Old Media

Are Apple & Google Creating A Mobile Ad Network Duopoly?

Apple, loving ads on their Apple News app. Not so much on the open mobile web

With the annual Apple product launch event taking place this week, all anyone seems to be talking about are the new iPhones, iPads and Apple TV that will be thrown into the Autumn pipeline. But something else equally important to the state of the media landscape is also bubbling under the surface in the form of some interesting additions to the new iOS 9 software update.

Apple announced earlier this year that they are introducing an Ad-Blocker extension baked directly into iOS 9. This will allow iOS users to effectively opt-out of seeing ads on many third-party sites around the web. It has the potential to drastically impact online media publishers that make their money from hosting display ads on their site, and could put many of them in serious danger of going out of business.

Ad-blocking on mobile and the web is a hot topic at the moment, but regardless of the challenges that this poses to countless online publishers, when it comes to pushing ads on Apple’s own apps it’s a different story. They announced this week that ad-blocking will not be enabled on their new Apple News service, the app that aggregates content from a number of top publishers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Rolling Stone etc. While the revenue split looks favorable to the early adopter publishers, Apple News has the potential to grow into a huge hub for all major online publications very quickly. In this scenario, Apple own all the eyeballs, not only hijacking them from their original source, but also blocking the ads that appear to viewers that manage to slip through the net and get the content directly from the publisher’s site itself.

While blocking third-party ads on the open mobile web and promoting ads inside a particular mobile application (in this case, their own) is not exactly the same thing, the general attitude is the same: Hosting ads on your own site = Bad. Hosting ads on an Apple app = Good.

One rule for them. Another rule for the rest of us. They own the landscape I guess so everyone else just has to play by their rules.

Boromir Meme

Google champion In-App ads on Android but penalize mobile-web ads

Similarly, last week Google announced their new full-screen In-App advertisements. These ‘interstitials’ are full screen App-Install ads that will appear in Android apps to promote other apps to users. They look pretty nice and offer a much needed solution for advertisers that want to get exposure for their apps, but once again, there’s a potential conflict of interest.

Offering in-app advertising solutions on your own platform is fine, but when it comes to the mobile web, they want to crack down on publishers promoting their own apps on their own mobile sites. Google announced this week that they will start to penalize publishers in mobile search results that put up app-install banners (similar to the ones that Google just launched). A little contradictory no? Promote your apps through our in-app ad network, but don’t you dare try and do it on your own mobile site.


What next for publishers?

As the world goes increasing mobile, it’s not a question of distinguishing apps and the mobile web from the ‘real’ internet we all grew up with on the desktop, but about catering to the mobile experience first and foremost.

It’s time to invert that mental model – there is not the ‘mobile internet’ and the internet. Rather, if anything, it’s the internet and the ‘desktop internet’

Source: Benedict Evans

And this is where the problem is. In this mobile-first landscape, as Apple and Google exert more and more control over how ads are served on mobile devices, they’ll start to take a bigger and bigger slice of the pie. Both companies have been relatively happy to just facilitate the unprecedented growth of mobile usage over the last few years, but it looks like they are finally starting to really take advantage of the fact that they wrote the rule book. Duopoly much?

The rise in ad-blocking in general has been huge over the last 12 months and Apple & Google are throwing fuel on the fire all under the guise of ‘enhancing user experience’ on mobile. This is fine in theory, but pretty hypocritical when you champion your own ad platforms all while blocking out others. Publishers should think about this very carefully. In this new ad-blocking mobile age,  it might be a good time to stop and re-evaluate your strategy.


Posted by Rob in Apple, Google, Mobile, Old Media

Video Ads on Google Search, News Media, Selfie Sticks, & Phone Calls

Google is testing promoted video ads on the Search Results Page

If you needed any more proof that video content is becoming increasingly important to promoting your brand online today then here you go. It seems that Google is beginning to test video ads directly in Search Results Pages, finally adding something new to the traditional ‘three lines of text and a link’ ads that we’re all used to. This opens up a whole new outlet for promoting your video content to a mass audience which, until now, has pretty much only been possible through YouTube and Facebook. This also calls for a different approach to video creation, catering to intent-based searches, such as for specific product information etc. Not to mention the potential of search hijacking your competitors — imagine Samsung sticking up video ads for the Galaxy S6 next to searches for the iPhone 6!

Either way, I think Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) design has long been in need of a revamp, and making it more visual and interactive will provide for a more pleasing experience for users.

Vice and CNN are in a battle royale for the future of the news

The news industry is in a state of flux at the moment. Even ignoring the decline of print and the growth in ad-blockers, with so many different news outlets available online today, users are spoilt for choice and the race for eyeballs is fierce. With the lines between digital and TV media publishers continuing to blur, Fast Company looks at how the gap between traditional news channels (like CNN) and digitally native outlets (such as Vice) has shrunk over the last couple of years. One interesting note to point out is the fact that Vice has an in-house agency called Virtue that produces “fresh content for brands—published on its site and anywhere else on the web—that still feels like stuff its viewers want to watch”.

The Decline of the Phone Call

Not so long ago, mobile phones used to be used primarily for one thing. Making phone calls. Not so anymore. This article discusses the different reasons that have sidelined the humble phonecall, mainly the fact that today’s mobile-savvy youth have grown up using SMS and Instant Messaging apps, but also less obvious reasons like the fact that making calls on a mobile has always been an unreliable experience when compared to how we used to make calls with the traditional landline (i.e. mobile calls have to deal with poor signal, background noise etc.) But this raises the concern that, as more and more people avoid telephone calls, are we risking the degradation of our verbal communication skills? Either way, you still can’t beat a quick phone when you need grab someone’s attention or get a response to something and don’t want to risk the likelihood of an email or text being ignored.

What Selfie Sticks Really Tell Us About Ourselves

It might not come as surprise, but according to research outlined in this New York Times profile, people who take a lot of selfies “tend to have narcissistic, psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits”. Selfie Sticks are one of the most annoying physical embodiments of our digital world. Even so, it’s interesting to hear of the different ways in which people’s behaviour re: online sharing has developed over recent years, and the role that selfies in particular have in many people’s sense of self in the digital world.

Posted by Rob in Google, Links of the Week, Mobile, Old Media

Smartphones steal ‘user time’ in emerging markets too

Further confirmation (not that any was needed) that smartphones are winning the battle for people’s time and attention across the world comes from KPCB analyst Mary Meeker, who made her annual Internet Trends presentation at Code Conference last week.

Some of her analysis focusing primarily on developing countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Brazil, Vietnam, and Nigeria makes for interesting reading. It would appear from these stats that smartphone proliferation is not simply a Western phenomenon and with smartphones getting cheaper and cheaper every year, this trend is expected to continue. With consumers in these countries (mainly where laptop penetration is particularly low) now able to access the internet for the first time from a smartphone rather than a traditional desktop or laptop computer, this is also having an impact on how they consume media, with smartphones quickly becoming the go-to medium, replacing even TV in some countries.

Smartphones, Emerging Markets, Tablets

Posted by Rob in Mobile, Old Media, Stats

Media usage trends paint a bleak picture for old media

This hardly comes as a surprise but, if this report by Ofcom on media usage published last week  is to be believed, then the falling attention of users towards newspapers and TV is not going to stop any time soon. As eyeballs shift to digital media and smartphone and tablet content consumption continues to grow unabated, old media is increasingly being marginalized.

Ofcom researchers asked consumers which media (Newspapers, Radio, Web, TV, Mobile) they would miss the most, then segmented the results by age. Newspapers don’t even seem to be on the radar of those under 35 and only 13% of 16-24 year olds claimed that they would miss TV the most. As is clear from the below chart, this shift to digital is very much generational. It may be be just the beginning, but it is clear that digital consumers are slowly but surely taking over the most coveted media demographics.

While the results don’t come as much of a surprise, it should cement the need for players in this space to urgently look at their long term strategy if they have not already done so.

Media Usage


Posted by Rob in Media, Mobile, Old Media

The Brand Bubble

Wall Street places a huge amount of importance on the strength of a brand with regards to a company’s value. John Gerzema delves deeper into the consequences of this ideology as consumer trust in brands continues to decline. The value placed on the brand has risen by 80% over the last 30 years, but with a rise in the popularity of ‘Clean Slate Branding’, Trend Hunter discusses how brand heritage can now be more of a burden than an asset.

Posted by Rob in Advertising, Branding, Old Media