I author monthly columns in Australian Printer and New Zealand Printer magazines. They are a chance for me to rant about current or historical reerences to current topics. Some of them rable about how the end-consumer wants to deal with media, how software changes things, and the evolving world of media production.
As ran in Australian Printer June 2013
I was just this week at a conference, wherein a pundit from the advertising community showed glowing timelines and optimistic predictions of how to deliver “Big Data” to “Mobile Consumers” via mobile video advertising. We all know the media world is moving to mobile digital devices, and away from printed publications, but sometimes I think these people are missing the perspective of the consumer, our customers’ customer.
Using the traditional print model:
The cost of printed material that a consumer purchases is supplemented by the advertisements. As a result, printed material is made affordable to the consumer.
If it were not so, a nice high-quality magazine would cost the consumer more than $20. People have come to accept the fact that their magazine may be a bit heavier if it only costs them $4 or $5. They can turn the page.
The corollary in on-line www distribution of commercial video and advertising does not equate. In the on-line model, the consumer PAYS for the content in both time and data. Intrusive, “Forced-feed” video advertising puts the burden of paying for the data or forcing them to view data they may not want or need, to the consumer… This is an exploitive model that will not be sustainable as the content market becomes more competitive.
Think about it…
If you are reading a magazine, and you do not want to look at an advertisement, you turn the page, and it is no impact on your cost or time to ingest the content you really want. In the Ad-driven www data model, the consumer MUST be subjected to content that they may have no interest in, and even have to PAY for that content.
This is a completely unsustainable model. It all sounds so sexy and futuristic to hear the advertising community pundits and gurus talk about this, but forcing a consumer to pay more to be forced to experience an advertisement will cause a revolt, and it causes the consumer to avoid or cease to use that content service. I have been sitting in numerous presentations from advertising “visionaries” eschewing the vows of this brave new sea of eyeballs to be harvested for advertising revenue now that print advertising is declining.
So I decided to run a test. I set up a proxy server at home to monitor where the data was going through my wife’s iPhone surfing. The results I found were astonishing. The content she was surfing was only 18% of her bandwidth use. The other 82% was advertising. That would be ok if she were not paying by the megabyte for the cell data plan, and that would follow the print model of supplemented costs. The reality however is that when one amortized out the cost of the data used in advertising, compared to that of the actual content, she was paying nearly $80 a month just to be forced to see ads.
“Yeah well it will just be a matter of time before metered mobile bandwidth service is solved…”
This statement was spoken to me from an advertising professional whom is an expert in digital content delivery to mobile devices and internet. And while technically I am most confident of this being the truth in some years, in the mean time, we the consumer are paying the burden to not only slow our mobile experience down, but to pay for the delivery.
Ok guy, how can this model pay for itself? Look at some historical precedents:
- The Amazon Kindle has two pricing models; one with an ad-free experience that costs slightly more, or one that is sponsored by advertising, and has rotating banner ads at the bottom of the display. I found that the majority of people whom bought a Kindle bought the ad-supplemented model, I think mainly because they had not either thought it would be annoying or intrusive, but also because it was much more available in retail stores like Target or Wal-Mart. (Maybe not by coincidence?) These advertisements ended up not as much supplementing the cost of the kindle device itself, but paying for tens of thousands of TV ads selling more Kindles.
- Television became a commercially supported media by the introduction of advertising in the form of commercials airing every 15 minutes. This became an acceptable alternative to consumers because while it was somewhat intrusive to interrupt programming, it was also not holding them hostage, they could get a snack etc. and no harm was done. Over time however, the ratio of advertising to content has almost tripled since the invention of television.
In 1952 when television WAS the new medium like Internet, 13% of programming was a commercial. In 2012, it was 33%. As a result, there is a growing backlash now that an alternative to mass-media television is available, and many people are beginning to drop their commercial cable or satellite TV in lieu of on-demand or off-grid programming. (The lesson here is that people have a problem justifying paying for cable TV, and still having an increasing amount of their programming being transitioned to commercials.) While not an angry-mob carrying torches revolt, it should be a warning shot across the bow of advertising.
- Print advertising became the baseline of advertising over the past 300 years. We all know the historical importance of advertising, and the advertiser’s efforts to target their potential customers, but once again, print’s impact on advertising is undeniable, making the new media of print affordable to consumers. As a result print has been that cornerstone of advertising until electronic media. (Radio and TV initially.) The model of print advertising that we know so well, may not however be as applicable when the consumer drives the content.
What’s wrong with advertising? I sometimes LIKE to look at ads.
I agree, we are all consumers, and frankly an Ad about something that interests me, gets more of my attention (at least the first 1,000 times I see it) than one for a product or service that I am not interested in. The advertising community has long been predicting the future of individually-directed, target advertising, and to some extent that is much more possible in the interactive digital world than that of the passive-consumptive TV model. It has been a very long time in coming however, and as the Internet has brought an immense amount of “eyeballs” to harvest, I find that few advertising solutions use smart cookies or browser details to target advertising, it is still more content-based. (eg: if you are on a computer website, you typically see more computer-related ads.) The holy grail to advertisers will eventually become the opposite of that… what when one goes to a computer website, but they spend most of their time surfing knitting sites, they would still get ads for knitting products, not computer ones.
That said, consumers are getting more options and more control over their media, due to the individual’s empowerment on the Internet. This means that the rules are beginning to change, and while content is (and will be) still king, the consumer is no longer just a willing victim in being subjected to an ever increasing ratio of advertising to content however.
We in print have had a long-established relationship being the vehicle to deliver advertising to the consumer as a method by which the publisher can recoup some money on their print bill. We should become more savvy in the ways witch which we do this for our customers in the future as the media changes. If we do not offer this changing level of service for our publishing customers, we will be destined to die off as fast as the ratio of print runs to mobile Internet. By ignoring this change in consumer habits, we are in danger of becoming obsolete.
Once again my moral is to be proactive, be forward thinking, and be honest with ourselves. The consumer is not the passive player in the picture anymore. Become experts in providing modern services to our customers. They need them.