Online media, platforms, innovation and advertising

Just did this interview with a publication. Thought I’d publish it here.

Does a newspaper’s online platform cannabalise the print advertising at all? And what about print readers- will the online platform steal readers away from the print title?

It’s time to move on from using words like “cannabalise” and “steal” with reference to the print-online relationship. We should stop using these words. A media company’s objective is to secure readership and advertising revenue from across a variety of platforms, whether print, online or mobile. It’s really about what the readers want and the format they want it in. Readers will use the platforms they want to use, and it’s rather difficult for any media company to disagree. A media owner needs to ensure his or her content is on a variety of platforms to capture as many readers as possible.

Are you finding that newspaper ad revenues are moving online increasingly?

Personally, I’ve witnessed ad revenue growth in both print and online. If a print publication can offer a certain niched readership that an advertiser wants to access, then the advertiser will look at that print publication. It’s not all doom and gloom for print, as this is happening now. While online advertising is growing rapidly, I don’t see advertisers abandoning magazines and newspapers in any hurry. If I were running a big newspaper with strong online and mobile sister brands, I would be a very happy media owner.

And how does the profile of the online advertiser differ from that of print advertisers? What about the profile of readers, generally speaking?

It’s difficult to generalise as brands vary. At the Mail & Guardian, the online version attracts a bigger, broader readership than the newspaper, which is weekly and niched. Then of course any online brand is not confined by geographic boundaries like many print publication and attracts a world-wide readership. I think online publications should use Google Adsense and other contextual advertising models to monetise their international traffic as well as their archived content. Content never dies online. It keeps being accessed again and again and you can sell advertising revenue off it till the world ends.

Does the online advertisement offer more value, or measurability or better results or more cost saving, compared with traditional newspaper advertising?
Online advertising is both measureable, flexible and — if the online publication knows what they are doing — can be highly targeted. On a broader, philosophical level however I think the online advertising model could be optimised more: to some extent we, as an industry, have taken a traditional advertising model and applied it to an online environment with some tweaks here and there. I think it could work better. Personally I think media owners locally and internationally should come together to create a big online advertising network that works across brands and that is contextually relevant.

Why did M&G decide to launch a new website?

Our old site had become outdated and inflexible. We needed a new site with a contemporary design, better features, optimised advertising and all built on an infrastructure that would allow us to grow. We feel we have that now.

And, has the economic downturn had an impact on your ad revenues, online? Any strategies in place, moving forward, to deal with the economic crunch?

I don’t think the economic downturn will impact significantly on the growth of online advertising. If anything, in times of economic slowdown companies will use the internet to optimise their business and transact even more because doing business online is cheaper and more efficient. This will lead to more online advertising business, not less. I think the online advertising community will be saying: “What economic downturn?”

And what new applications are there on this site? Any new and exciting tools that marketers and advertisers should know about? Any advertising innovations? (Social networking, or cool news tools, for example, where brands and advertisers can get involved)

Some key features include registration of users which allows us to profile users and serve targeted content and advertising. Each user now gets a dashboard which allows them to save article clippings and view their browsing history. We’re also building a “story predictor” which will suggest stories to users that we think they will like, based on their surfing history. There are many other things we can do with the dashboard on a social networking level, which I can speak about closer to when we launch them.

We’re also one of the few websites in the world to introduce semantic tagging of our articles, which allows us to extract data from our articles, including place names, people names and company names. This allows us to do quite a bit of powerful cross-referencing on the site. Simply put — this gives computers the ability to “understand” what the articles are about, which then allows us to do powerful things with them.

When advertisers look to placing ads on newspaper websites, what should they consider, both in terms of format of the ad, and in terms of the measurement (eg pay per click) models? What works and what doesn’t?
There are many sites and models out there that you can choose from. The basics apply equally to online advertising as any other format of advertising. Ensure the campaign is a good fit. If you don’t want a branding campaign and don’t have a big budget then use Google Adsense. If you want a branding campaign as well as the leads, then use an online publisher. I’d recommend you use both.

How do advertisers to the website drive traffic to their ads, and then, to their websites?
Like any other ad — it’s about the message, the design and how targeted the placement is. The message should be compelling and relevant. You can really stand out by looking at new formats such as video and audio.

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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