Just as in previous years the 2015 report has sparked some interesting debates, especially in relation to monetising media.
There is however much about the report that is very positive, and here are several key opportunities that it highlights for publishers.
1. The potential of video
It may not be cheap to produce and there are still some consumers who won’t watch pre-roll ads, but it is clear that video is establishing itself as core part of the online news universe. Every major territory reports a significant growth in online video new consumption with almost a third of consumers in the most mature market, the US, regularly watching video news.
Part of this growth has been fuelled by social networks making it simple for users to watch video content on their platforms, but it also reflects the way in which news publishers are giving much more prominence to their own video content. While a significant number of viewers won’t watch a pre-roll, the CPMs for video content and the sponsorship opportunities they create, offer rewards that are far exceed standard image and text based content. The growing adoption of 4G, and subsequently 5G technology, and the pre-eminence of large screen mobile devices will only encourage more video consumption too.
2. Native advertising
One of the most depressing aspects of the report from a publisher’s perspective was the news that ad blockers have become so prevalent. In the US, for example, more than 50 per cent of the respondents said that they never saw ads.
On a more positive note though the report salutes the rise of native advertising and offers insight as to what consumers really think of the emerging format. Admittedly the figures for visibility of native ads are still fairly low – with 35 per cent in the US compared with 21 per cent in the UK acknowledging seeing native ads on a regular basis. It does appear though that readers are willing to accept native advertising as a quid pro quo for their free content. This is especially true for younger readers.
Interestingly of the group that said that they were aware of native advertising, between a third and a quarter of the respondents said they felt a little let down when they later found out that the content was sponsored by a brand or company. This is clearly something that media brands need to work on.
It is still early days for native advertising as a platform, but high profile experiments such as The Guardian’s work with Unilever as well as the widespread adoption of content recommendation engines like Taboola and Outbrain will continue to offer monetisation opportunities for content companies. The report concludes that readers are more likely to engage with native advertising content in less serious news areas – in other words magazine style content.
3. Leveraging the strength of existing media brands
In some ways the report is a slightly depressing read for established US media brands. While some, like The New York Times, have held their own more recent media entrants such as BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post have captured a significant percentage of the US online news audience.
Outside of the US though it is different tale. In key markets like the UK, Germany and Ireland established media brands with a print heritage are making the running digitally.
Respondents seemed to value their trusted relationship with brands that they know and believe in. Conversely very few starter media companies have been successful in those territories. The only ones that have made significant inroads are larger US brands like BuzzFeed and Vice. There are clear opportunities for established brands to continue to grow their online audiences and the existing relationship with audiences forged in the print era seem to be standing them in good stead.
4. New social channels
One of the key findings of the report is the importance of social channels as a means of people discovering online content. In almost every country the market leader was Facebook and this looks set to continue with the platform working with publishers on its innovative Instant Stories concept.
Twitter is very influential in many sectors, though the report notes, “we seek news on Twitter, but bump into it on Facebook.” This isn’t the case for all territories though with Twitter being less influential in Germany.
The new opportunity for publishers is clearly in the emerging platforms that are proving popular with the young. The report notes that in the US, the biggest growing networks among 18–24s have been Instagram and Snapchat – now used by 34 per cent and 32 per cent respectively for any purpose. A growing number see the platforms as a news source with publishers having high hopes for Snapchat Discover, an innovation that CNN, Vice, and Mail Online among others are experimenting with.
There also may be potential from a news syndication perspective for WhatsApp, which is very popular in Brazil (61 per cent), Spain (67 per cent), Italy (49 per cent), and Germany (41 per cent).
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