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Monday, August 19, 2013

For Publishers - It’s Time To Become More Like Facebook

Let’s start by stating the facts. Mobile content consumption is changing everything about the media landscape, faster than anyone could have ever predicted. In the wake of this massive shift, is publisher CPM’s and their ability to generate revenue from mobile page views. Just as publishers were starting to come to grips with declines in print ad spend…mobile has come along and completely upended everything. All one needs to do is look at this chart from the Atlantic to see what’s the future holds:

Its not all doom and gloom though…just take a look at what Facebook is doing in mobile and it’s clear that there is money to be made in mobile…plenty of it. Facebook went from no mobile ad revenues in 2012 to mobile now making up 40% of its overall revenue. Quite a stunning turn of events for a company that admitted in their IPO prospectus that their mobile growth was accelerating rapidly and they didn’t have a way (at the time) to monetize those users. Twitter is also growing mobile revenues at a triple digit pace….A lot can be learned from the success that Social Networks are now seeing in mobile.

John Ebber in this article Margins and The First Inning sums it up quite nicely:

“Big properties with addressable first-party data - logins - seem to hold the cards for true, by-the-impression, sometimes real-time biddable, audience buying in mobile.”

And there you have it…the secret to Facebook’s mobile success…logins. When advertisers buy mobile ads from Facebook, they know they are targeting the exact audiences they want to reach. Whereas if they are buying mobile display inventory across multiple exchanges it's more akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Why? Because mobile lacks a cross device ID. Right now there is no reliable way to target specific audiences. Facebook has capitalized on this in a huge way by offering up their rich profile data for targeting and placing large ad units within the Newsfeed. The combination of these two factors has made Facebook an overnight player in the mobile ad space.

            So what does Facebook’s success in mobile have to do with publishers? Well in my opinion, everything. The real key to Facebook’s mobile success has been the fact that they have logged in users. While many publishers don’t have perpetually logged in users like Facebook, they have another weapon. The Email Address. If you have someone’s email address then they are as good as a logged in user. You can target to that email address with your 1st party data, 3rd party data, offline data etc... The Inbox needs to become your focus for finding perpetually logged in users. And with email being #1 in terms of time spent in mobile, it’s a good chance that’s exactly where you’ll find your subscribers:


The other reason Social Networks are so successful is their Newsfeed. Allowing for infinite scrolling means you have far more opportunities than a standard webpage for the number of ads that can included because the “page” is never ending. I think publishers can take a page from social here and create a similar experience with their emails. Email has always been, particularly for publishers, a channel of aggregation. Meaning emails typically contains links and possibly small summaries for a multitude of articles from a publisher’s site. But what if we could re-think this dynamic and begin to create Newsfeed like emails? Could publishers solve the two biggest challenges in mobile (room for ads & targeting) with email? I certainly think there’s room for an email newsletter that is much greater in length to what we typically see today. No longer would subscribers have to go back to a site...the ads would be served right within the email. Two birds, one newsfeed!