What’s the Latest Forecast on U.S. Ad Spending?

ad forecastingMost observers agree that 2015 will be a decent-or-better year for ad spending.  But how will it break down by media segment?

Industry and market forecasting firm Strategy Analytics has just released its latest U.S. advertising spend forecast, which it expects to total almost $190 billion.  That’s about a 3% increase over 2014.

But there are wide variations in the growth expectations depending on the media type.

Digital advertising leads the pack, with an expected growth increase in double digits, while at the other end of the scale, print advertising is forecast to drop by approximately 8%:

  • Digital advertising: 13.0% increase in 2015 U.S. ad spend
  • Outdoor advertising: +4.8%
  • Cinema advertising: +3.4%
  • Radio advertising: +1.8%
  • TV advertising: +1.7%
  • Print advertising: -7.9%

Of course, “digital advertising” is a broad category, and within it Strategy Analytics expects certain sub-categories to grow at a faster clip:  Social media advertising looks to be the star in 2015 (+31%), followed by video advertising (+29%) and mobile advertising (+20%).

Even with these lucrative growth expectations, search advertising (SEM) will continue to represent the lion’s share of digital ad revenues – around 45%.

Also, despite the dramatic growth of digital, the segment isn’t expected to break 30% of all U.S. advertising in 2015.  The more traditional TV ad segment continues to lead all others, although it has fallen below the 50% share of all advertising in recent years.

Here’s what Strategy Analytics is forecasting for ad expenditures by media segment for 2015:

  • TV advertising: ~$79 billion in 2015 U.S. ad spending
  • Digital advertising: ~$53 billion
  • Print advertising: ~$28 billion
  • Radio advertising: ~$18 billion
  • Outdoor advertising: ~$9 billion
  • Cinema advertising: ~$1 billion

Strategy AnalyticsLeika Kawasaki, a digital media analyst and one of the Strategy Analytics Advertising Forecast report’s co-authors, notes that  looking ahead to 2018, TV’s share of advertising revenue is expected to fall further to ~40%, while digital advertising’s share will reach ~35%.

However, it’s not that TV’s volume will be declining — it’s more that digital will be robbing more funds from other segments (particularly radio and print).

Additional details on the 2015 forecast can be viewed here — if you wish to shell out $7,000 for the report, that is.

So Many Magazines … So Little Time?

Who wants easy, unlimited access to thousands of publications?

magazinesYou might not, but millions of other people do, apparently.

And the crowd is getting ready to increase more, most likely.

As if there wasn’t enough material to read already, some online publication bundlers are making sure that people have unlimited access to the world’s most important periodicals for one low price.

This week, The Wall Street Journal blog reported that Magzter, a company that provides a single access point for more than 5,000 magazines published around the world, has now introduced a service plan it calls Magzter Gold.

logoIt’s an “all-you-can-read” option that gives subscribers online access to approximately 2,000 publications – many of them top-circulation magazines like ESPN, Maxim, New York Magazine and Forbes – for a flat rate of just $9.99 a month or $99.99 per year.

And access to this huge repository of publications is quick and easy via desktops, laptops and tablets, plus iOS and Android phone apps.

There’s also a plan called Magzter Gold Lite, allowing access to the subscriber’s choice of any five magazine titles (which can be changed from month to month).

The cost of that subscription?  $5 per month.

These two new programs are aimed at increasing Magzter’s subscriber base, which already numbers more than 4 million active monthly users.

Magzter isn’t the only company offering online access to a family of publications.  Other providers like Readly and Next Issue also offer programs encompassing the stable of magazine titles belonging to various different publishing arms (Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Time).

But none of them have anything like the sheer number of titles Magzter is offering.

Readers of my generation (over the age of 50) grew up with print magazines and are preternaturally drawn to the tactile sensation of reading a physical magazine.  But I suspect that publication bundlers like Magzter represent the tip of the spear rather than simply a passing fancy.

The question is whether the changing mode of delivery ends up destroying the actual product that Magzter and others are able to peddle.  After all, were it not for the print magazines to begin with, what would these aggregators have to sell?

If what it boils down to is offering fee-based premium content that is no longer tied to a print magazine because the publication is no longer available in hard-copy form, will the quality of that content continue to be as high?

In many — perhaps most — cases, I think it’s doubtful.

If the print magazines that underlie the digital product offerings disappear, it wouldn’t surprise me if millions of readers fall away from subscription services in favor of trolling the Internet for similar content that’s easily available for the bargain price of … goose egg.

For those who are using access services like Magzter or Readly today, would you recommend them to others?  Is it the wave of the future?  Please share your perspectives with other readers here.

Native Advertising, Sponsored Content and “Truthiness”

There are just a few slight problems with sponsored content:  Readers consider it less trustworthy … and value it less.

Lack of trust in sponsored content

It’s really not that interesting — and I don’t trust you, anyway.

Here’s a behavioral statistic that should be a little disconcerting to marketers:  Only about one in four readers scroll down on sponsored content (native advertising) on publisher websites.

Compare that to ~70% of those same readers who scroll down on other types of news content.

That’s what the chief executive officer of Chartbeat, a developer and purveyor of real-time web analytics software for media publishers, has contended, leading others to try to probe these attitudes further and try to find out more about the dynamics that are at work.

One such effort is online field research conducted this past summer by Contently, a freelance writing services clearinghouse.  It discovered that the difference in engagement levels relates to “trust.”

Generally speaking, readers trust sponsored content a whole lot less than they do “normal” content.

More specifically, here’s what Contently’s research, which targeted ~550 U.S. adults ages 18 to 65, found in terms of trust attitudes:

  • I generally don’t trust sponsored content: ~54%
  • I trust the content only if I trust the brand already: ~22%
  • I trust the content only if I trust the publication: ~19%
  • I generally trust sponsored content:  ~5%

It gets even murkier when we consider that not all readers agree on the same definition of “sponsored content.”

While the largest proportion of people consider “sponsored content” on a news website to be an article that an advertiser paid to be created as well as had input into its content, it was only a plurality of respondents:

  •  A sponsor paid and influenced the article: ~48%
  • A news site wrote it, but a sponsor paid money for it to run: ~20%
  • A sponsor paid for its name to appear next to news content: ~18%
  • A sponsor wrote the article:  ~13%

And here’s a real kick in the gut:  More people in the Contently survey would rather be served “bad ol’ banner ads” than encounter sponsored news and other posts:

  • Would rather see banner ads:  ~57% of respondents
  • Prefer sponsored posts because banner ads are annoying: ~26%
  • Prefer sponsored posts because they’re more interesting than banner ads: ~18%

The findings aren’t much different based on the age or education levels of respondents, either.

If anything, more highly educated people (those with graduate degrees) are most likely to prefer banner ads over sponsored posts.  The reason boils down to concern over the issue of deception:  A large majority of respondents reported that they have ever “felt deceived” upon realizing an article was actually sponsored by an advertiser.

Considering the disapproving numbers collected in the survey, it’s not surprising that Contently also found that respondents are far prone to click on a piece of sponsored content compared to other content:

  • Less likely to click on sponsored content: ~66%
  • More likely: ~1%
  • Equally likely: ~33%

credible sourceLastly, publishers should take note that their credibility is being diminished in the eyes of many, based on the practice of publishing native advertising.  The Contently survey found that nearly 60% expressed the view that publishers lose credibility when they run such sponsored content.

Of course, native advertising and sponsored content isn’t going to go away.  It’s too wrapped up in today’s business models for successful publishing and successful brand engagement.

But it’s clear that publishers, advertisers and the brands they represent have a bigger hurdle to clear in order for their content to be considered worthy of their readers’ attention and engagement.

Harris Poll: What Americans say they want in news coverage.

When it comes to the news, Americans say they’re tired of so much attention on celebrity gossip and scandal stories … but are they really?

news mediaExperience has shown that healthy foods on the menu at fast food establishments test well in consumer attitudinal surveys — only to bomb big time when actually introduced.

It seems as though many people answer the way they think they’re “supposed” to respond, even though they’ll never actually opt for the apple slices in lieu of the order of fries.

I wonder if the same dynamics are at work in a recent Harris Poll, which queried ~2,500 Americans age 18 or over about their preferences for news topics.  The online survey was conducted in August 2014, with the results released this past week.

For starters, three-fourths of the respondents felt that celebrity gossip and scandal stories receive too much coverage.

Indeed, many believe that entertainment news in general receives too much attention in the news:

  • Celebrity gossip and scandal stories: ~76% claim too much attention is paid in the news
  • Entertainment news in general: ~49%
  • Professional spectator sports: ~44%
  • Politics and elections: ~33%

And which topics do people feel aren’t covered sufficiently in the news? It’s everything that’s “good for you”:

  • Education topics: ~47% believe too little attention is paid in the news
  • Local/national humanitarian issues: ~47%
  • Science topics: ~45%
  • Government corruption and scandals: ~44%
  • Corporate corruption and white collar crime: ~42%
  • Global humanitarian issues: ~33%
  • Health topics: ~30%

I suspect that the “actual reality” is different from how the survey participants responded. If news organizations weren’t seeing keen interest generated by their celebrity, entertainment and sports stories, they would stop producing them.  Simple as that.

Harris Poll logoYou can view more findings from the Harris survey, including data tabulations, here. Among the interesting findings is the degree of trust people have for various different news media:  network TV news, local TV news, local newspapers, national newspapers, online news sources.

Hint: trust levels are nearly where they should be …

What are your thoughts about news topics? Which ones are getting proper coverage versus too much?  Please share your observations with other readers here.

Organic Search: Still King of the Hill in Generating Web Traffic

online searchingIn recent years, the focus on “content marketing” has become stronger than ever: the notion of attracting traffic via the inherent relevance of the content contained on a website rather than through other means.

It seems eminently logical.  But content marketing is also relatively labor-intensive to build and to maintain. So there’s always been an effort to drive web traffic through “quicker and easier” methods as well.

But the newest findings on web traffic really do demonstrate how fundamental good content is to meeting the challenge of generating web traffic.

An analysis by web analytics and measurement firm BrightEdge reveals that organic search (SEO) drives over half of all traffic to websites (both business-to-business and business-to-consumer).

By contrast, paid search (SEM) accounts for only one-fifth of SEO’s result, and social is lower still:

  • Organic search: Generates ~51% of all web traffic
  • Paid search: ~10%
  • Social media: ~5%
  • All other methods (e.g., display advertising, e-mail and referred): ~34%

Web traffic driversSource:  BrightEdge, 2014. 

In other words, all forms of advertising put together don’t drive as much traffic as organic search.

The BrightEdge statistics also remind us that social media, however popular it may be to millions of people, isn’t a highly effective traffic generator like search. Here are some of the key reasons why:

  • Social shares are fleeting and can get drowned out easily.
  • Most users don’t go on a social platform, only then to click on different links that take them away from social.
  • Not everyone uses social media, whereas everyone uses a search engine of some kind when they’re in “investigative” mode.

That’s the thing:  People use SEO when they’re seeking answers and solutions — often in the form of a product or a service.  Unlike in social or online display advertising, there’s no need to “disrupt” the user’s intended activity.

And if you’re in the B-to-B realm, organic search even more prevalent:  Organic search drives ~73% of all web traffic there.

Even consumer categories like retail, entertainment and hospitality find that organic search is responsible for attracting 40% or more of all web traffic.

The takeaway for companies is that any marketing strategy that doesn’t adopt “content development” as a core tactic instead of an “ornamentation” is probably destined to fall well-short of its full potential.

The “App Gap”: Mobile Apps Overtake All Others in Digital Media Consumption

Mobile apps overtaking other digital media consumptionIt was bound to happen.

The bulk of time Americans are spending on digital media … is now happening on mobile applications.

According to data released this past week by Internet and digital analytics firm comScore, the combined time that people expend using digital media breaks down as follows:

  • Mobile apps: ~52% of all time spent online
  • Mobile web surfing: ~8%
  • Desktop: ~40%

Apps are clearly in the driver’s seat – particularly in the mobile realm.  In fact, comScore estimates that apps account for 7 out of every 8 minutes spent on mobile devices.

On smartphones, the app usage is ~88% of all time spent, whereas on tablets, it’s ~82%.

This doesn’t mean that app usage is spread evenly throughout the population of people who are online.  Far from it.  Only about one-third of people download one app per month or more.  (The average smartphone user is downloading about three apps per month.)

The inevitable conclusion:  App usage is highly concentrated among a subset of the population.

Indeed, the 7% most active smartphone owners account for almost half of all the download activity during any given month.

But even if most users aren’t downloading all that many apps … they are certainly engaged with the ones they do have on their devices:  comScore reports that nearly 60% are using apps every day.

Here again, the data show that usage levels are much higher among smartphone users than they are with tablet users (where only about one quarter of the people use apps daily).

Where they’re spending their time is also interesting.  Well over 40% of all app time spent on smartphones is with a user’s single most used app.  (Facebook takes top honors — of course.)

And if you combine social networking, games and Internet radio, you’ve pretty much covered the waterfront when it comes to app usage.

When you think about it, none of this should come as much surprise.  We’re a mobile society – hourly, daily, monthly and yearly.  It only makes sense that most online time is going to be happening when people are away from their home or their desk, now that it’s so easy to be connected so easily from even the tiniest mobile devices.

And speaking of “easy” … is it really any wonder why people would flock to apps?  It’s less hassle to open up an app for news or information rather than searching individual sites via mobile.  People simply don’t have the patience for that anymore.

Media properties’ new formula: Publish … re-publish … and publish yet again.

RepublishingAs media properties have moved away from finite schedules of daily, weekly or monthly publication to something more akin to 24/7 content dissemination, it’s becoming quite a challenge to deliver new content.

The reality is, building a digital media property in today’s “always on” world that can successfully deliver new, original content on an ongoing basis is quite costly.

In fact, it’s economically unfeasible for many if not most publishing enterprises.

This explains why readers have started to see a parade of news items that have been reused, recycled or repurposed in an effort to present the items as “fresh” news multiple times over.

This is happening with greater regularly, and it’s seemingly getting more prevalent with every passing day.

Here’s a representative case:  Business Insider.  This finance and news site has doubled its traffic over the past several years.  Business Insider now attracts more than 12 million unique visitors each month – each of them presumably interested in consuming “fresh news.”

But for content that is fairly “evergreen” in nature, Business Insider is perfectly content to serve up the same (or nearly similar) stories two … three … four times or more.

For example, one of its stories, “Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind,” has been published no fewer than six times over a span of three years.

The various iterations of that article varied very little each time.  Sometimes there were a different number of facts presented (usually 15 or 16).  Business Insider even published the identical list twice in the same year, using the exact same headline while revising only the introductory paragraph.

Beyond the fact that publishing essentially the same article six times within three years took some of the burden off the news-gathering and writing team, it turns out that topics such as this one really do engage readers — time and again.

Business Insider’s first iteration of the McDonald’s article attracted more than 2.5 million views.  And overall, the story has been clicked on more than 8 million times.

(Of course, the final time the article ran, the story generated only around 400,000 views, so at some point the law of diminishing returns had to come into play.)

articleI like another example, too:  Cosmopolitan Magazine.  In April of this year, it published an article titled “25 Life-Changing Ways to Use Q-tips.”  That story generated only 44 shares — hardly earth-shattering results for a media property with over 3 million subscribers.

But then Cosmopolitan promoted the article on Pinterest in May … and also on Twitter in May and again in June … and on Facebook in early May and again there in early June.

Whereas Cosmopolitan’s original posting of the article on its own website didn’t result in much engagement to speak of, just the two Facebook posts resulted in nearly 1,500 shares.

With these kinds of results being generated, it’s no wonder publishers have decided to “publish … re-publish … and then publish again.”

So the next time you have a sensation of déjà vu about reading an article, chances are, you’re not dreaming.

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