Study says journalists must get digital ad act together


The fastest growing advertising category is digital, and it is expected to be the number one advertising category by the middle of the decade. It therefore will be an important part of the financial underpinning of quality journalism. But according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, if news organizations continue on their present path, they won’t be participating in the digital category to any significant degree.

Journalists have certainly moved online, even as they maintain their tradition media roots. However, according to the PEJ study, they have not done a good job of moving their heritage advertising clients over to their websites, nor are they making inroads in selling the more lucrative types of digital advertising, particularly targeted advertising.

PEJ is part of the Pew Research Center. Katerina Eva Matsa, Kenny Olmstead, Amy Mitchell and Tom Rosenstiel authored the study.

The authors noted, “Of the 22 news operations studied for this report, only three showed significant levels of targeting. A follow-up evaluation six months later found that two more sites had shown some movement in this direction, but only some, from virtually no targeting to a limited amount on inside pages. By contrast, highly targeted advertising is already a key component of the business model of operations such as Google and Facebook.”

Professor Joseph Turow of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication added a host of facts as a companion to the PEJ study. Among his findings:

* Almost a fourth of the advertising o news sites was house advertising, and that percentage skyrocketed for subscription/print sites for newspapers and magazines. It was 56% for, according to Turow.

* Legacy advertisers were for the most part missing in action; finance has become the new #1 category.

* Discount and coupon services are largely absent; however, Turow notes this may not be a big deal since the long-term viability of that category is now in question.

* Only three of the 22 sites studied — CNN, the New York Times and Yahoo News — carried an appreciable amount of targeted advertising.

* Instead of technologically forward advertising, most news organization featured static banner ads. Pop-ups, video and other “eye-catching” formats are largely absent.

* According to Turow, almost 40% of the ad content “…is the sponsored link box-small boxed-in ads that usually have between three and seven lines of text,” and it is mostly Google-powered.

RBR-TVBR observation: When we were young, when it was important to be at the happening location, the phrase we used was “Be there or be square.” When it comes to the question of a successful business model for the 21st Century, the internet is beyond any shadow of a doubt the answer, and the new phrase is “Be there or be gone.” Many news organizations already ARE gone. Fail to solve this problem and you’ll join them.