OpenX Publisher Conference Guest Post Series
For the second installment of our #OXPC Guest Post Series we were fortunate enough to have Jonathan Miller, who is both Chief Digital Officer, Chairman and CEO, Digital Media Group for News Corporation and Chairman of the OpenX Board of Directors, take a few minutes to answer our questions about his views on the online advertising industry.
Jonathan will be speaking at the forthcoming OpenX Publisher Conference on May 14 where attendees will hear his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities within the digital advertising landscape. Request your invitation to the conference here.
1. What would you say are the main challenges facing digital publishers today?
One of the most important challenges is figuring out how to enrich and add value to the audience that publishers deliver and in so doing to stand out from the pack in a meaningful way. This is particularly important as advertisers and marketers have an increasing number of places they can put their spend in order to reach the desired audience.
It’s really important to have a reason for them to come to you, especially in the case of display advertising. One of the big things publishers have to do is have a differentiated ability to appeal to an audience that can be responsive in their environment.
2. You’ve often spoken of the difficulties associated with placing the right ad in front of the right user at the right time. Do you think we’re making progress on this important ad technology front?
While doing this sounds simple, it is, as many of us know, actually quite complex. It requires understanding users – what they respond to, what they’re interested in, what messages the marketers want to get across, and what responses they’re trying to elicit. Display is competing against a wide variety of choices on how to do that and getting the right ad where you want it becomes a very complex problem, and quite a complex math problem.
I think we are making progress, and, when it’s done correctly, it is of clear value to users because they see things that are relevant to them. When it’s not, it really stands out and it degrades the entire experience for the user, both from the perspective of being on whatever site they’re on and their level of engagement.
Ultimately, you want advertising to really mesh with the content and the users’ interests. When that can happen it creates more of a unified experience that is pleasing. I think that continues to be a holy grail, but we are making progress all the time and every incremental bit of progress is associated with value creation.
Part of the way this is improving is that the appropriate data people have is being used in more intelligent ways, and on a more real-time basis, which allows for inventory to be better used. The more real-time and the more data enriched we get the better the services and the better the experience will ultimately be for the user.
3. What have developments and innovation within the online publishing space in the past ten years meant for the digital publishing community?
There are a few things that have been interesting. On the publishing side, as the systems for managing content get better it becomes less expensive to improve your content offering, either to enrich it, to create new sites or to make a better presentation to the consumer. So publishing systems have clearly created better experiences.
On the monetization side, the first positive is that there is monetization for contextual links, search, and now display. Now it’s available to an increasingly wide range of publishers. It’s not just the top of the pyramid that has access to these kinds of monetization.
We’re seeing the abilities of publishers to access technologies around optimization and around enrichment that they just didn’t have before, and in a very low-touch way. That’s part of what makes it accessible much deeper into the stack.
What this points to is that there is now innovation and development on the sell side where frankly it has lagged behind. The buying systems had become far more sophisticated than those on the sell side. Now I think we’re seeing the publishing side begin to catch up and offer the kind of metrics and enrichment of their offers and their inventory that are more valuable. Now the two are beginning to talk to each other.
4. How is the growth in mobile and video altering the publishing landscape?
Mobile and video are two major developments, but they’re not the same.
With mobile, what’s really key to understand is that it’s not just a web extension. The mistake in mobile that I think can be made is that people look at it as the web, only they take it with them.
The better way to think about it is as a new medium. It has new behaviors, new forms of access, which include things like apps and so on that have to be taken into account as a fundamental property of the mobile environment. I think we’re all learning about monetization in that context.
What do people respond to best? The jury is still out on that one. I don’t think it’s traditional advertising and over the next few years it will continue to be an area of real experimentation and sophistication as marketers learn what consumers respond to.
We have to experiment with new forms of creative and new forms of advertising. If one thinks back, we’ve seen this before with search advertising. Search was born of the web, it was not an extension of anything that came before – it wasn’t born in print. Mobile may be another one of those. I think that the ultimate, most important forms of advertising will turn out to be new forms. The only way to continue to experiment with creative is to experiment with form factor and to see what people respond to.
Video is almost as explosive as mobile. The proliferation of bandwidth, of cameras for user-generated video, and the lowering cost to produce higher quality of video, all of these things are leading to an explosion of video. Video is clearly a very powerful marketing medium and, while there are many who would have preferred other forms to emerge, it seems like the pre-roll is the abiding unit in the emerging video world. I think we’ll continue to see a very significant increase in video advertising. Marketers are getting much more comfortable with the idea of both pre-rolls and being in front of other content.
Measurement here is key. It is getting standardization around what exactly is “a video viewed”. Is it a video started or is it a video that is completed? I think that it will continue to grow very strongly, particularly as standards and practices become more established, and ultimately will fully explode when one can manage marketing campaigns between traditional television and online video.
5. How have online measurement standards shifted in recent years and where do you see them going in the future?
In terms of measurement, there will be a lot of debate over the next few years over the exact metrics that emerge to challenge the CPM as the standard bearer for measurement for all things of value. Essentially, the shift will be around different measurements of engagement. What marketers are going to want to know, and, in fact, what publishers are going to want to know is how engaged are the people who come to their sites. A key factor will be growth and ultimately standardization around deeper measures of engagement, and not just impressions or even click-throughs. What those are will be in debate for a while, but I’m pretty convinced that’s the direction it’s going to go because that will also allow encompassing of the social web.
The questions around the social web are how much does it capture intent, and how much does it capture monetizable engagement. The answers are going to force the discussion back on the web at large because so much of the time and so many of the developments are about the socialization of the web itself.
You can’t get money out of the social web until you can figure out intent inside people’s Facebook pages. I can figure out what they like because they tell me, they hit the Like button, but that’s different than intent.
What is intent in the social web? What is a real measure of engagement that leads to monetization? How do you come up with the measurement that relates to when people either have intent or are open to messaging?
The social web is going to force answers because everything’s going to have a social component, so unless you figure this out you won’t be able to monetize it. Just getting impressions may not be the measure. I’m following things like Promoted Tweets and Tumblr’s new unit, and everyone is trying to figure out Facebook pages. We haven’t had a breakthrough yet, but there has to be one because it’s too much of people’s time and engagement, so it has to happen.