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Issue for June 2016

Cross-device Portability Demands, Part IV

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 12:49 PM

Want to sell cross-device ads? There are big problems to overcome.

By William Dunkerley

Pew Research has reported that by 2015, 66 percent of Americans already owned at least two digital devices (smartphone, desktop or laptop, tablet) -- and that 36 percent owned all three. The company also claims about 7 in 10 American adults currently own smartphones. What's more, there is growing evidence that users of small-screen devices are willing to use them to read magazine-length articles.

By this time there should be no illusions about the need for publishers to adopt the kind of cross-device portability that "responsive Web design" (RWD) provides. We've covered the basics of this concept in earlier parts in this series.

While it is perfectly feasible to create editorial designs for RWD, advertising is a different story. That's because in current practice, many ads have a dimensionally fixed format. Look here to see an illustration of a leaderboard ad on a desktop, and here to see how it gets butchered by RWD.

The editorial content successfully flows into the new screen size, but the ad does not. That does not happen in all publications. Some will allow the RWD to scale down the size, much as you would reduce the size of a photo. One problem in doing that to an ad is that all but headline type might become unreadable.

Here are illustrations:

Full-screen view.

Mobile view.

What makes this problem more intractable is that many such ads are not hosted on the publication's server. The page has code embedded that reaches out and grabs the ad from a third party. So the ads don't conform to the responsive design.

One workaround many publishers use is to sell ad sizes that will fill the width of a small screen. But when the ad is viewed on a PC, it becomes just a tiny fractional. The accumulated knowledge about ad effectiveness tells us that this is not a good idea. Small ads are less effective than large ads.

If an advertiser wants to pay for a big splash, that means filling the screen horizontally (and perhaps vertically too) no matter what the screen size is.

But there does not seem to be a technical remedy for this problem at present. The trick would be to embed a specially prepared ad into the publication's RWD format. I discussed this need with M.J. Johnson and Rob Morton at Akamai Technologies. They readily saw the utility of the approach. They suggested there would be still another benefit: it would help advertisers avoid the increasing use of pop-up blockers.

There's another workaround that we'll present in a future part of this series.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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How Is Facebook Affecting Magazine Revenue?

Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 12:44 PM

In the news: As more and more readers turn to social media for their news, magazines and newspapers are reevaluating how best to reach them.

Readers are flocking to social media for their news, leaving publishers to figure out how best to reach them and generate revenue from such third-party readership. Publishers are adapting to the changing times. Some have forged partnerships with Facebook and other social media sites to access a wider reader base. However, this presents revenue challenges for the publishers.

The revenue problem presented by social media is multifaceted. Not only are readers now accustomed to free online news, but some publishers are alienating readers with intrusive ads. Some of these ads temporarily cover the news content until the user clicks out, while others autoplay sound or video as the user reads. This is driving readers away from traditional publisher sites to social media, where it's more difficult for publishers to monetize readership. Read more here.

Also Notable

Are Advertisers Spending in the Right Places?

Although many readers spend more time on tablets and smartphones than with print media, advertisers tend to spend the most on print. Caysey Welton of Foliomag.com, citing a recent KPCB report, notes in a June 28 article that "consumers are only spending 4 percent of their time [on print], yet advertisers are investing 16 percent of their budget there." Read her thoughts on the apparent disconnect here.

Print Advertising Revenues in Q1

The US Census Bureau has released its revenue figures for the first quarter. Overall magazine revenue is down 4.5 percent over last year, and newspaper revenue is down 4.4 percent. Digital ad revenues have remained mostly stagnant. Read more here.

Good News for News Magazines

It's not all doom and gloom for newspapers and magazines this year. Recent Pew Research Center statistics show that leading news magazines are holding up relatively well. According to Greg Dool of Foliomag.com, subscriptions among 14 major news magazines (including The Economist and The New Yorker) are down just 2 percent over last year -- a relatively modest decline. While the aforementioned Census Bureau statistics reveal digital ad revenue challenges, Pew Research reports that digital subscriptions and single-copy sales are on the rise. Read more here.

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