Blog Archives

Mobile Advertising to Reach $8.2 Billion by 2016 As Search Market Share Shrinks

New figures released by Forrester Research project the healthy growth recently seen in U.S. interactive advertising will continue through 2016, with total spending reaching $76.6 billion, or 35 percent of global ad spend.

The figures are particularly encouraging for those in the mobile sector, who have had to deflect criticism about the current state of mobile advertising and its viability using current technology. The report projects mobile interactive advertising will enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 38 percent, reaching $8.2 billion in 2016. This best-in-class growth will be led by a growing mobile commerce market, consolidation of mobile ad networks and the implementation of rich media ad formats as smartphone technology advances.

Consolidation in mobile ad networks has accelerated in the past two years, as Google acquired AdMob for $750 million, Apple acquired Quattro Wireless for $275 million and ValueClick acquired Greystripe for $75 million, placing the full force of some of the most valuable companies in the world behind the mobile ad sector.

Mobile Advertisement Example - Land Rover

While display and search are projected to retain their dominance of most interactive ad budgets as rich media, text listings and online video components become budget staples, search engine advertising is expected to see a significant reduction in both its growth rate and its share of the overall interactive market. Search advertising is projected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent, nearly doubling from $18.8 billion in 2011 to $33.3 billion in 2016, but will see its share of the overall market decrease from 55 percent to 44 percent over the same period as other formats establish themselves as meaningful components of large scale media buys.

Forrester reports social media marketing will enjoy a healthy 26 percent compound annual growth rate, but will only reach $5 billion in total spend due to the inexpensive nature of many social ad platforms.

With the explosive valuations of literally thousands of VC-funded startups heavily dependent on advertising revenue for survival, let alone growth, these latest figures are encouraging. However, marketers appreciate (and are increasingly demanding) both security and results, which will likely benefit the largest and most established companies in mobile and social, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter. The industry should expect further consolidation as the large, cash and equity-rich players utilize critical acquisitions to expand their arsenal and take advantage of the rapidly accelerating growth in interactive advertising.

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ComScore + AdXpose is the Most Important Deal in Online Advertising in Years

The online advertising industry has reached an inflection point. No better is this critical moment in digital advertising portrayed than in the acquisition of AdXpose by comScore for $22 million.

CMOs are feeling increasingly comfortable diverting or devoting larger percentages of their budgets online, convinced that the benefits of online advertising are as revolutionary as promised. Brands spend tens of billions of dollars online, and they expect results.

How campaign performance is measured varies by brand or agency; some seek simple impressions, others seek clicks and conversions. One of the key selling points of online advertising is the ability to measure campaign performance against objectives in real-time. Tracking technologies record every visit and every impression, but the validity of these measurements have recently come into question. A major concern is falsely inflated impression counts, artificially inflating CPM prices for media buyers. Impressions are traditionally counted in tandem with page visits, which has proven to be a deeply flawed system of measurement.

AdXpose is changing everything.

Led by CEO Kirby Winfield, AdXpose verifies impressions by telling advertisers where their ad was placed on the page and, if below the fold, whether or not a visitor scrolled down to see the ad.

“If you’re counting every impression as viewable when only 50% are viewable, then every metric that you’re using to value your media is inefficient and inaccurate,” Winfield said. “You’re pulling in a bunch of impressions that have no chance to be viewed.”

Adxpose Logo

The company also identifies the content the ad was placed next to, an important tool for CMOs demanding their ads be served beside “brand safe” content. Winfield argues the consolidation of advertising measurement data is vital if digital wants to slice into the holy grail of ad dollars, television.

“You have to go to one vendor to get viewabililty data. Another for survey data. A vendor to get audience verification. Another to get conversation data,” Winfield said. “You’re taking a buying process that is already 4-5x more difficult than buying TV and making it 4-5x more difficult to get metrics.”

comScore CEO Magid Abraham believes a pricing revolution is underway.

“Prices are going to adjust. All of the junk inventory is going to be significantly slashed,” Abraham said. “If you’re charging $.25/CPM but only 20% are visible, then the unit price is actually $1.25. We will move from a medium from where there is no scarcity to an industry where there is scarcity.”

comScore and AdXpose serve as a powerful duo at a critical juncture. As TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld astutely notes, “it’s not about clicks and conversions, it’s about attention.” Innovation in online advertising is at an all-time high; it’s no longer simply text and banner ads. Rich media, branded content and social solutions are transforming the industry with the aid of real-time exchanges.

Ferociously accurate data is the catalyst that can launch online advertising to the forefront of brand spending in the digital era. CMOs are demanding stronger performance, media buyers are getting smarter, auditors are more closely scrutinizing campaign performance, and this industry evolution is good for everyone. Brands get accurate, verified audience data, and publishers are able to charge premium CPMs through guaranteed, validated ad presentation.

The revolution has begun, and AdXpose is poised to create a shakeup with financial implications that will dwarf its $22 million price tag.

Connected Television and IntoNow Are Poised to Disrupt Integrated Brand Advertising

Earlier this year, Yahoo! made a splash with its acquisition of 12-week old media check-in app IntoNow for approximately $27 million. The tech media circles, often critical of Yahoo! in recent years, praised the move in spite of the multi-million dollar price tag and the fact that IntoNow was just 12-weeks old.

IntoNow utilizes wavelength recognition to listen to and identify television programs with the tap of a button, and has become an important tool in Yahoo!’s previously-maligned foray into social. IntoNow combines the addictive check-in elements of Foursquare and the clever utility of Shazaam with the seemingly unstoppable power of Facebook and Twitter. While this conflagration of new media stars yields hordes of adoring users and Silicon Valley praise, IntoNow is poised to tap into the well-established mega-billions of the traditional media television industry.

IntoNow - From Yahoo!

The Internet is transforming television, and the first-glance value of IntoNow is obvious. Anything that gets users in front of television screens, especially if paired with live event coverage a la CoverItLive, holds immense value to television networks seeing more and more eyeballs transition to the smaller screens of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

However, the multi-billion dollar potential of IntoNow and Internet-connected televisions (including Yahoo!’s ConnectedTV) lies in the value these tools can deliver to brand advertisers and CMOs desperately seeking ways to integrate campaigns across the increasing number of platforms used by consumers. The possibilities are endless:

  1. A consumer “checks in” to the live airing of the latest White Collar episode and receives a reward from USA Network (a badge, points, a sneak preview video, a behind-the-scenes look, etc.)
  2. IntoNow utilizes a Pandora-esque algorithm to provide recommendations and offers brand advertisers the ability to provide highly relevant Sponsored Recommendations based on a user’s viewing habits
  3. Yahoo! pairs ConnectedTV and IntoNow with its own real-time ad bidding and exchange technology to deliver contextually matched, highly targeted ads based on what a user is watching right now
  4. A signed-in Yahoo! user receives time-sensitive television and movie recommendations from networks, Fandango, movie studios and the many advertisers Yahoo! already has relationships with based on their explicit IntoNow viewing habits and the inferred interests derived from them
  5. A viewer “checks in” to American Idol and is given the option to “Like” the show’s Facebook page, read the Idols’ tweets or purchase and download a song from the night’s episode directly from iTunes

The power of IntoNow in the right hands makes Yahoo!’s purchasing price of $27 million seem like chump change, and paired with ConnectedTV and real-time ad delivery, may be the spark that ignites Yahoo!’s rebound. Matching advertisers and brands with consumers is a ceaseless quest, and IntoNow gives Yahoo! a plethora of options to deliver value to a vast range of customers while capturing the always-critical adoration of its users. Execution matters above all else, and we’ve seen dozens of hot, nimble startups fall victim to the oppressive tides within a large and entrenched public organization.

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Twitter and Facebook Seek Big Ad Dollars with Opposing Strategies

Defying the overall economic trends witnessed across the United States and the rest of the world, Silicon Valley is once again a thriving, dominant ecosystem that some are calling “the last great American frontier.” Spurned by widespread popularity of social pillars including Facebook and Twitter, the seemingly insatiable appetite for tech IPOs and innovations in content and brand integration, the prospects for online advertising are brighter than ever before.

The IAB reported 2010 online ad revenues of $26 billion, a 15 percent increase from 2009 and a new record. While search remains a dominant revenue generator – accounting for 46 percent of total spending with 12 percent YoY growth – relatively newer formats including sponsorships, mobile formats and site takeovers are experiencing massive growth. Many entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, with big valuation dollar signs in their eyes, are literally betting their fortunes on this growth trajectory continuing, hoping advertisers follow the paths of the hundreds of millions of users interacting on Facebook and Twitter every day.

IAB - Online Ad Spend Classification

Facing looming pressure to generate new revenues off their massive engaged user bases and hoping to disprove critics who argue social media advertising is ineffective, Facebook and Twitter have accelerated their monetization programs. However, the two social icons are tackling the same issue with two very different strategies.

Facebook, which enjoys healthy, highly profitable partnerships with gaming companies like Zynga, has exploded past Yahoo! to become the largest seller of online display advertising (in the United States, excluding Yahoo! media network partner sites.) While Facebook is home to the online “Pages” of virtually all of the world’s largest brands, the company’s automated ad-buying system is targeted toward smaller advertisers, allowing them to custom-target based on a wide range of demographic and geographic variables.

Adam Bain - Twitter President of Global Revenue

Twitter, still several years behind Facebook in monetization development, is just beginning to build out its sales force and will not possess an automated ad-buying system until late 2011. Under the direction of Adam Bain, Twitter’s President of Global Revenue, the company has slowly rolled out advertising platforms including Promoted Tweets, Trends and Accounts that have been targeted exclusively toward the largest brand advertisers on the Web. As Twitter’s ad auction infrastructures develop further and the sales team grows in size, and if usage continues to skyrocket with the help of  key platform integrations like Apple’s iOS 5, the company’s $150 million in projected 2010 revenues will likely swell dramatically, helping to justify the reported $8-10 billion valuation.

The two distinct strategies employed by Facebook and Twitter are likely to merge and overlap as each company builds its sales and ad-serving infrastructure, but it appears each company understands how businesses of all kinds use their services and has structured their early monetization platforms accordingly.

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Online Advertising Has Plenty of Room to Grow – Mobile, Social and Branded Content

In the wake of the explosive LinkedIn IPO, which saw a 109% first day gain that valued the nine-year old company with over 100 million users at $8.9 billion, an intense spotlight has been focused on the new wave of Web-based companies that have taken venture capitalists and private and secondary markets by storm. The highly anticipated and inevitable IPOs of Web titans Facebook and Groupon have – rightly or wrongly – brought up fears of a “bubble” reminiscent of the dot-com bust that wiped away the fortunes of millions and oversaw the collapse of hundreds of “companies” that rushed to go public without revenues, not to mention profits.

(My take? We’re not in a bubble. Not yet. The lessons from a decade ago are fresh enough in the minds of VCs and investors, and the simple fact that we are being cautious and asking questions proves we are eons away from the insanity of 2000.)

The promise of the new media era is dependent on a new era of advertising, one that is integrated across many platforms, channels and formats. The booming success of Google and others dependent on online advertising may lead some to think that the market is saturated, leaving little opportunity for new entrants or growth for existing players. However, the data paints a dramatically different picture. The IAB projects double-digit growth in global online advertising spending for each of the next four years, reaching nearly $100 billion by 2014, or 17.4% of combined global ad spending.

Online Ad Spend Totals

There is a significant trend that one doesn’t need to dive through troves of data to recognize: people across the world are spending more time online. The time spent online on computers, tablets and smartphones is dramatically increasing year over year, but even these markets are relatively under-served. Just 82 million of more than 330 million Americans access the Internet on their mobile phones, and just 31% of wireless subscribers own a smartphone. Even with the billions of dollars in profits enjoyed by Apple, Google, Nokia and Microsoft in the mobile sector, the market is just getting started. More users with more Web-enabled smartphones means more ad dollars flowing to Web companies from the world’s biggest spenders.

So does this mean the tens of billions of dollars spent on television advertising will magically flow online? No. New value is created by reaching consumers online, and that means new dollars will be spent. Television advertising offers benefits that the hottest social media and branded content companies could never provide, and vice versa. It is the value of connecting and conversing with consumers in the new media era that will entice advertisers to direct new dollars from their ad budgets toward online campaigns.

eHow Style Site Takeover

The power to connect brands and consumers where the conversations are happening (social) and at the point of intent (branded content, action-oriented content) provides the opportunity for companies that offer these services to capitalize on the significant upside potential in the online advertising market. Online advertising isn’t just text links and banner ads. The new formats enabled by tablet and mobile technology and revolutionary business models ensure Silicon Valley’s best executors will reap the rewards of a booming online advertising market in the coming years.

Hat Tip: AdWeek – The Changing Scope of Online Advertising 

IAB Report: 2010 Internet Advertising Reveneus Increase 15% to $26 Billion, A New Record

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How Demand Media Creates High-Quality Content at Scale [INFOGRAPHIC]

On the heels of a widely successful IPO and a strong first earnings report as a public company, Demand Media has delivered another positive sign for investors seeking continued momentum for 2011 and beyond.

Today, the Santa Monica, CA-based content and social media company announced 48% growth in revenues and a 121% increase in adjusted net income year over year. (A full review of Demand Media’s Q1 2011 financial results can be viewed here.) Well-received redesigns of flagship Demand Media properties like eHow, LIVESTRONG.com and Cracked and high-profile celebrity partnerships with Rachael Ray for eHow Food and Tyra Banks for typeF.com are driving continued growth in content and media revenues (77% increase YoY.)

The increased scrutiny that comes with being a public company has manifested in investor worries about the impact of Google’s “Panda” algorithm tweak, but Demand Media has fought hard to reaffirm its continued commitment to producing high quality content. As a writer for Demand Media Studios and a member of the Demand Media Blog Distribution Network, I can attest to the validity of these assertions, and I am continuously impressed by the quality of content being produced by my fellow freelancers.

My team and I created an infographic that presents the detailed content creation process of Demand Media using text, graphics and images repurposed from OnlineMBA and Demand Media’s Content Matters. (Click on the infographic to view the full-size version.)

Demand Media Content Creation Process

This infographic portrays how Demand Media utilizes a network of proven professional writers and copy editors, with every piece of content run through a rigorous quality control and review process. Articles that do not meet the strict Demand Media content quality standards are rejected and never published.

The continued efforts of Demand Media to improve content quality and focus on the creation of compelling, actionable content on its growing platform of top-rated properties are delivering strong financial results and positive user responses, and are a strong sign for scrutinizing investors.

Related: Learn more about how Demand Media offers advertisers a unique opportunity to reach action-ready consumers through intent targeting.

As Bing Sees Big Gains, Is Microsoft Cool Again?

Under the tutelage of Bill Gates, Microsoft exploded into one of the world’s largest and most valuable companies, generating billions of dollars in profits annually for shareholders. The dot-com boom made many employees and investors millionaires, and the company appeared unstoppable.

As the company matured, growth stabilized and new tech darlings like Google stole the spotlight. Delayed product launches of centerpiece operating systems, failed products and advertising campaigns, broken acquisition deals and an apparent lack of internal innovation gave Microsoft a reputation as a “has been” that had passed its prime, and current CEO Steve Ballmer lost the confidence of many investors.

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld Microsoft Ad

However, new data is showing that Microsoft may be experiencing a reversal of fortunes, as the company’s investments in search are beginning to pay off. The brutally competitive search engine market has had one dominant player for the last decade – Google – which has held as much as 80 percent of the United States search market.

In October 2010, the U.S. search marketshare breakdown was as follows: Google (72.15%); Yahoo + Bing (23.64%). The most recent Hitwise data shows Bing has made substantial gains at the expense of Google and Yahoo. Bing-powered search now controls 30.01% of the U.S. search market, while Google’s share has fallen to 64.42%. (See below: Image courtesy of Mashable.)

Bing vs. Google

These gains may be the result of a major multi-platform ad push by Microsoft for Bing, but the trend is a positive sign for investors and spectators that have remained loyal to the company.

Strong performance in search, high expectations for tablet and PC versions of the upcoming Windows 8 platform, new developer confidence in the Windows Phone platform following the recent Nokia partnership announcement, the smashing success of Kinect and Xbox 360 and widespread adoption of Microsoft’s iPhone and iPad apps are powerful indicators of a possible Microsoft mindshare and marketshare resurgence.

Bing iPad App

Less than a decade after Wall Street and Silicon Valley critics alike pronounced the death of Apple as a legitimate player in the lucrative personal computer market, the world has witnessed the resurgence of the Cupertino-based company as the dominant force in the rapidly-growing world of consumer electronics. Could we be seeing the beginning of an Apple-esque Microsoft turnaround? Critics will call it wishful thinking, but with Google in the process of a massive leadership change, Yahoo! undergoing a drawn-out transition phase and the tenure of Apple CEO Steve Jobs uncertain, the competitive landscape is changing and Microsoft has substantial opportunities in search, PCs and mobile.

Create Custom Text Clouds with Wordle

Free utility software is one of the great perks of the Web, with generous tinkerers sharing their creations with the world at no cost. One of my favorite tools, Wordle, comes from Johnathan Feinberg and partial source code owner IBM.

Wordle is a clever tag cloud tool that automatically creates a custom text cloud from a slate of creative templates. Users can enter text manually, copy/paste text blocks, or allow the program to crawl any website and Wordle will create a custom word cloud with the given text. Users can then edit word orientation, edit text colors, alter color variation and access a host of other customizations.

Demand Media Infographic - Wordle

(Click to enlarge.)

To create your own custom text cloud for free, visit www.Wordle.net.

What are your favorite free tools from around the Web? Share with a comment below.

From Avatar to the iPad 2 – We’re in an Experience Driven Economy

You know the feeling. Being so profoundly overtaken by awe, laughter, incredulity or amazement. Experiences like these tap into the deepest and purest of human emotions, and serve as powerful motivators. We are in a new economic era; an era in which savvy businesses craft their product and service strategies with the specific and overarching goal of creating compelling consumer experiences.

Hollywood was among the first industries to recognize that even the best stories need great packaging to become the mega-hits that bring swarms of people to theaters in costumes and tents, waiting for hours to experience the story. Avatar was not a multi-billion dollar smash hit because the story was particularly exceptional or because audiences were deeply committed to the film’s message of environmentalism. The film attracted an enormous and diverse audience of moviegoers craving to immerse themselves in the engrossing experience James Cameron expertly crafted. The impressive 3D effects, captivating majesty of Pandora and exceptionally-directed audio throughout the film catapulted audiences into a foreign world, allowing them to experience the story in a way that simply was not possible even twenty years ago. James Cameron isn’t just selling movie tickets. He is selling an experience. Entertainment locations like Universal’s Harry Potter theme park and Disneyworld don’t sell roller coaster tickets and concessions. They sell an experience. Starbucks isn’t selling coffee and pastries. It is selling an experience.

Avatar Movie Wallpaper

The entertainment industry was a pioneer, but new players are encouraged by the success they’ve seen and are increasing their efforts to weave the overall consumer or experience into every decision they make.

The resurgence of Apple as a beloved consumer and cultural icon can be directly linked to its insistence on providing unique and powerfully positive experiences to its customers. One only needs to step inside an Apple retail store to understand how well this strategy has caught on. Flocks of current and would-be customers seem suspended in a perpetual state of bliss and fascination as they explore and tinker with the latest iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. Even months after a product is released, Apple stores are bustling with activity and energy. Why? Because Apple created a hands-on experience and instills a sense of ownership in its customers.

But what makes Apple such a unique and powerful example of experience-driven strategy is its array of products designed to wow the users’ senses. The touch, audio and visual interactions that characterize the company’s most successful products have taken a company that was once a quarter or two away from a low-ball acquisition and made it a beloved symbol of quality, innovation and excellence. (Author’s note: I give high praise to Apple, but I’m no ‘fanboy’ – I have happily used a PC for 15 years and will critique Apple if/when necessary.)

Apple iPad 2 Customers in Store

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others are carefully crafting new and addictive user experiences that have led to astounding engagement and interaction metrics. The genuinely positive experience of interacting with your social connections and having the ability to share your own story is an experience we – as humans – crave.

From luxury car dealerships and IMAX theaters to retail stores and theme parks, business are trending toward products and services driven by a foundation of selling experiences. These experiences are powerful, and as technology advances even further, the experiences will become deeper, more interactive and more compelling. An incredible, truly wowing experience with a product or service is rare, but if businesses can deliver one, they are poised for transformative success.

NOTE: Visit www.letschatbusiness.net on your iPad for a unique, Flipboard-esque experience driven by Onswipe and WordPress.

Intent Targeted Advertising Threatens Viability of Portals

Online advertising fueled the fortunes of Web portals like AOL and Yahoo! for years, and user targeting helped deliver relevant ad impressions at scale based on inferred preferences. These preferences could be cultivated over time through tracking and analytics, providing a sizable advantage over traditional advertising platforms.

However, the shift toward a long tail content environment and an increasing portion of the online community discovering content through social media is forcing advertisers to seek innovative solutions to connect with users beyond the point of awareness and point of interest. Enter intent targeted advertising.

Demand Media Funnel

Arguably better than any other company, Demand Media utilizes intent targeted advertising to fully capitalize on its massive library of Q&A-style content on its highly-trafficked properties. Simply put, Demand does not create any piece of content that has not been expressly demanded by users through search queries and other activities online. This metadata is run through Demand’s proprietary content value prediction algorithm and, through a human-intensive evaluation, creation and development process, is hosted on Demand’s properties like eHow, LIVESTRONG.com, GolfLink, Trails.com and more.

Related: [INFOGRAPHIC] Learn how Demand Media utilizes rigorous quality control measures in its proprietary content creation process here.

Users come to Demand Media properties to find everything from “How to Build a Backyard Deck” to “How to Buy Healthy Food.” While searching for titles like these, users are explicitly seeking specific information that drives them to act. By connecting advertisers with users at this so-called point of intent, Demand Media provides highly relevant advertisements to action-ready individuals. For example, when a user visits LIVESTRONG.com and reads “What Are the Best Dietary Supplements,” Demand may serve an ad from FRS, a healthy energy drink endorsed by Lance Armstrong and Tim Tebow. Users reading “How to Maintain a Vegetable Garden” may see a series of integrated Home Depot ads that provide a solution to the specific problem stated by the user and direct the user to a highly relevant solution. So what does this mean for portals like Yahoo! and AOL?

eHow Style Site Takeover

When users arrive at a portal, they view content that the portal’s editorial team has chosen to show them, and advertisements are relevant to the point of interest and awareness. Largely, portals only go one-third of the way, missing the next steps of the funnel – the point of intent and action.

[UPDATE 1/13/11:] AOL announces massive shift toward outsourcing its sports, health and real estate verticals. CEO Tim Armstrong noted that “it’s hard to sell ads if you aren’t a top 2 or 3 property,” a problem that has plagued Web portals since the rise of the long-tail content economy through social media and blogs.

At the end of 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that online ad spending ($25.8 billion) surpassed print advertising ($22.8 billion) for the first time in history. Yet there is still a multi-billion dollar gap between time spent online and percentage of online ad spend as a percentage of total. With companies like Demand Media creating and publishing explicitly demanded and actionable content at scale, there is likely to be a flow of the growing wealth of ad dollars moving toward Demand and others who can excel at intent targeted advertising.