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By Thomas Baekdal - February 2018

Newsletter: Advertising Must Be About More Than Views

This is an archived version of a Baekdal/Basic newsletter (it's free). It is sent out about once per week and features the latest articles as well as news and trends about the media industry. If you want to get the next one, don't hesitate to add your email to the list.

In this edition:

Fascinating Traffic Experiments by Publishers

Last week, I came across two very interesting traffic experiments, which are worth talking about. One was about how a publisher tried to increase the volume of posts on YouTube, and the other was about a publisher who decided to see what happened if they stopped using Facebook.

In this article, we are going to look at the result of each, and how it changes the way we think about our channels.

Quote of the week:

One fascinating thing about the media is how similar it is to the fashion industry. In fashion, you constantly have to come up with something new. The big web shops are taking over more and more of the sale, the market is oversaturated, and most clothes are basically the same.

But this also means that publishers can learn a lot from the fashion industry in terms of making things work anyway.

Advertising Must Be About More Than Views

There is a new trend in advertising, which is hitting publishers hard. It's about how more and more of the advertising spend is not shifting to non-media channels.

Of course, when I say 'new', I mean this trend started 20 years, but it's now at a point where its dominance is almost complete.

Let me explain.

In the past, advertising was almost always linked to 'the media', because the majority of advertising was placed in newspapers, magazines, radio or TV ... all media channels that produce content.

As a result, people in the media industry started thinking that advertising was a media product, and that it existed to support the media and journalism.

For instance, in the UK we saw this from Channel 4 when they complained about Facebook last year:

Channel 4 News has generated literally billions of video views for Facebook - much of it for work created at great personal risk by journalists working inside Syria. By way of financial return it gets almost nothing, while Facebook banks the advertising income.

This is a very common perception in the media industry. Advertising the 'the media' are the same.

However, brands never really thought about advertising this way. They didn't advertise in a newspaper or on TV because of the journalism or what newspaper was doing. They advertised solely to get exposure so that they could sell more products.

So, from a brand perspective, whether advertising is connected to 'the media' or not is kind of irrelevant. And if they can achieve the same result without the media, that might even be beneficial because then you can target things even better.

For instance, brands generally don't like advertising next to a negative news story about politics. So, from their perspective, it would be better if you could advertise without the politics.

This is now the reality of advertising. The trend we have seen over the past many years is a continual growth in non-media advertising.

For instance, Google Search is a non-media advertising platform, where brands can advertise their products without all that 'noise' from journalism. Instagram is also generally a non-media advertising platform, because here the focus isn't really on 'the media' as much as just pictures from your friends.

Facebook is moving more and towards this as well. With the announcement that only 4% of the Newsfeed will be from publishers, they too are predominantly becoming a non-media advertising platform.

And then we have Amazon. In Europe, Amazon isn't really that dominant yet, but in the US, Amazon's advertising platform is quickly taking up more of the market. And just like with Google Search, it's almost entirely based on being a non-media advertising platform.

We are seeing a shift from a media-based advertising spend to a non-media based advertising spend.

The result of this is a split in the market of how we must think about advertising in the future.

On one hand, we will have the programmatic world of advertising, where mostly non-media platforms will sell exposure at scale. And on these platforms, the non-media part will dominate. They simply don't need journalism, newspapers or magazines to offer useful advertising to brands.

From a publisher perspective, this is pretty scary, because it's the same as what happened to the classified advertising market. Classified advertising was once a key element of local newspapers, until sites like EBay and Craigslist (in the US), or in Norway realized that you don't need journalism to buy and sell used goods.

This is now happening to programmatic exposure-based advertising market as well. The market has found a way to get exposure without the need for the media to carry it ... and this changes everything.

This, of course, is a big problem for publishers. Because it's not just that you are losing your market to another channel, but that this other channel isn't a media channel.

But the advertising isn't just about exposure. It's also about impact. And here we have another market, where we use journalism to sell something that is 'more than a view'. For instance, the market for intent-based affiliate and lead-generating advertising, or the influencer market are all examples of advertising where brands are buying more than just a view.

And this is very important, because it means that, as a publisher, selling views is becoming a non-product. Brands will always be able to get that cheaper, faster, more targeted, and more efficiently from non-media channels.

So, as a publisher, you now have to focus on selling brands 'more than a view', and to prove the value that brands can get from the power of your journalism. Not in terms of traffic, but in terms of your ability to change people's minds.

The trend of advertising is that the programmatic advertising market will stop being a media product in the near future. So how would you change your journalism, so that you become a voice that people turn to for more than just random views?

This is an archived version of a Baekdal/Basic newsletter (it's free). It is sent out about once per week and features the latest articles as well as news and trends about the media industry. If you want to get the next one, don't hesitate to add your email to the list.


The Baekdal/Basic Newsletter is the best way to be notified about the latest media reports, but it also comes with extra insights.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


—   newsletter   —


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