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This is the latest in BIA/Kelsey’s new series, Vantage Points. On a semi-weekly basis, it will tap the perspectives of various lookout points from around the local media and tech sectors.  Opinions do not necessarily reflect that of BIA/Kelsey. Please contact mbolandATbiakelsey if you have insights to share.

Closing the Mobile Gap for Online Publishers

by Jeff White

BW_Jeff_Headshot (2)

Like several others in the tech & media sphere, I read last week’s WSJ piece “Mobile Readers Abound, the Ads, Not So Much,” which described the challenges online publishers face in driving mobile ad revenues despite surging mobile traffic.

My reaction to this piece was, “Say WHAT?”

The author, Jack Marshall points out, “The problem is that for many [traditional news] publishers, mobile revenue isn’t keeping pace—by a long shot—creating what industry executives are calling a “mobile gap.”

Publishers mentioned in the piece, cite the following reasons why mobile ad revenues are lagging:

— Traditional ad formats don’t work well: squeezing in ads for mobile users is hard
— Desktop tracking mechanisms don’t work well on smartphones and tablets
— Targeting is difficult due to lack of data on their users (vs. Facebook, Google and Twitter)

How can this possibly be? Publishers have the solution to these problems sitting right under their noses—their mobile apps—why is it that they’re not recognizing it?

First, let’s talk formats. Yes, banner ads have performed poorly in mobile, in part due to limited real estate, in part because they’re inherently best for brand-building vs. direct response. But push notifications, for example are a perfect solution to this problem—if they contain personalized offers and are delivered correctly.

Next: Tracking. Mobile is perfect—way better than desktop–at anonymously tracking where users go and what they do in their daily lives, giving publishers and their advertisers two advantages: they can know what users are interested in and care about for personalization and targeting; they can precisely attribute foot traffic and purchase results from the campaigns they run.

Finally, Targeting/Lack of Data. Really? Because publishers can create anonymous location-data driven profiles of their app users based on the local events they attend and the places they visit every day, they can build the most conclusive, predictive targeting-data available—far better than tweets, posts or check-ins. And, because users have their devices with them all the time, they can target users anytime, anywhere, when they’re most likely to engage and convert.

Let’s apply these concepts to a “problem” noted in the article:

“It is now common for a retailer to deliver ads to a person’s desktop computer promoting, say, a pair of shoes that the person viewed online but didn’t buy. Doing that on a mobile device is significantly harder.”

This is wrong. In this example, that retailer can (through a publishers app or their own): 1. know how to personalize an offer to the person based their profile; 2. directly push that offer to them immediately after cart abandonment or better yet, deliver the offer to them as they physically approach one of the retailers’ brick and mortar locations.

So yes, there is a “mobile gap” for publishers and advertisers. But small device size; inability to track and target; and a lack of data with which to do so, are fallacies.


BW_Jeff_Headshot (2)Jeff White is a proven technology entrepreneur, having built and sold successful companies including mySBX and Blue Canopy–twice named to Inc Magazine’s Top 500 Fast Growing Companies. Jeff was selected as the D.C. Technology Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011, and is actively involved helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch successful businesses through the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s entrepreneurship training series.

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