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Zuckerberg Sucks Air Out of CES for Brands

Any real news out of CES this week was drowned out by either the two-hour power outage that plunged the main hall into darkness or Facebook’s announcement that it was once again tuning its newsfeed to promote meaningful interactions among individuals at the expense of all the publishers who used it as a lifeline after all the brands left their sites to advertise on  FB. The brands, by the way, will also get the shaft.

Part of this seems to be a response to the fake news controversy from the last election. But here’s how Zuckerberg puts it on the site:

“One of our big focus areas for 2018 is to make sure that the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.

We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.

But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

It’s easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other….

The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.

Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

We started making jchanges in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.

Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.

Welp. This was more relevant than whether AR or VR will go mainstream first (best guesses are for AR because no glasses) or who will advertise what in our connected homes. We’ve never thought the digital media industry belonged at a gadget show anyway.

Facebook Shifts Again

Facebook has decided, at least in 2018, to deprioritize publishers, leaving those who invested heavily in support for Instant Articles and videos with money that might have been better spent with the feeling that they have once again been betrayed by the social media behemoth.

Wasn’t it just two years ago that Facebook attracted publishers with the promise of faster loading Instant Articles, which were supposed to speed page loads for mobile devices? However, last year it told publishers it was going to prioritize video, and that great sucking sound you heard in the industry was from writers and print content creators going down the drain as every site pivoted to video. Well, as we’ve already written, the pivot to video was of little interest to site visitors, because they care a lot more about content than about format.

Facebook has now suggested that publishers NOT pivot to video, because they’ve found the monetization opportunities are not there. Again, we’ve already written about sites like Buzzfeed or Mic, who actually did pivot to video and are now facing the consequences of lost visitors and low ad revenues.

For the past couple of years, mass market sites have been at the mercy of Facebook’s experimentation. And of course Facebook is constantly experimenting, and is far more resource-rich than any of the publishers. Now that Mark Zuckerberg is in trouble over fake news, he’s much less willing to experiment with Facebook as a source of news. Our guess is that the last election gave him a crash course in the down side of being a media company, and now he’s going to crawl back into his corner and focus on connection individuals.

That doesn’t mean Facebook has become useless for advertisers, of course. It’s the publishers who will bear the brunt of this whiplash. Once again they will have to redesign their sites and give some thought to what might draw and audience to their own sites. That’s called audience development, and it was a mistake to put it in the hands of Facebook in the first place.

Oh, and if you were one of the few Facebook members who used M, its concierge messaging service, that experiment is also over.

The company is shutting down M’s services without even letting it leave the testing phase, where it had operated since 2015. The service once seemed to hold the promise of acting as a digital concierge, helping people book hotels, order food, keep their schedules and perform other tasks.

M’s technology, which was something Facebook used to learn about AI, will still be in the background in Messenger, which Facebook believes will continue to be a platform to develop chatbots for sales and customer service.

The Economist: a Case Study

The Economist: A Case Study for a Hybrid Ad Operations Model
Outsourcing your ad operations is not a new concept, but even companies that want to use it are still trying to figure it out so that it works for them. A hybrid model may work best.
“ZEDO has delivered much better quality of service as well as improved turnaround time in comparison with the previous vendor.”

The problem:

How to outsource your ad operations for optimum revenue. In a global market, slow processing of requests and faulty implementation (blank pages or broken pages served), cost The Economist an estimated $250,000 in revenue annually — an unacceptable situation.

The solution:

The Economist has always outsourced its ad operations. But after three unsuccessful tries at total outsourcing, the well-respected financial news and analysis site has finally settled on a hybrid model as the one they are most comfortable with. Before settling on that model, the magazine used  total outsourcing, but found that to be flawed because all transactions flowed up to a single manager in the outsourcing vendor. In a global operation, where transactions are done on a 24/7 basis in many time zones, if that manager was unavailable (let’s say asleep), the result as an expensive single point of failure.

In the case of The Economist,  slow processing of requests and faulty implementation (blank pages or broken pages served), cost them an estimated $250,000 in revenue annually — an unacceptable situation.

Thus, the magazine chose a hybrid model with ZEDO. This choice keeps the strategic work in house and outsources the tactical implementation with SLAs and reporting requirements to show effectiveness. The expectations were laid out in advance, the SLAs agreed on, and implementation has gone flawlessly. Since ZEDO, The Economist hasn’t lost any money and trafficking errors have been caught internally because of a proactive relationship and good communication.

Details of the model include traffickers in all important time zones. It includes a combination of in-house onshore and outsourced offshore resources. Of the 8 member global ad operations team, five are internal and three external

  • A Director of Ad Operations is based in London – The Economist
  • Two Ad Operations managers –  (one in NYC and one in London) The Economist
  • Two Onshore trafficker – 2 Nos. (one in NYC and one in London) The Economist
  • Three Offshore traffickers from ZEDO –  (work as per time zones in their respective markets – BST (UK and Continental Europe), EST (North America) and HK (for APAC) time.

Operations began in October of last year, and so far  the feedback from their Sales teams across all markets has been extremely positive. Their view:  “ZEDO has delivered much better quality of service as well as improved turnaround time in comparison with the previous vendor.”

Summary:

  • ZEDO’s accuracy percentage over a nine month period has been 99.3%. This is a significant improvement in comparison to the previous vendor. By our estimate, our improved accuracy is likely to have saved The Economist more than a quarter million dollars in revenue  compared to the previous year.
  • ZEDO has processed 100% of P1 requests (P1 are high priority requests) have within 3 hours through 2013.
  • Significant process improvements have been made in terms of delivery of screenshots and advanced performance / delivery reports
  • Quarterly review meetings have been held in order to seek constant feedback and process improvement opportunities.
  • The Economist and ZEDO work as partners and not in a typical client – vendor relationship.
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Some Newspapers Do Better Than Others at Monetizing Digitally

The Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has published new research that takes newspapers to task for failing to monetize their digital assets quickly enough.

In essence, the research says that culture is the gating factor, and that some newspapers are way ahead of others in managing to reverse the decline in revenues that came from the slow decline in print newspaper reading:

… some papers are performing quite differently than the norm, some much better and some far worse. These variances suggest that the future of newspapers, rather than being determined entirely by sweeping trends, can be significantly affected by company culture and management-even at papers of quite different sizes.

Of the 38 papers that provided detailed data about their operations, not all were achieving growth in digital revenue. Seven of those studied suffered declines for the last year for which they had full data. One stayed the same year to year.

Beneath these broad numbers, however, are papers that buck the trend in significant ways and offer the idea that more can be achieved. One paper studied saw digital ad revenue grow 63% and print grow 8% in the last full year for which it had data. Another paper registered a gain of 50% in digital advertising.

We are the advertising technology provider for some of the newspapers that have done the best at switching to a digital revenue model. It has been our experience that newspapers must experiment with different forms of advertising beyond traditional above the fold display ads. In fact, recently Google announced that it was going to downgrade the search results of sites that placed too much advertising at the top of the site, before the reader could get to the content.

We have been able to help them produce incremental revenue. Like Comscore, we think that above the fold and below the fold are history. We help publishers create and monetize impressions that are in-view. Ie. create and sell impressions that we know the users see. But most important, our new InView ad formats, focused on any advertiser’s new metric of “viewable impressions” have been measured by Comscore’s AdXpose at 99% in-view.

We are constantly fine tuning our product development efforts to help our publisher partners make more money. While we can’t change the internal culture at a newspaper, once it has decided to embrace different digital revenue models, we are right there waiting to help.

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ZEDO TAPS HIGHWINDS CDN FOR PERFORMANCE-BASED LOAD BALANCING SOLUTION

ZEDO, Inc., the leading independent advertising technology partner for publishers, today announced that it is using SelectPath™ multi-platform load balancing technology from content delivery network (CDN) provider Highwinds® to optimize content delivery across multiple CDNs and platforms.  SelectPath, which is integrated into ZEDO’s ad platforms, combines advanced multi-platform network monitoring and CDN load balancing to fuel real-time data-driven content delivery decisions.  ZEDO’s single, unified platform with SelectPath improves performance and increases fault tolerance for customers’ ads.


“We chose SelectPath because it is a unique and cutting-edge technology that allows us to load balance multiple CDNs based on performance.  Other vendors that we talked to could do this on geography alone.  SelectPath integrated into our ad platforms improves delivery performance and reliability,” said Joseph Jacob, CTO of ZEDO, a 12-year-old advertising technology company, the largest independent ad server and an industry thought leader.  “With SelectPath, ZEDO is the first in the industry to be able to CDN load balance based on performance rather than geography.”


Companies like ZEDO use multiple CDNs for many reasons, most of which are driven by the need to deliver the best experience every time to every user.  Highwinds SelectPath, which includes licensed technology from multi-cloud performance and automation pioneer, Cedexis, is well-positioned to help content providers meet performance goals.  It collects real-time performance data directly from actual end users across any number of CDNs as well as the provider’s own origin, and it captures valuable last-mile data often excluded from monitoring services.  SelectPath reacts to the data by dynamically adjusting loads and automatically routing content over the CDN performing best at the moment of delivery.  Highwinds customers can also use SelectPath to create custom rules that programmatically flow content based on geography, time of day, day of month, etc.


“SelectPath is rooted in two premises.  First, we’ve seen third-party data consistently showing that Highwinds CDN outperforms others, and not surprisingly, since we’ve invested heavily into our infrastructure and software stack to ensure our seat at the top.  And second, because we agree that performance matters, SelectPath will steer all content in the direction of the optimally performing CDN, even if it’s not ours,” said Steve Miller, chairman and CEO of Highwinds.  “We commend ZEDO for their recognition that no one CDN is ever faster than the aggregate, and we are excited to support ZEDO’s multi-CDN approach – while earning their bytes on a performance basis.”


To learn more about SelectPath, visit www.highwinds.com/cdn/load-balancing.php.

In 2012, Publishers Must Question Everything About Their Businesses

Neither the form nor the function of a newspaper has changed much in the last hundred years, even with the advent of  digital media,  but that cannot continue. More than even the internet itself, the advent of mobile devices will drive change to both the product and the business model for online publishers. This will probably be a year of  much new product development in publishing.

Unlike in the past, when the newsroom and the publisher existed on two sides of a Chinese wall, today a publisher and his or her editorial organization must collaborate on product development. The reporters or content providers are not separate from the business side anymore, and everyone involved with a content site must understand how both the product and the business model work. The surviving publishers will be the ones who build new institutions that work within the new economics of online content.

Those economics are quite different than the old models, in which multiple revenue streams sustained newspapers.. Micro payments will not be the salvation of newspapers, nor will pay walls — except in the case of extremely high value content such as that of the Wall Street Journal. Investigative reporting and covering local politics, the favorite beats of reporters, never did support newspapers.

Then how does a publisher meet the future? Not merely by tweaking the advertising model, but by tweaking the content model as well

In this new world, old brands must differentiate themselves and create a stronger sense of value the reader in order to be valuable advertising platforms. At present, niche product-focused properties are winning the big ad dollars.  Even the most traditional publishers have to start sections that are of more interest to advertisers, although the advertisers will still have the preference for niche sites. The cover everything model of the traditional newspaper (gardening to gossip) may no longer make sense. Nor may long-form journalism in some: 75% of readers abandon long form articles before getting to the end. (My information on this comes from Richard Gingras, the Head of News Product at Google).

The battle for eyeballs is now waged on the users’ terms. Publishers must make use of data to understand their audiences and where they come from, which is in a constant state of flux: direct traffic to home pages is declining, down from 45% to 25% between 2009 and 2011. Search grew from 22% of traffic in 2009 to 33% in 2011, and social, which hardly registered as a referral source in 2009, sent 15% of traffic to publishers in 2011. And that will only increase. (These numbers are from Richard Gingras, Head of Product for Google and former CEO of Salon.com.)

The medium defines the message and its form, and thus the form of newspapers needs to be rethought completely. The atomic unit of content is now the story, not the site.  Newspapers don’t have  editions anymore. Now, articles, posts, facts, related docs, reader contributions, discussion, databases, relevant to the same story should be together on the same page. And instead of one-off efforts, good stories should use data to create persistent resources. The constant updating of stories brings users back to the site. And that’s how you sell advertising: against the story, not the site.

Publishers must design to leverage today’s technology and audience flows. In fact, the atomic unit of content was never the site itself, although most publishers came online thinking of themselves as portals.

What does that say about advertising above and below the fold? We believe that whether the ad is in view outweighs where it appears.

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ZEDO Advertising Technology Updates – November 2010

Our latest round of updates includes a more streamlined Ad Network Dashboard, Activity lifetime for Profile targeting, and Phase 2 of the Account Features page.

Link multiple Advertisers to a single Ad Network
Previously, if you had multiple logins for a single ad network, you had to create a separate Advertiser for each login, and the data were displayed separately on the Ad Network Dashboard. Now you can link multiple Advertisers to a single Ad Network, allowing you to track Ad Network revenue more effectively. We also added new functionality to pull only specific data from Ad Networks, by using standard key-value pairs.

Activity Lifetime for Profile targeting
Now you can set how many days an activity cookie should stay active for a user.

Daily Profit Report
Now you can get a daily breakdown in Profit reports. (This has been one of the most popular customer requests!)

More features on the ZEDO Features page
We’ve made more features visible in the user interface, so you can pick and choose which features you want active for your account.

We hope that you are as excited about these new developments as we are.  With one month left in 2010, make sure to check out December’s Advertising Technology Updates blog to see what’s in our last release of the year!

As always, learn more about any of these products and services at www.ZEDO.com or contact us at salesinfo@zedo.com.