While dead tree media continues to die, the granddaddies of digital media, like AOL and Yahoo, are reinventing themselves to meet the challenges posed by the expanded reach and use of social media. At a number of Internet Week events, specifically The Future of Media and IAB's Innovation Days, high-profile media executives such as Tim Armstrong of AOL, Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, and Robert Bowman of MLB.com discussed how they're integrating traditional journalism and social media.
3 Marketing Hurdles Digital Media Must Overcome
Digital media executives must understand that marketers have three challenges to getting their message out and breaking through the ever-increasing digital noise. They are:
Expand reach: While digital media attracts an always-on audience across an array of devices that is great for targeting and microtargeting, the major sites in any category still can't match the size of television's mass audience. In fact, concurrent digital and TV media consumption continues to thrive.
Improve advertising effectiveness: While banner ads can be used cost-effectively across a broad array of digital media entities from an advertising creation perspective, they don't necessarily yield strong results. To help achieve marketing goals, digital advertisers must test different aspects of the mix. Among these are special, often site-specific advertising formats, behavioral targeting where relevant ads pop in a non-targeted context, and new advertising content to overcome fatigue. According to Robert Bowman, use of a tailored ad format increased advertising response significantly, which is no surprise since the special format would have stood out anyway.
Drive engagement: Marketers need more than a sexy, award-winning ad. They must show real performance in terms of enhanced brand metrics, increased engagement, and expanded fan bases that translate to measurable bottom line results. As Tina Sharkey of BabyCenter pointed out, it's important to be present when and where prospects and consumers are discussing needs related to your product offering.
25 Digital Media-Related Questions Marketers Need to Answer
To this end, marketers must assess their answers to a variety of metrics-related questions to determine the effectiveness of their message and the context in which it's delivered to achieve their business goals. Among the salient questions to consider are:
What is the number of unique readers of the digital medium and specifically to the section(s) where you're advertising?
Do this medium's readers gather information across a broad spectrum of topics or are they focused on specific issues?
Are these readers regular consumers of this medium's content or do they only come when prompted by specific cues such as topics of interest?
What is the timing of their reading consumption and how does this relate to the effectiveness of advertising on this site?
Do readers exhibit specific traits such as geography, age, interests, or behavior that matches your target audience's characteristics?
How is the content delivered to these readers? Is it on a digital media website, in e-mails, RSS feeds, blogs, tweets, or referred by their friends, either digitally or via old fashioned word-of-mouth?
In what format do readers consume this content? Is it text, audio, or video? Does this affect how your ad is portrayed and its effectiveness?
How does the church and state of this medium's editorial and advertising policies affect your campaign? Arianna Huffington pointed to an example of a major bank's ad that performed well next to a negative banking story that occurred without editorial's knowledge.
Do ads stand out in the context of this medium's content? Do readers have advertising blindness (i.e., do they avoid seeing the ads)?
What related marketing (in terms of landing pages, related content, website, e-mail, and/or search) is needed to support this ad?
Do you need to create different ads for your campaign to be portrayed effectively across different devices?
Does the use of this digital medium contribute to traditional brand metrics such as brand favorability and intention to purchase?
Does the use of this medium provide a forum that enables brand engagement?
How does the digital media entity's brand reflect on your offering? Is this an important consideration?
How long do readers spend with a specific digital medium?
Is the digital media and/or your advertising content worthy of being shared via Facebook, Twitter, or other sharing vehicles?
Do readers talk and/or comment on issues that are important to your campaign in this digital medium?
What level of corporate transparency do marketers need to have in order to advertise on this digital medium?
Does the use of this digital medium drive directly measurable sales?
Can results of the ad be tracked as contributing to sales? This can be a challenge for more brand-oriented advertising and purchases that have long consideration periods.
What is the media cost of delivering your message?
What are the related digital advertising costs such as ad creation, special formats, more frequent content changes, and behavioral targeting?
How does the effectiveness of this campaign relate to its cost?
Does the use of this digital medium and/or all of the digital media increase the complexity of your marketing? Can you track and assign a cost for this work?
Does the use of this digital medium reduce the need for other more expensive marketing?
While there are many digital advertising metrics marketers can track, measuring performance in a dynamic media environment can be extremely challenging. The key is to keep in mind your business goals and choose the metrics that yield the best results for your business.
Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.