Online advertising on the rise?

TNS-MI ad spending Q1 2009

New research shows online advertising in the United States grew in the first quarter of 2009 by 8.2 per cent, apparently contradicting other research that shows online advertising declined by 3.4 per cent in the same period.

Writing at MediaPost, Joe Mandese suggests that different definitions and methodologies explain why the TNS MI results (in the table above) are more upbeat about online than those reported a day earlier by Nielsen.

Nielsen says its internet ad expenditure data accounts for, “CPM-based, image-based advertising,” and do not account for, “paid search advertising, text only, paid fee services, performance-based campaigns, sponsorships, barters, in-stream (“pre-rolls”) players, messenger applications, partnership advertising, promotions and email campaigns, or house advertising activity.”

That leaves out an awful lot, including some of the most rapidly growing areas of online advertising.

Mandese quotes TNS MI as saying online is the only major advertising segment to grow in Q1, while the overall media spend fell 14.2 per cent.

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NY Times challenges to readers to become reporters

The Local - neighbourhood websites operated by the New York Times

Neighbourhood website The Local, a project of the New York Times in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, will launch a virtual assignment desk next week.

Readers are invited to propose assignments – and to carry them out, starting with this one:

We’re looking for someone to go to the 88th Precinct Community Council meeting next Wednesday, the 10th.

It’s at 7:30 p.m. at 333 Lafayette Ave, the Pratt Towers apartment complex, in the community room. At these things, the precinct commander, Capt. Anthony Tasso, or his appointed proxy, will field questions from the audience. There are a few other presenters. It’s usually pretty interesting, or at least the good parts are. Sometimes it even gets a little heated.

We’re looking for someone to go, take notes, take a photo and write up the festivities. Get exact quotes and names of the people you’re quoting. And send the results to us by early Thursday morning. We can explain the details and give you basic training.

The way of the future? I wonder if the “lucky” volunteer will realize how many people from the “mainstream media” will be to watching this with enormous interest.

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Charting the change in classified advertising

These charts, from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, really need no commentary and certainly won’t come as a surprise.

Percentage of adults using classified advertising websites

Newspaper revenue from classified advertising

Of course “classifieds ads websites” is another way of saying Craigslist, which had 42.2 million unique visitors in March 2009, compared with 53.8 million total unique visitors to classified sites.

For an equally dramatic chart of US newspaper ad revenues (not just classifieds) over the past three years, visit Alan Mutter’s blog.

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Microsoft’s new search engine better than its marketing

While Microsoft’s new search engine bing has been getting a number of positive reviews since its launch a few days ago, the TV commercial is being lambasted.

Just read the comments on this Advertising Age story. Comments such as this one from Robert in New York:

Noise and nonsense. Particularly unimpressive—its set up is too long and confused; while it’s payoff is virtually indistinguishable from the set up, which is to say no message, let alone benefit was delivered. More distressing, it was created by people who simply want to delight themselves and who I suspect think they’ve created something cool.

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Improved comScore still missing part of the picture

Web metrics provider comScore has announced an extension to its methodology that it says willl “account for 100 per cent of a website’s audience.”

The new Media Metrix 360 may well do that, and should mollify some comScore clients who feel they’ve been under-rated by the current system.

But there’s still a significant problem: the enhancement will only apply to sites that are comScore clients, meaning the rest of the web will be under-counted by comparison, and the results will continue to be confusing or misleading.

Starting with July 2009 data in Canada and the United States, comScore will augment its current panel-based surveys with server metrics provided by participating websites. This “panel-centric hybrid” system will be extended to the United Kingdom in August. Other countries will follow, although the timeline hasn’t been announced.

The panel-based system, although good for correlating demographic and geographic factors with web traffic, has been limited by the fact that panel members must install tracking software on their computers. As a result, home computers are over-represented, compared to work and public computers. For sites such as news providers, which typically draw most of their traffic during the workday, the gap between comScore numbers and those generated internally, by server logs or software such as Omniture, can be huge.

comScore says websites participating in the new system will need to embed beacon calls on their content. This certainly has the advantage (compared with a purely panel-based system) of enabling comScore to track usage not just in the home, but anywhere that content is delivered, including internet cafes, HTML emails and even mobile devices. And comScore says its clients will get a more granular view of their traffic. That’s a real step forward for sites that don’t already have good analytics tools.

But to present a more accurate picture of market share, a third type of metric needs to be integrated into the mix: ISP-based tracking of all sites accessed (the approach used by Hitwise). This would enable website operators to better understand the entire online market, including the impact of sites that are not comScore clients.

Given that comScore reports are the de facto method for judging Canadian websites’ market share, a comprehensive solution would bring much-needed clarity and no doubt increase advertiser confidence.

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Is the NY Times social media editor social enough?

Jennifer Preston

No sooner does the New York Times announce the appointment of a social media editor than bloggers wonder aloud why she has had such a low profile in the social media universe thus far.

The credibility of Jennifer Preston [pictured] has been called into question by Ben Parr at Mashable and Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb, who say they found little evidence of her in the usual social media venues.

And Gawker figures it’s all part of a NY Times plot to clamp down on the use of social media by staffers, rather than foster more of it.

Among Ms Preston’s alleged anti-social behaviour: she kept her Twitter updates private until after her appointment to the new position. Her Twitter followership appears to be surging now, however.

The Times’ move comes several months after a Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail, appointed a “communities editor”. The paper chose its technology writer, Mathew Ingram, who was already a prominent blogger and avid user of social media.

– Hat tip: J-Source

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Ideas on membership-funding of newspapers

Further to my previous post about the NY Times considering selling memberships to help fund its journalism, Steve Outing at Editor & Publisher today posted some useful ideas on how to entice members with more than coffee mugs, t-shirts and tote bags.

Here are some of his most innovative and promising ideas, in my opinion:

* Every newspaper member gets exclusive discounts from a large group of participating newspaper advertisers. Rather than the anachronistic printed coupon books that have been around for decades and are sold for fund-raisers (in Colorado these are called Gold C Books and sell for $10), allow members to use their mobile phones to show retailers, restaurants, etc. their discount coupons after entering their password. This eliminates the problem of leaving the coupon or coupon book at home, since most of us carry our cell phones everywhere. A special app for smartphones could identify nearby discount deals based on your current location, or be browsed or searched.

* Advertisers should be persuaded to take part in the member discount program as part of their overall ad deal with the newspaper and its digital services, so there’s a wide variety of discounts and deals to be had.

* Consider deals with groups of restaurants, or ski areas. A paying newspaper member can get one free meal (when another is purchased) once per month at a selection of participating restaurants, or one free ski lift ticket per month. If our hypothetical newspaper membership is only $10 a month, it’s a no-brainer that you buy a membership if you like to eat out or ski.

As Outing points out, the key to making memberships work is in offering value. If people won’t pay for online journalism directly, perhaps they can be persuaded with discounts on other things they buy.

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NY Times considers another run at paid web content

New York Times

When it comes to funding online news, most ideas revolve around either wringing more dollars from advertisers, or somehow convincing consumers to pay for access to content.

The New York Times continues to explore the latter approach, despite the disappointing returns from the Times Select pay wall which was dismantled in 2007 after two years of operation. [For more on Times Select, watch this video interview with former Times VP-Digital Vivian Schiller.]

Writing in the New York Observer today, John Koblin quotes Times executive editor Bill Keller as telling staff this week that the company is consider two options:

  • Allow users to view content freely, then charge if they go over a certain limit
  • Invite users to contribute voluntarily through a NY Times membership – the benefits of which could include access to special online content

Jeff Jarvis lampoons the first idea, pointing out that it (like other content payment ideas) discourages readers from doing exactly what websites want: spending more time on site, and viewing more content.

Readers’ inner dialogue is not hard to imagine: ‘Uh-oh, should I read that next story – and see that ad and maybe find something worth linking to and bring in other readers? It might start costing me. I’d better conserve my Times characters; they’re adding up; already read 20,000 of them. I think it’s time to go elsewhere now.’

The second approach is hard to imagine taking hold – although at least in the United States there is a tradition of voluntary financial support for public broadcasting from individuals and institutions. And really, isn’t membership-based access to content just another way of saying “paying for content”? The challenge for the Times will be to make that fly in a way that Times Select couldn’t.

Koblin says Times execs will make a decision by next month.

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Newspaper group will stop ’shovelling’

MediaNews Group plans to reduce the amount of content from its 54 daily newspapers that it makes available for free on the papers’ websites.

The move was announced Wednesday and reported today on, a MediaNews website, which quoted company president Jody Lodovic:

“The strategy is about creating a different audience online and not about shoveling that day’s [newspaper] content online for free. It’s about creating options for people getting their news in different ways.”

The Tribune said no launch date or pricing had been announced.

…Lodovic painted a picture that he likened to how telephone and cable television companies “bundle” their services into packages with different levels of access. Bundles could be structured in numerous ways — newspaper delivery three days a week and electronic delivery during the rest of the week; combining print and electronic editions with access to a paper’s archives; free Web sites that summarize daily news, while referring readers to the print product or another Web site, where fees might be collected to gain access to deeper information; sites aimed at target audiences, such as young readers, pet lovers or parents.

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Linking is good thinking

There’s nothing like a long weekend (Monday being “Family Day” here in Ontario) to catch up on a bit of reading.

Among the nuggets I got to today was this Dec 3 item on why Frank Rich of the New York Times is such a prolific linker in his online columns.

Rich told Edward J Delaney at Nieman Journalism Lab:

“It helps bulletproof the column, because if they say ‘He must be making that up,’ they can look and see — here’s the source, take a look and judge it for yourself….If I’m citing a figure, at the most banal level, from the Labor Department or a poll or an economic report, [why not] link to the whole document it comes from?”

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