Wednesday, September 13, 2017
 

The digital ad race to generate advertising revenue has a lot of online publishers not taking into account the effect it will have on readers. To quote Rodney Dangerfield “ I get no respect, no respect at all” reflects what consumers are feeling today with digital ads. This lack of respect for the reader is having a huge side effect as the use of ad blockers is on the rise with Millennials the biggest adopters. My 19-year old son says that he is getting tired of all the ads he is seeing on Facebook and Snapchat and will be downloading an ad blocker soon for his Apple iPhone. Basically he just ignores the ads now and skips through them. As you can see digital advertising is not very effective when there is so much ad clutter. It needs to be tasteful and not overwhelming to get the attention of the reader.

 

I first reported about the use of Ad blockers in a 2016 blog posting and it is time to update you on this growing issue to see where this is going. It has been estimated that 17-24% of internet users in Canada are using ad blockers now which suggests the effectiveness of current ad strategies needs to be revisited. The USA market according to Emarketer is seeing this trend also with 24% (2016 estimate) of the internet population using ad blockers and is expected to grow to 30% in 2018. Google is now planning to install one as a default program in the Chrome browser in 2018 so it will look like it will be mainstream sooner than we think.

 

 

The use of an ad blocker is pretty even across all age groups according to this survey by GlobalWebIndex. The 25-34 age group had the highest at 26%. It has been estimated 40% of desktop users are using ad blockers and 15% of smartphone users with growth in users to rise in smartphones. 

 

 

You can download an ad blocker as an extension for your web browser and one of  the most popular ones is AdBlock Plus (I use this btw) that is available for Macs and Chrome users. In this example on the TSN.ca website 9 ads were blocked, but you have the ability to turn off the ad blockers as some sites in the USA now are able to recognize ad blockers and they ask you to turn it off if you want read the content (called white listing). Since I start using the ad blocker the site’s web pages and video load faster.

 

 

Why are people using ad blocking software? According to the GlobalWebIndex study of USA users, the #1 reason is 49% feel that there are too many ads and they are annoying or irrelevant, followed by #2 at 40% there are too many ads and are intrusive.  My favourite at #7 (29%) is I don’t like seeing video ads before I’m allowed to watch video content. I found this so irritating personally when watching sports highlights that I use ad blockers for all my sports web sites as they slow down the viewing experience and crash my smartphone sometimes. 

 

In another study of users by the IAB in Australia the most common reason for using ad blockers is to prevent from getting a virus. So security against scammers is also a huge concern and this was seen in all age groups.

 

 

Here is an ad that keeps coming up on my smartphone for this dating site in the Ukraine, that is annoying as it is following me everywhere I surf now. This site victoriahearts.com is trying to get me to sign up by using the lure of attractive women that will flirt with me online, that are most likely fake people or a chatbot. They charge me to talk with them or could be a credit card phishing scam. A traditional publisher will never approve this ad for their site but for Google this is OK as they do not care who advertises in their ad network. I would rather now block this ad going forward.

 

 

The industry is trying to create a technology work around to circumvent ad blockers but that is not the answer as it most likely alienate the reader even more. The use of behavioural tracking will even make matter worse as users just do not like being spied on and will be just another reason to block ads to protect their privacy (#8 and #9 in why I use ad blockers). The ad tech community will hype the fact they are losing ad dollars to ad blockers, but what they do not realize they are losing customers forever because of this greed and subsequent sinful business practices. The only way consumers fight back against this greed is to install an ad blocker. This total lack of respect of the reader will have the ad tech industry shoot themselves in the foot for short-term gain.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. This technology is designed to replace human interaction with customers and help them with processing orders or providing customer service. The promise made by vendors of this technology is that it would deliver smarter customer service through this automation. Historically, bots were used to do a simple task at computer speed like search engine spiders, but now they are adding an artificial intelligence layer to it.

 

They have now created a chatbot for magazines that I thought I should share with my readers. I came across this one made for Paste Magazine that is available for Facebook Messenger users. Paste Magazine is a website that offers lifestyle stories on music, entertainment, books, politics, travel and food. The chatbot uses a text base command structure where you can type in key words and get a response from the system.

 

 

 

For supposedly a leading edge technology it reminded me of the text base commands used in the ancient MS-Dosc computer systems that was used in the 1980’s. It even replied to me that it did not understand, so much for an intelligent computer being smarter than a human. I found the system confusing to use, as I had to remember a whole new set of commands.
 

 

According to the Paste Magazine website as you read more and more using the bot, it automatically adjusts to your tastes and interests to ensure that you’re getting articles sent to you that you actually care about. This is all done through an “inferred profile,” which is created by what kind of articles you read. This inferred profile is what allows the bot to include certain degree of serendipitous news that is outside of your interests, so that you don’t end up with a broken record of echo-chamber stories. Once you click on the article you want to read you are sent to the website. On the surface this is just a new way to drive traffic to your website via Facebook.

 

A 2017 Forrester Research Report on bots says there are more than 40,000 chatbots created in the 12 months since Kik (An Android based message app) and Facebook Messenger opened up their platforms. The promise of chatbots is that companies can have a one on one conversation with their customers on scale versus human interaction that traditionally has long wait times on the phone sometimes during peak demand periods. According to the chart below content delivery in the future will most likely be automated.
 

 

Another type of bot that is getting attention are social bots and according to this MIT article is instrumental in spreading fake news that is part of the ad fraud industry as some Twitter accounts are automated. Chengcheng Shao at Indiana University who studied this trend says “Bots play a particularly significant role in the spread of fake news soon after it is published. What’s more, these bots are programmed to direct their tweets at influential users. Automated accounts are particularly active in the early spreading phases of viral claims, and tend to target influential users.” (What will these tech crooks think of next)

The adoption of chatbots is still in it early stages of development and like any technology there will be some bugs in its implementation, but the potential impact of chatbots is immense if the technologists can get the right recipe. The fear of being left behind is always a driving force of the adoption of new technologies, but when does a publisher jump on the bandwagon and invest thousands of dollars in this technology.  You have to determine will it drive more traffic to my site so I can get more ad dollars or new paid/opt-in subscribers? If not I would suggest you take take a pass. Perhaps I am a little old school in my thinking as I still rather wait for a real person to talk to as the personal touch is always best. I will like to see how bots be charming and persuasive or will they just act like a robot. Or better yet how they will handle complaints and dissatisfied customers.

 

Monday, June 26, 2017

There are 1,120 radio and audio services with 594 FM and 129 AM stations in Canada. Radio has been identified as the sector least affected by the digital disruption due to its emphasis on local content according to the just released report by Canadian Heritage - “Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada’s Media Landscape”. This is good news for all the industry as traditional media still has a firm foothold in the media mix. But radio stations are still evolving as they produce content for their website, that originally started as placeholders so listeners can access the radio station online.

 

Last year for the 2016 COPAs I talked about “How radio has reinvented themselves in the digital age”. When writing this piece, I discovered that radio stations were adopting magazine like content strategies for their website and this was all part of the digital convergence that is occurring in the media industry. I predict that over the long term that radio and magazines brands may merge to survive in the future to compete against Google and Facebook. 

 

Let’s have a look at 98.1 CHFI the largest radio station in Toronto is doing. The radio station has an Ault Contemporary music format and attracts 36,400 Adults 12+ listeners per minute in the Toronto CMA according to the latest Numeris rating report. The station skews women listeners (over 50%). The website is ranked 6,205 in Canada by Alexa ( a web site tarffic monitioring sire), which suggest traffic over 100,000 visitors per month. (Online and smartphone app radio listenership is not included in the Numeris report btw, a free bonus for advertisers). 
 

 

The content on the website reminds me more of an Entertainment Show on TV as the site offers video clips of entertainment news, celebrity gossip, interviews and music videos. There is a celebrity gossip podcast series “Other People’s Business” hosted by MO (Maureen Holloway). This is a 3 minute archive from the morning show she co-hosts each day. There is some women’s service content on the website through MO’s blog and food recipe videos. Could we see more Chatelaine content here in the future or a CHFI radio widget on the Chatelaine website, as they are both Roger’s media brands. There is already video content from Breakfast Television a show on CITY TV for entertainment news another Rogers Media brand.
 
 
 
 
 

The station has a mobile app where people can stream the station on their smartphone that is available in the Apple and Google Play Store. There are radio-streaming apps where you can have access to hundreds of Radio stations. 98.1 CHFI can also be streamed from the Radio Canada Play App that has 400 stations. The biggest concern about radio app streaming is that the Internet winks out and the music will stop and the system then has to reboot and start over. Surprisingly, there is still not a Radio Tuner App that can pick up the signal over the air to save on bandwidth the technology is there. The headphones are used as the antennae.
 

 
To build a listener database there is the 98.1 CHFI Customer Loyalty program where listeners can win points for answering On Air Trivia questions or by participating in a survey/ poll. These points are then redeemed for contest entries for prizes. This program can lead to other ad revenue opportunities such as an email newsletter that go beyond a 30 second spot on the station and can be part of an integrated ad program.
 
 

The next step in the evolution of Radio brands is the ability to effectively create a brand that works in all channels. Unfortunately, radio stations are stilling using their station ID as the web brand and looks out of place. Sportsnet 590 Fan has able to achieve this cross branding concern with their radio station, website magazine and tv station. The combination of radio and the web is a powerful combination for advertisers if packaged right, as radio is a great web site traffic driver. Plus smartphone usage is banned in the car, where radio is #1.

 
Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lost in all the digital chatter about video consumption on the internet is the art of photography. Lest we not forget, photos are the foundation for some social media services like Instagram and Pinterest. So we thought it would be a good time to salute all the great photo journalists out there with a new category at the COPAs this year for best Photo Journalism. Sports photographers always want to capture that winning moment like this one as part of the Stanley Cup coverage on TSN’s website. http://www.tsn.ca
 

 

The integration of instagram photos on the Fashion Magazine website in this Beyoncé story on her pregnancy “The Beyhive Thinks Beyoncé is Currently in Labour” illustrates how social media is intertwined in today online coverage and the use of photos. http://fashionmagazine.com
 

 

Publisher’s today no longer have restrictions on content real estate and you can post photos in a long web page like this one by Western Living for their "7 Vancouver Lofts We Love story." http://westernliving.ca

 

 
Another option is to use a photo slider that can post many photos. This can expand the coverage from a single photo to 20 photos. This slider widget is being used by Canadian Geographic who showcase photos of nature and wildlife. https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/
 
 
These sliders are also being used by publishers as an ad delivery vehicle like this one for Teach Magazine where a client's ad can be inserted amongst the photos or story teasers. This is a content sponsorship plug for Teacher’s Life Insurance's "Retirement Lessons From Gin Gin ". http://www.teachmag.com/
 
 
For an exmaple on what USA publishers are doing with this tool this is USA TODAY’s photo coverage on climate change event that has 18 photos. https://www.usatoday.com/news/
 
 
The art of photography by publishers sometimes resort to smartphone cameras for reporting. But capturing that right moment needs the skills of a photography with the proper equipment, lighting and setting to capture the attention of the reader as we all know a picture is worth a 1000 words or can be an online viral sensation. This year we want to honour all the great photo journalists out there this year at the COPAs.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

As part of  the countdown to the entry deadline for this years COPA’s that is on July 14 we are doing a series of Digital Media Spotlights and this year the first one is a salute to the quality of B2B journalism in Canada and its role in the media mix for today’s advertisers. When the digital disruption hit publishers during the dot com boom (1998-2002) B2B publishers took a big hit as readers migrated to digital platforms. Today, the B2B sector still offers what adtech firms still dream about – a highly targeted audience, but how it is delivered  is radically different.

 

So lets have a look at one of the publications at Annex Business Media  to see how they reinvented themselves. With 63 magazines in the stable now they have a wealth of best practices we can look at. This narrative of this publication will be based on the perspective of an ad agency media buyer, which I do on occasion for clients in the construction industry.

 

My target market are electrical contractors in Canada for Client X and Annex Business Media publishes a publication called Electrical Business. What are my ad options? What is its circulation?  What is the Audience Profile? I am looking to create an integrated campaign that offers a mix of online and magazine to meet my reach and frequency objectives. I like email newsletters as they work best as I can build frequency and I can target by geographic area if I needed like an Ontario only buy. 

For digital marketing needs I like email over banner ads as you know what you are going to get as website traffic may not all be from Canada, be unpredictable and I do not have to deal with ad fraud and auto traffic issues. For a B2B buy, I view Key Word Search ad on Google a waste money as key words are not as targeted and I do not know what I am getting but a email list is an audience guarantee. I need to play it safe with the client’s money.
 

 
 
 

Magazines will be looked at as the 2nd or 3rd or option to ensure I reach as much as the publication’s audience as possible as I know print is still in demand by readers as 85% of the magazine subscription is print and they will tend to be older decision makers. To stretch my client’s budget and to ensure frequency I use a 1/2 page ad size as my starting point as this size is always placed with editorial so the ad will be seen longer by the reader. A FP4C is preferred, but it use will be based on the number of publications on the media plans and frequency targets. To achieve sufficient awareness to obtain share of mind at the time purchase you need  at least a frequency of 3 with 6 preferred in my media buying rulebook.
 

 
 

For a 3 month brand/lead generation campaign I would have 1-2 issues of the magazine depending on the editorial schedule, a couple email newsletters and 3 month of online advertising as part of the media plan. This enables me meet my reach objectives as I am reaching the readers at different entry points with some duplication that helps build frequency

 

I usually look at 2-3 publications per industry vertical during the planning process with a 1-2 pub buy. I like events too, but they tend to strain the budgets. I am not a big fan of branded social media on publisher channels, but will take it as an added value. I like the use of sponsored content in my media plans now as its help with SEO, it is not a time expiry based ad, so it is always working for the client and provides social media content on the client’s channels.

 

The next COPA Digital Media Spotlight will be our Salute to Photo Journalism and how the use of image slider widgets on websites has changed the way photos are published online.

 
 
About Me
Martin Seto

 
Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners digital publishing, event management and ad sales help. His media expertise also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor, magazine and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at)
reflexmediasales.com or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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