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Internet Ad Revenues Post Huge Gains

While ad tech companies themselves are still merging and their IPOS may not be doing too well, the industry they enable is doing just fine. PwC US has just released its latest half year study of Internet ad revenues, an they’ve hit yet another new high, now at $23.1 billion. That’s up 15% from last year’s first half., which was $20.1 billion.  IAB released the study at the beginning of Q4, traditionally a strong time for advertising revenues. That means Q4 will probably beat Q2’s $11.7 billion.

Realistically, there’s nowhere to go but up, because mobile revenues alone have increased 76%, and they’re just beginning to take off. They’re at $5.3 billion now, and that’s before advertisers really develop mobile strategies and figure out how to measure their results. Another promising sign is the recent shift of TV dollars to video. Right now, that shift looks like a cross-channel or cross-platform strategy, but it will change further as large networks unbundle from the cable providers and become apps, with their own strategies for attracting those elusive cord-cutters. Or in the case of Millennials, people who never even had a cord to cut.

So we predict that 2015 will be the year of  “Mobile. Digital. Video.”

And a recent AOL Platforms study seems to agree with us, citing the following trends:

  • VIDEO AD GROWTH IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE.
    Advertising spending on online video increased for the 5th consecutive year, and buyers claim spending will grow across the board in 2015. Publishers are reaping the benefits of diversified selling channels, inclusive of programmatic.
  • DRAMATIC SPENDING SHIFTS FUEL THE DIGITAL VIDEO REVOLUTION.
    Agencies and brands are increasingly tapping into broadcast and cable TV budgets to fund their digital video ad spending.
  • PROGRAMMATIC IS OVERTAKING PUBLISHER-DIRECT BUYS.
    Brands and agencies are moving away from buying direct from publishers and ad networks, in favor of buying through exchanges and DSPs. With 60 percent of their budgets going to programmatic channels, brand advertisers are most aggressive with their spend reallocation.
  • DATA-DRIVEN, PROGRAMMATIC TV HAS ARRIVED.
    Video buyers are already running data-driven TV campaigns, evidenced by the 40 percent of brands adopting the practice. Brand budgets for programmatic TV buying are predominantly coming from traditional TV spending, not from digital or incremental spending.
  • VIEWABILITY VEXES BOTH BUYERS AND PUBLISHERS.
    Brand buyers and sellers cited ad viewability as the most problematic issue for them, compared to verification/placement and bot fraud, which ranked lower. Only 25 percent said they are up to speed on these issues, indicating a need for additional education.

A key driver of the mobile video revolution is social media revenues, which includes advertising delivered on social platforms, including social networking  and social gaming websites and apps. Advertising on social media sites and within gaming apps and platforms increased 58% over last year, and will continue to rise.

Interestingly, search advertising is underperforming growth in the rest of the Internet advertising business, perhaps because it is the most mature category of online advertising and also the least interactive. Still, it’s a pretty encouraging set of reports to take us through Q4.

 

TV Execs Minimize Video Threat, but…

Big numbers have been released by comScore about the growing number of online videos served by both Facebook and YouTube. Between the two sites, they delivered more than 24 billion views in August alone. To get down to the specifics. comScore’s executive chairman said that Facebook had delivered a billion, yes that’s billion, more video views than YouTube, and Facebook itself announced in September that it was delivering a billion views a day. Welcome to Q4 and the potential for massive advertising spend.

What do those big numbers mean for the advertising industry? Well, if you listen to the networks, not much.

In a June 2014 report, RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank stated “the online video market poses little threat to the traditional network TV ecosystem.”  To highlight the drastic contrast between the two markets, Banks asserted the advertising value of an entire week of YouTube viewership is equivalent to that of a single, first-run episode of CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

“Is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ a big show? Yes,” said Bank. “Does its scale threaten the fabric of the rest of the TV advertising ecosystem? We do not think so.”

A “Big Bang” viewer sits through around eight minutes of advertising, while a YouTube viewer is exposed to far shorter, less frequent pre-roll ads, some of which can be skipped. Moreover, Bank noted, only around 16 percent of ad minutes in online video run against premium content, and roughly half of that inventory is available on properties owned by major media companies like CBS or ABC.

So more and longer ads make TV superior, even when run against mediocre content? But how engaged is the TV viewer vs. the video viewer?  Video viewers may be exposed to fewer ads, but they can’t fast forward through as much advertising as TV viewers can since the advent of time-shifted viewing. Morevoer, Facebook serves autoplay video ads, although some users dislike that because they almost HAVE to view them. Does that produce positive engagement with a brand? We’d say it depends on the brand. The jury’s still out on the overall effect.

But here are better ways to serve video advertising than just pre-roll on two sites. For one thing, we believe video ads can be cut loose from pre-roll and served on non-video sites where they can run in the middle of content a visitor is already reading. Our inArticle format does not run auto-play sound, so we’re  courteous to a reading visitor. But we don’t let the visitor forget either, because we leave a 1×1 copy of the ad at the bottom of the page, so if a visitor wants to read all the way through the content and return to the ad, she can.

We’ve also got a Tier 1 network at your disposal, so if you want to buy video ads and you can’t find enough pre-roll to scale your campaign, our ZINC high impact formats could be perfect for you.

New Advertising Formats Rescue Publishers

Nobody wants the publishing industry to go away, but current conditions sure make it difficult for it to survive. It used to be that advertisers had to come to publishers to reach potential customers. Now, however, all kinds of tech companies sell customer data, and the publisher’s audience appears to have become less critical to the targeting process. Thus, there has been an almost constant erosion of the power of the publisher to impact ad buys, even as his reach increases. The New York Times has 31 million online subscribers, a number unheard of in the print era. But to an advertiser, that could be nothing compared to a Google or a Facebook, who reach billions.

To survive in the programmatic environment, publishers have had to drop their CPMs. from double to single digits. The survivors have already made the shift, and the new startups are unburdened by legacy cost structures (you may remember printing presses).

Yet there are still ways for legacy publishers to survive the commoditization of  what appears to be an infinite supply of  inventory.

One way is through video ads.  There is a relatively small supply of pre-roll to run against video content, and it is so limited that advertisers who want to run on video sites can’t get the reach they need without resorting to other forms of publication to get enough scale. On the other hand, video is increasingly popular with consumers, who watch it on mobile devices in ever-increasing numbers.

Advertisers who want to run video to reach large audiences must find other sites.

On these sites, smart publishers can either create content specific to advertisers , which we think of as content marketing, or   allow advertisers to develop their own content to fit the existing content of the publisher, which  is called native advertising. With either native advertising or content marketing, the simplest thing for an advertiser is to be able to repurpose existing  TV ad content into a standard IAB space.

However, there’s still no guarantee that the ad will be seen, as the statistics say that 50% of video ads go unwatched.

We have the answer to this problem with ZINC’s InArticle video format, which runs on your site in a standard IAB unit, but gets 25% higher CTRs than a typical video ad because it can expand to full screen and leaves a 1×1 reminder at the bottom of the page.

Our InArticle format,  sold directly or programmatically, allows advertisers to reach new audiences across new channels at scale. Our publisher partners have been very satisfied with the high CPMS this format is able to command, and advertisers are thrilled with our viewability metrics. We’ve got first rate video ad viewability partners who help our publisher partners provide the metrics they need to sell successfully.

 

 

Will Infinite Scrolling and Lazy Loading Help Publishers?

If there’s anything that can convince you that times are changing –again–in the online advertising business, it’s the relatively new practice of “lazy loading” pages. Unless you’re deep in the weeds of the business, you may not even know what this term means, but it is a new way to make pages load faster, and ironically may also be a way to make ads more visible.

In the old days of web design, the job of a good browser was to load an entire web page at one time, no matter how many outside calls and redirects the server has to make, as quickly as possible. Even if the user isn’t on that part of the page, the browser would load it anyway. That’s why everyone demanded to be above the fold.

But web design has changed. Now there’s just in time loading, or “lazy loading,”  a relatively new method of web design that renders the page on an as-needed basis,  only when a user is scrolling down to that piece of content.

Lazy loading pages are perfect for our InView Slider formats, which work especially well on web pages that are designed for infinite scrolling (which most new high traffic sites favor.)The content available to the user isn’t all loaded at once, because it would take forever; rather, the page renders as the user scrolls to it, and if you don’t scroll down, the content isn’t rendered.  So lazy loading any web content, ads included, means the web server only provides the necessary source code to the browser as the user needs it.That’s what makes our InView Slider so “polite.”

The New York Times switched to lazy loading and achieved a 50% improvement in the performance of its pages. In its blog, the Times said it switched to stop its pages from being slowed down by advertising.

Why is this good for viewability?

From the publisher standpoint,

aside from the performance benefits of lazy loading ad content … is the happy consequence that every ad view is also visible to the user, since the content is only rendered when the user is scrolling the content into view.  While it’s true there’s still a lingering debate over how viewability is measured – this Digiday postgives a good overview on the complexities of each viewability vendor using different methodologies to measure the same MRC standard (50% of the ad content in-view for at least one second) – there’s no question that a lazy loading strategy is far superior to traditional content rendering in terms of ensuring your ad requests are viewable.

Although viewability metrics probably won’t be the gold standard for billing in the near term, eventually they probably will be. The downside of this is the potential loss of inventory to the publisher. However, lazy loading their pages could let publishers  keep user-friendly page layouts and not worry as much about 3rd party viewability measurement. And, of course, the viewability would improve even further if the site published high quality content that encouraged engagement.

It’s funny how everything boils down to high quality at the end of the day.

 

Almost Half of Video Consumed is Advertising

An amazing new chart we discovered this morning via Statista has demonstrated that there’s a reason publishers like our native InArticle Video ads. As of March 2014, nearly 40% of all video viewed online was advertising. Even advertising-averse Millennials seem to be watching video ads online.

Percentage of video ads viewed grows

Percentage of video ads viewed grows

According to comScore, “Americans viewed more than 28.7 billion video ads in March, with LiveRail capturing the #1 position with 3.9 billion ad impressions. AOL, Inc. came in second with 3.8 billion ads, followed by BrightRoll Platform with 3.1 billion, Google Sites with 3.1 billion and TubeMogul Video Ad Platform with 3 billion. Time spent watching video ads totaled 10.9 billion minutes, with AOL, Inc. delivering the highest duration of video ads at 1.7 billion minutes.

Video ads reached 54.3 percent of the total U.S. population an average of 170 times during the month. Hulu delivered the highest frequency of video ads to its viewers with an average of 82.”

Most video ads on the sites listed above are delivered as pre-roll. Our publishers, many of whom are not predominantly video content sites, want to reap the benefits of video advertising, too. That’s where InArticle works well; it delivers a video ad experience while a visitor is reading an article or scrolling through a social stream, thus expanding the reach of advertisers who want to reach new audiences.

What is the ZEDO Exchange?

While  publisher-side ad serving was our core business  since our founding in 1999, the part of our business that has been growing most quickly for the past year has been the ZEDO Ad Exchange, our simple, scalable way to  manage both advertisers and publishers conducting business in display banners, videos, mobile, high impact formats and smart programmatic integrations. ZEDO Exchange allows Demand Side Platforms access to the premium high-quality display and video inventory of our premium publisher network.

For advertisers, the ZEDO Ad Exchange offers the best click-through rate in the industry, along with the best of all worlds — instant pricing and availability of ad inventory on newspaper web sites. We’re different from other exchanges and ad networks, because the only ad inventory we offer is avails from our high quality publisher network, which consists of premium brands you already know and trust who are integral parts of local communities and national conversations.

We’re both innovative and smart about the way we run this network: we not only offer high impact formats, but also make sure that the advertiser gets viewable impression where they count — on premium sites.

On the publisher side, ZEDO Exchange is designed to make sure that all  publishers that use ZEDO for ad serving get a fair price for their inventory. This is one of the reasons we do not work on the RevShare or CPC model. We only work on a flat CPM model with our publishers. ZEDO Exchange will pick up inventory only if we meet the agreed CPM. We can also sell impressions to multiple RTB buyers and get maximum CPM from the highest bidder. (ZEDO’s Supply Side Platform (SSP) is Open RTB 2.0 compliant.)

Our Demand Side Platform (DSP) is a single, unified platform from which to manage all aspects of a campaign using a single account (Display Banners, Videos, HIFs, RTB & Mobile). Since all the publishers are linked in one master account, this provides media buyers with maximum efficiency.

Publishers may opt in simply by clicking the “Join ZEDO Exchange” link on their reporting and trafficking UI, or they can give us a heads up via email. After opting in, integration with ZEDO Exchange is very simple. ZEDO has built a smart back-end linking process that makes sure  publishers do not have to spend time trafficking tags or tracking campaigns. Everything is done automatically, and ZEDO Exchange reports will be displayed directly under the Reports section of the Publisher’s ZEDO account.

 

What Do Publishers Think About Viewability?

Welcome to the moving target that is viewability. Admonsters has done a survey of fifty ad operations departments at major publishers to find out how publishers felt about the lifting of the MRC stay. Agencies and  advertisers are now empowered to buy on viewability. This will not be an easy shift, as there are still inconsistencies in how viewability is measured. There are about a dozen certified  testing companies, from Comscore and Nielsen to startups, and they all measure with slightly different methodologies even if they are looking for the same standard.

Survey respondents and recent event attendees have told Admonsters that “a  publisher’s viewability isn’t a single number but varies by ad position and page type and then by how the user interacts with the page. This creates an extra level of complexity with inventory management and forecasting— critical functions that are already difficult for publishers to manage.”

Three of the major findings from the research are:

  1.  Viewability won’t be taking most publishers by surprise as they have been actively trying to understand the impact by testing multiple vendors and taking steps to improve viewability. 74% of publishers have completed testing for viewability on their sites. Only 15% hadn’t even begun to test, and most of these cited cost as the reason.
  2. While publishers see the lift as premature because results vary too much and the tech seems immature, the advisory’s removal hasn’t changed much since buyers were already demanding viewability. 59% of publishers said the market wasn’t ready for buying on viewability — by which they meant THEY weren’t ready. Some publishers who did test had to make changes in their site designs to make ads more viewable.
  3. Issues around discrepancies in the results provided by viewabilty solutions are heightened by the fact pubs and buyers differ on which solutions they use.

One survey respondent said, “typically, it’s centered around type of content and ad placement. Home pages tend to get morescrolling, so an ad at the top of the page is less viewable. Articles tend to get a slower scroll, so ad placement is a little less important.” Of the 46% of respondents who had already taken steps to improve viewability, 75% had changed the position of ads. 69% had instituted ad call loading only on in-view, and 38% had removed ads. These are all steps in the right direction.

10% of the respondents said they were selling on viewable impressions, 21% are considering it, and 67% said it was too early to know. For our publishers it shouldn’t be too early, because we’ve been selling viewable impressions for two years, ever since comScore tested our Inview Slider and certified it 99% viewable.

While the AdMonsters survey reflects an industry in transition, there has been so much time to prepare for buying and selling on viewability that we expect it to become standard in the market this year.

Browsers Can Determine Whether Viewability is Measurable

We’ve been yakking about viewability in display ads for more than two years, and now it’s finally going to happen. When we first began to develop our high impact formats, we tested them with comScore, where they were judged 99% viewable. But the IAB’s Metrics That Matter initiative has upped the ante, and the Media Rating Council has given us a choice of eleven vendors who can help advertisers make more savvy buys.  But now we hear that some media buyers are going to specify 100% viewability, so we’re going back to the drawing board to see how best to get that last 1%. It may not be possible right now, but we’ll still try.

Since we’re now highly focused on both mobile and video, we decided to run some tests of our newer formats with Moat, one of the  companies certified by the Media Rating Council, to  see how well our mobile and video ads perform. (We’ll let you know.) In doing research on the vendors certified to test viewability, we found there are some differences in what and how they measure.

For example, some of the certified companies have no independent capability to measure viewability within cross domain iFrames, but simply offer publishers iFrame Bridge technology. Others leverage “Frame Buster” code, which allows for measurement within iFrames. And still others can measure viewability for some browsers, but not  in Webkit browsers. That means using their viewability technology doesn’t allow you to measure impressions in  Safari, Opera, and perhaps also Chrome.

When you combine the different browsers with the added complexities of video and mobile rather than simple  static display ads, you quickly realize that metrics will have to improve before viewability can truly be accurately measured across a multi-screen campaign.

What does this mean for advertisers? We think for now it means that 100% viewable is too much to expect for a campaign that may be running on many different browsers. Media planners are going to have to learn more about the subtleties of viewability before they begin buying on it, and they’re going to have to learn what is possible and what is pie in the sky for now.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all aim for making more ads viewable; it’s just that we should know where the line is between possible and impossible.

 

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Publishers Don’t See Big Benefit from Tracking Data

A very provocative article in Digiday last week suggested that although ad budgets and ad revenues are up, publishers are not reaping the benefits. Nor are consumers. The writer, Jason Kint, asserts that user tracking is having a negative effect on the quality of content that is being consumed, and an even more negative effect on publishers’ revenues because all the extra  money generated by rising ad revenues is going to the services that track and retarget users.

The much-hyped automation of advertising is incredibly promising, but right now, it’s being used almost entirely to collect and bid on data to re-target audience using tracking cookies. This data is driving immaterial growth in ad revenue to publishers small and large. It is also feeding a frothy and endless market for ad tech companies.

The digital pie is rapidly shifting away from sites and services being consumed to the companies that track consumption. As digital continues to gobble up advertising share from its offline ancestors, it does so at the direct expense of brand advertising. The industry touts record ad revenues but ignores that more than 65 cents out of every online ad dollar is being spent on performance media fueled by data tracking.

As we move to mobile devices, more specifically to smart phones, tracking  becomes more abhorrent to consumers; they’ve said so in many ways, including installing ad blockers in their browsers, taking advantage of do not track options, and complaining to vendors.

But tracking doesn’t help brands, either. When they buy ads using tracking data, they’re buying performance metrics, not brand lift. And the performance end of the market doesn’t work anymore, because the same users who don’t like being tracked have ceased to click on display ads. We keep looking for the performance metric, and it may shift from CTRs to viewability to something else, but we’re always talking about measuring the individual consumer’s actions and buying on that data.

We’ve got a way to go before we arrive at the “right” way to use data to help the ecosystem. Right now, tracking data may be as harmful as it is useful.

The answer to this is for publishers to focus on ad formats that brands want. These almost always include video, and  should include ZINC’s InArticle and InView formats. If publishers ran those, they would get more brand dollars rather than performance dollars online and would therefore  increase their revenues.

 

 

 

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ZEDO Advertising Technology Updates – October 2013

New Look for ZEDO header!

 We’ve revamped the ZEDO UI header to look and work better.

 It’s more streamlined, more modern, and has more features.

  • Adopted Flat UI guidelines
  • More prominent Search box
  • Focus on usability. The header is now semi-responsive, and will be fully responsive in the near future
  • Reduced Header height to accommodate more content on-screen.

Aside from this project, in the near future, we also have projects lined up to improve the experience of logging in or out, the in-page (body) content – which is of most interest to our users, reporting, and search.

Channel selection for publisher role

 Previously, a Publisher user would get access to all the channels (linked or unlinked) while pulling reports in their account. This was reported by many customers, as other publisher channels were getting exposed to publishers.

 To improve this we have made a few changes to Create Role and Create User pages:

 For existing roles and users, we will have two options –



For new Publisher Role creation – for existing customers

  • The default option (Only Publisher-linked Channels)  will allow them to display only a linked channel to a publisher.
  • Another option (Publisher-linked and Custom Selection) will allow them to select linked as well as non-linked channels to be displayed to a publisher.

For new Publisher Role creation – for new customers

You will not see the ‘Add All Current and Future Channels’ option.

On the Create User page, the channels linked to a publisher will be automatically selected and cannot be removed.

However for the option “Publisher-linked and custom selection ” you can also add unlinked channels to the list of channels that publisher user can see.

Custom Targeting Updates

Custom targeting came out in our last release. Some updates:

  • Added ability to bulk clone Custom Targeted Ads.
  • Custom targeting applied to an ad can now be saved in a targeting template and re-used for other ads.

Page URL and Referrer URL placeholders in Ad Tag

We have added placeholders for Page, Referrer URLs in our ad tags. These are placeholders for other 3rd party ad servers who will be trafficking ZEDO tags in their ad serve and want to track Page and Referrer URLs.