several campaigns running the new version already. For more information contactadsales@zincx.com .

ZEDO Releases VAST 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 Compliant Player

If you’re looking for a reason to choose ZEDO over all the other companies in the ad tech space, you might want to consider our ability to keep continually ahead of where the market is going. We have an engaged and inspired development team that scans the horizon of the quickly changing ad tech field and makes product tweaks almost in real time.
This week  ZEDO, introduced a new video player compliant with both the  VAST 3.0 and the VPAID 2.0 IAB standards. In the future, this player will be used for all ZINC’s new video formats, including  the popular inArticle video. The team was also  able to make few changes to the  InArticle technology using the new player that made it even better.
The changes to inArticle include faster and better running  for desktop browsers in version 3.1. Although this new product won’t be launched formally until later, the preview version is VAST 3.0 compliant and supports passbacks.
ZINC video formats now also support passbacks for VPAID tags. We all know that video ad networks don’t fill every impression that is sent to them,  and many of our customers also do client side RTB, through which they bring down a file that runs on the browser and send a request to a few more ad networks asking if they have further inventory.
Many of the requests sent to these ad networks just return an ad error message because they also don’t have a video ad to serve.We used to lose those opportunities for our clients, but now ZINC video formats can catch the AdError event thrown by  the VPAID tags and pass it back to  the next ad network in line and hence try to  monetize that opportunity instead of wasting it. This will also be part of the formal launch of the product.
One of the most impressive features of the inArticle format, is its leave-behind. In this new version of the format, we’ve increased the leave behind from 130×75 to 160×120 pixels, which is a 505- pixel increase in surface area.
And we’ve done some bug fixes as well.
Although the formal launch of this technology won’t come until later in spring, we’d encourage you to talk to sales@zincx.com.

Metrics That Matter

In the midst of all the discussions about viewability and fraud in online advertising, it’s helpful to look back on what started the conversation.

About two years ago, three  industry trade organizations, the Association of National Advertisers(ANA), The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies formed a consortium called “Making Measurement Make Sense”  to figure out how to measure digital advertising  to make it more valuable for brands. The initiative was driven by a need across the marketing and advertising industry for clear standards-based metrics for interactive advertising  comparable to those of legacy media and based on the fundamental opportunity for consumers to see online ads. Until there were good enough metrics, like the ones Neilsen produced for TV, online advertising could not command the CPMs of offline media. Besides, there was already a suspicion that many ads weren’t even being seen given the split second nature of online ad serving.

Everyone in the industry rushed to the table, afraid of being left out when the Media Rating Council (MRC) an independent body, began to set the standards. Like all standard-setting bodies, its most important objective was to drive consensus in the industry on what should be measured, and how it should be measured.

The first buzz word out of the group effort was “viewability”: the ability for a consumer to view an ad. It came to light that some ads were served under others, and still others were not viewable long enough to make an impression. And yet, the advertiser still paid, because at the time, the industry was paying ad servers on the number of impressions they served rather than on whether the ads had any impact..

The move to viewability happened very quickly. As the industry shifted toward viewable impressions, we immediately partnered with comScore to measure the viewability of one of our newest ad formats, the Slider. We were excited to find that it was 99% viewable, and we re-named it the Inview Slider. We also began to build on the success of the slider from a technical perspective; and we had to convince our publisher partners to sell it.

After a shaky beginning (as with everything novel), the Inview Slider became popular, and we developed some other similar formats. And then we took a big plunge into video, developing a video ad format that could run on a print site, thus increasing the ad’s reach. For the first time, we were able to promise advertisers unduplicated reach.

This year, the MRC said it was time to begin trading on viewability, and then IAB released a study proving that 100% viewability was not yet achievable, and that advertisers should be content with 70%.

We’re still sitting at 99% for the Slider, and at higher completion rates for our video ads than all the industry benchmarks. Why? Because we have always been a company that focuses on measurement, and because we always try to measure the right things instead of just the easy things.

What are we doing as the industry begins to trade on viewability? We’re innovating around attention. We think it’s the next frontier.

 

Advertising Keeps Content Free

Every once in a while, when balking at new formats that might put off visitors, it is useful to remember that digital advertising is what keeps content on the internet free. It’s been a scant two decades since the first digital ads, and in the intervening twenty years digital advertising has been on a rocketing growth trajectory as more and more people have come online. PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts that by 2017 the worldwide market for digital advertising will reach $186 billion. Online ad spend long ago outstripped print budgets, and now it has also gone past TV spending. Every year seems to bring another shattered record,  but it seems as if every dollar increase is accompanied by louder complaints by consumers that they don’t want to be targeted by advertisers.

We could understand this attitude better at the beginning of the internet, when the World Wide Web was the Wild Wild West and everyone involved was crying that “information wants to be free.” But that was when digital publishing was a miniscule part of publishing in general, and publishers thought that eyeballs alone would somehow bring revenue.

However, we are now into a generation that’s maturing without ever knowing a time without the internet, and that generation loves to watch videos, read, and play games on networked devices. In the coming generation, many household appliances and pieces of jewelry will also be networked, creating new potential advertising platforms. The public needs to be educated again about how publishing actually works and why the content it loves to consume can never be free unless it is supported by advertisers. This new generation, with its low tolerance for ads,  has already caused many newspapers to go out of business altogether and others to convert full time jobs to piece work. Digital advertising still doesn’t command the rates that print and TV did, even as it becomes a larger and larger part of the budget.  And yet, although addicted to real-time convenience, today’s consumers seem to be less and less tolerant of the industry that brings it to them.

In growing numbers they opt out of being tracked or targeted online and even employ ad blocking software, all in an effort to get away from the industry that delivers it largely free content.]

We like to think this is partly a problem of ignorance that can be overcome by education. But some publishers have begun to put up paywalls and others have gone to subscription services altogether. Neither of these solutions serves brands who are interested in drawing attention to their products in an increasingly noisy environment. And in the long run, neither of these serves a consumer who needs to know about new products and services, special offers, or service near her.

We need to spend more time defending the advertising ecosystem and reminding consumers they’re in a quid pro quo deal: free content means allow advertising.

 

Real Time Bidding at Scale: the Promise of 2015

2014 was the year Real Time Bidding truly took off. A subset of programmatic, RTB was met with suspicion on both sides of the ecosystem. Although at first advertisers were afraid of it, and publishers thought it would drive eCPMs through the floor, it turns out this hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite may be happening as targeting gets better and online ROI grows along with it. Publishers who know their audiences and use their audience data can offer it to eager advertisers at higher CPMs.

RTB is probably the biggest advance in online advertising in years, because it puts power in the hands of advertisers, the people who are paying the bills. However, it also helps publishers. Handled by people who know how to buy media, RTB can finally provide brands the answer to the question John Wanamaker first asked: “which of my advertising dollars is wasted?”

That’s because, for the first time, advertisers can buy individuals rather than buying audiences in bunches like grapes, according the Mike Smith, author of the new book “Targeted,”  a primer of online advertising.

Smith points out that RTB radically changes the old audience aggregation paradigm. Advertisers can now decide which individuals suit them, and despite the fact that RTB means everything happens within split seconds, an advertiser still has the opportunity to choose individuals. In real time bidding, the advertisers make their own decisions, instead of relying on agencies or even networks. They can also choose how much to pay for each impression separately. In theory, this makes for a more transparent process.

Smith compares RTB to the music industry, in which it is no longer necessary to buy entire albums after iTunes made it possible to buy just a single cut out of an album. The aggregated audience is analogous to the advertiser’s play list. However, to create that play list takes time, and it takes the cooperation of both publishers and advertisers, who may have different data about the same customer. Most advertisers  have lots of customer data, but they don’t often mine it properly. They began by outsourcing their data management, but increasingly they are taking  data management in house and building their own DMPs, because with RTB they can use the viewing and shopping behavior of their own customers to determine their optimal audience.

Buying individual impressions rather than aggregated audiences is a massive shift.

The only remaining problem is how to buy them at scale, and that’s where a network like the ZEDO premium publisher network comes in. We can take an ad buy that comes in through our ZINCbyZEDO high impact formats division and produce scale for the advertiser through our network.  We can offer advertisers news, sports, travel, and other custom segments as we continue to grow our publisher network. And we can do this through a private exchange, which is an even more desirable way to buy.

We’re predicting a profitable year for our premium publishers as our ZINC team hits the ground running on the advertiser side.

 

Publishers Can Use Their Own Data to Target Content

In just one short year, mobile has propelled itself from second screen to first. The plethora of large screen smartphone models, even in China and India has brought millions of consumers off the couch or into the connected world. Many of those mobile users check their phones 150 times a day. What an amazing opportunity for marketers to deliver messages, as savvy advertisers already know.  But what does this mean for publishers?

For publishers, it means yet another year of change, but this year is more likely to be a year of opportunity. Like advertisers, publishers now have more and better data about their visitors. And in this environment, publishers should act like advertisers; they should market for visitors in much the same way advertisers do, by targeting content.  And by offering their data to advertisers seeking their audiences. But don’t worry; this won’t create more work for publishers, because as with advertising, this kind of targeting can be done programmatically, through automated workflows. Publishers have already begun to develop their own data management resources for targeting in house rather than using outside suppliers, and MediaPost thinks

…there will  be a focus on programmatic targeting of content, not just ads.  Although programmatic targeting of advertising is now very common for brands and advertisers, in 2015, we’ll see a critical mass of publishers begin to leverage behavioral data to programmatically targeted content to optimize experiences for users on publishers’ sites. Content will be personalized and specifically aimed at individual consumers on websites and blog pages, similar to the way ads have been targeted until now. Medium-to-large sized publishers will also invest in data management platforms and in-house programmatic resources.

For publishers this also means less focus on the home page, because that might not be where the traffic comes from. Some publishers, such as news, weather, and sports  are quite successful with apps, and can target contextually through location awareness; others, like Buzzfeed, target through declared interests. Still others are investing in content based on already-available data.

Better use of data for targeting by publishers will draw advertisers and publishers closer again, after years of being forced apart by ad tech startups who stood in the middle and performed the function of interpreting the publishers’ and the advertisers’ data to each other. Only if that closeness leads to more accurate contextual, rather than just demographic or psychographic, targeting will advertisers be able to measure the ROI of their ads and their content marketing with a specific publisher.

 

Podcasts: Are They the Next New Publishing Platform?

Serial is probably the most widely listened to podcast in history, and advertisers have found many ways to become part of its success. In addition to the MailChimp audio ads we have certainly heard if we listened to Serial, there are display ads on podcatching aggregators like Stitcher, and audio versions of pre-roll as well. podcasting publishers are gearing up for a good advertising year in 2015.

Although podcasts have been around for a relatively long time in internet time, they haven’t become popular until this year. NPR has made them part of its online presence, but since NPR doesn’t depend on advertising in the ordinary sense for its support (I’d say it is more of a sponsorship model),  even the most highly listened-to podcasts haven’t caught the attention of advertisers.

Until now. In 2015, we believe that online publishers will have more podcasts as well as videos, and there will be an opportunity for advertisers to participate. Although podcasts now scarcely make a dent in radio’s audience, they will. It’s just like when video first came online and advertisers thought people would never watch videos longer than a minute or two. As things become more mobile, all of this changes, and all bets are off. As early adopters like Adam Sachs, CEO of Midroll Media, parent company of podcast network Earwolf has said, “podcast ads work really well.”  podcast ad-sales network Midroll. Sachs also runs his own postcast ad sales network

As a long time listener to Leo laPorte’s podcasts on TWIT.tv, we know that podcast ads aren’t like other ads, because they are very often native ads. They are read by the hosts in the tone and the style of the show, and often the podcasters use the products they are talking about in the ads.  The podcast ad format is more like an in-stream ad. Realistically, it’s also pretty difficult to skip past a podcast ad.

That’s why we believe that podcast ads will catch on in 2015, and we are hoping our publisher partners will jump on these new formats for native ads on mobile. We’ve got a technical team working on formats for podcast ads, and we’d love your input.

 

Business Models for Publishing in 2015

Expect the roller coaster ride of ad revenues to continue, but to get smoother in 2015, especially for publishers who invest in a better mobile experience for their users and better ways to incorporate video into their sites.

The long awaited digital ad budgets are finally increasing. Ad budgets are shifting to digital faster and faster as brands who missed the digital desktop because they depended on TV for branding have discovered that their customers may not have cut the cord literally, but they’ve cut it figuratively — by the end of 2014, consumers were watching more video online than they were on TV. That’s going to continue in 2015.

2015 will indeed be the year of video. It will also be the year of mobile. And it will also be the year of native (whatever that may mean). Many publishers have already begun to establish digital content creation departments through which they generate content for advertisers. Even the venerable New York Times went native toward the end of 2014. These changes won’t go away.

Premium sites already know this;  Yahoo has been active acquiring mobile technologies and although its overall ad revenues may be flat, its mobile revenues are growing. The New York Times is experimenting with native ads.

ZEDO has been busy developing high impact formats that advertisers love, and that will help publishers increase their eCPMS next year. Our formats drive CTRs that blow away the benchmarks, and though we believe that CTRs are an outdated metric that doesn’t really measure what consumers are doing, as long as advertisers continue to rely on them we will keep producing formats that drive better results.

We do believe, however, that the metric we will all be using by the end of 2015, although perhaps just experimentally, will be engagement. We will be measuring how long readers or viewers are spending on a page, with a video, with an ad, and that will eventually be used as a method for setting price.

This is a big shift away from direct response and back in the direction of brand advertising, which used to be the stronghold of TV. Now that viewers have shifted to video, new metrics such as completion rates and share ability will be more important.

Another big change in 2015 will be the attribution of traffic. More traffic will be “dark,” i.e. will arrive at your page through social media recommendations and social sharing than through organic search. This year, we will have to find metrics to manage that traffic so we can optimize for it. It may involve less emphasis on the home page and more on internal pages with shareable content.

One thing you can say about our industry: it’s no longer the staid, unchanging industry it used to be. For those of us who enjoy technology and love to rise to new challenges, publishing has become more interesting than ever.