Digital Advertising

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Google's New Privacy Policy Critical to Competition with Facebook

Google has a new, 360-degree privacy policy. Take that, Facebook. The consolidation of data that creates a unified customer profile across very nearly all of Google's products and services creates a view of the customer that's very, very Facebook in nature.

Funny that with all the attention directed to the Facebook IPO lately, so few commentators have made this observation.

It's a good idea that has, understandably, creeped users out. The reality and the perception of privacy are miles apart in the mind of the public and notoriously difficult to change.

This move does make enormous sense for Google on three primary levels.

  1. Google's stated reason for making a major change. It doesn't make sense to have 70 different privacy policies. It does make sense to consolidate, and to simplify language. That's good UX.
  2. Google is increasingly a media company. Its revenue comes from ad sales. These privacy policy changes will help it deliver not only better search results (let's leave personalized search out of the equation for now), but better ads. It's a major step closer to cracking the database of intentions. What's a "Jaguar"? An "Apple"? "Bass"? The move really will help refine results.
  3. Google needs a 360 degree view of the customer now more than ever. Why? Because Facebook's already got it. Or is at least a lot closer to having it than Google is if all Google's information is separately warehoused. Facebook is currently better positioned than Google to "know" what videos you're watching on YouTube (which Google owns!), and tie that data with what you're reading in "The Wall Street Journal" or "The Washington Post," or posting on Pinterest. With Facebook about to go public, Google needs to change that equation, and change it fast.

Privacy image:

Rebecca Lieb's picture

What the Decline of Print Means for Digital

Plenty of sobering news about the print industry has been released over the past week.

Yes, print is in steep decline. So is print advertising. It's important not only to ponder and understand why print is declining so precipitously now, but also to draw some lines into the future and understand how this trend might impact digital media going forward. The implications are big for advertisers and publishers alike.

The most stunning story is from eMarketer, predicting that online advertising will surpass print ad spend -- this year.

The firm estimates digital newspaper ad revenue in the U.S. grew 8.3 percent to $3.3 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, newspaper print ad revenue dropped 9.3 percent to $20.7 billion. Magazines fare only slightly better. In the U.S., print ad revenue is expected to rise a below-anemic 0.5 percent to $15.34 billion this year, up from $15.3 billion last year. Digital magazine ad spending grew 18.8 percent to $2.7 billion last year.

This is due not only to the internet, of course, but to a proliferation of mobile devices that decouple newspapers and magazines from dead-tree publishing. It's already happened with books; e-reader editions outsell both paperbacks and hardcover books on Amazon, and have for some time.

As e-reader devices conflate with tablets (think: Kindle Fire), readers are inevitably eschewing print in higher numbers still. Among tablet owners, according to a recent International Data Group survey, 72 percent of professionals worldwide say they're buying less since owning a tablet. Seventy percent buy fewer physical books, and 49 percent buy fewer DVDs. (And naturally, readers who can afford tablets are in a much more desirable demographic to most advertisers than those who cannot.)

Like Facebook adoption a few years ago, tablet adoption is in its hockey-stick phase. There were 64.7 million tablets in the world globally at the end of 2011, according to IHS iSuppli. By the end of 2015, that number will metastasize to 287.2 million.

What can be interpolated from all these trends -- a proliferation of tablets, content migrating to digital formats, advertising dollars accelerating their shift to digital from print -- is that not only print is changing. The ways that print adopts to digital formats is changing as well in ways that will fundamentally change the use and perception of the written word over the next few years. Writing has always been literally flat and two-dimensional. That's going to change -- and very soon.

Already, there's a growing market for enhanced ebooks, books created for digital formats that go beyond flat text into video, audio, games, and other multimedia and interactive features. As prices for tablets plummet (the Kindle Fire is priced at just over $100, and you can get a free Nook by signing up for a year of The New York Times), books will become more like apps. In fact, it will soon be hard to delineate where "book" stops and "digital platform" begins.

Before purists get all up in arms, don't worry. There will always be plain-text versions of the Bible, Shakespeare, "War and Peace," and other classics of literature. But going forward, publishers will look very closely at how they can enhance the titles in their catalogues, or turn books into a single component of transmedia storytelling.

Marketers, take note. These changes in the written word -- how it's conceived, presented, and experienced -- apply to you, too. For a soon to be published research report on content marketing, we recently interviewed 56 marketers, many of them at Fortune 500 companies, about the content channels they're using. They were asked what's important now, what channels are diminishing in effectiveness, and where they plan to place more marketing emphasis in both the short and long term future.

Overwhelmingly, these marketers say they're looking to video in the future (with mobile running a close second). "Visual information" is on the rise overall. What's on the decline? Articles. Columns. Digital PR. Long-form content. White papers.

Do you see a trend here? I do. The written word is in decline in digital channels. It won't ever vanish, but it is diminishing and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Publishers and marketers alike are compelled to start considering, now, how to add more visual and multimedia material to written pieces to make them stand out, to encourage opt-in and tune-in from target audiences, to deliver appropriate content to mobile platforms, and to make complex information easily and visually digestible -- in a hurry. (Infographics are becoming very, very popular with marketers, as are charticles with publishers.)

Now, this is not a call for hysteria (the written word is dead!) or over-reactive fiats (nothing we produce can contain words anymore, ever!). Both those statements are utterly false and nonsensical.

But we are seeing some very real and very fast moving trends here: a shift away from paper and on to digital devices; advertisers following those eyeballs; changing consumer expectations as they consume written content on faster, cheaper, multimedia-capable devices; and marketers' need to create and deliver messaging that's experiential, compelling, engaging, and that drives the message home in an easily digestible format.

So, that white paper your department is working on? By all means publish it as a written document. But at the same time, you'd better start concocting ways to deliver its message in interactive, digital, visual, and multimedia environments.

Or risk being the sound of the proverbial dead tree falling in a very dense forest.

Cross-posted from iMediaConnection 


Rebecca Lieb's picture

Facebook’s IPO: What Does It Mean For…?

Me, visiting Facebook HQ the week before their S-1 filing

Over 800 million active users - more than half of whom log in on any given day and interact with over 900 million "objects" (pages, groups, communities, etc.). Over 250 million photos uploaded every day, over 70 languages on the site. The stats go on and on, and any way you look at them, the numbers are huge.

How can Facebook grow bigger still? That's what we're waiting so see as the tech world - heck, the world at large - holds it breath for the biggest IPO since Google went public in 2004.

There's practically consensus that Facebook will go public in June, meaning an announcement (and a prospectus) are almost imminently forthcoming. This has naturally sparked conversation among Altimeter Group analysts (notably Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Solis and myself) as we discuss and debate the implications of the Big Event, and work to come up with clear answers to the many questions we're being asked by journalists working on what, outside of the presidential election, will be one of the biggest stories of 2012.

Here are some of our answers to the many "will this happen?" and "what does it mean..?" questions we've been fielding from the media regarding Facebook's IPO:



What does it mean….to Facebook employees? There will most certainly be retention issues. Some key employees will quit. They'll travel, or buy houses and cars with newfound wealth.  It will also increase the already fierce talent war with tangible value. Facebook will attract different employees, while early innovators who value a start-up culture will go elsewhere.  Expect to see a Facebook Mafia of investors begin to emerge.  Still others will spin off and form new companies. This has big implications for future innovation. Facebook may face some short term losses, but the tech industry will see an infusion of new capital and new ideas.

What does it mean….for future IPOs? Will Twitter and [fill in the blank] go public right away? If Facebook's IPO is successful, a rising tide will likely raise all boats. But Facebook has built a real business and has a solid advertising model. It's already an enormous company. Twitter (and others) is at a very different phase in its lifecycle.

How is Facebook's IPO different from Web 1.0 and the dot-come bubble? There are real business models here, with real revenues.  

How will Facebook's IPO be influenced by recent, unspectacular IPOs, such as Groupon or Zynga? Facebook is an enormous, global company,  the proverbial 900-lb. gorilla. Facebook's IPO is more analogous to Google going public and not at all comparable to smaller players in the tech space. It is, however, important to note that many, many smaller companies are part of a much larger Facebook ecosystem. This includes ad agencies, technology firms, analytics firms, mobile players, brand marketers, social commerce providers, media companies and a myriad of players (such as Zynga, itself a Facebook partner) with a business model directly coupled with Facebook's API. When looking at Facebook's revenues, it's critical investors understand the difference between advertising revenues, that flow directly into Facebook's coffers, and marketing spend that benefits the Facebook ecosystem, but not directly into Facebook itself.

What's to stop Facebook from imploding, as MySpace did? MySpace remained static. Facebook continues to innovate, and to push audience beyond where they are comfortable, often to great success. Not so long ago members had to have a .edu address to join, remember? A hue and cry was raised when Facebook opened to everyone. In a conversation today at Facebook headquarters, spokesman Brandon McCormick said the more users complain about new features, the more data reveal they're actually using those features more. "We're a social network," he said, "we have a natural feedback mechanism. People use our product to complain about our product. People hated the Newsfeed when we launched it, now it's the core of how they use the product. If we changed everything the second they started complaining, we wouldn't have the data."

Courageous -- and based on hard data.

It's never uninteresting to keep an eye on Facebook, no more so than now. We'll continue to watch and to share our thoughts on Facebook's IPO. And we're always happy to share our observations with the media. Get in touch with us at press[at]

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Ad Spend Versus Marketing Spend

Will Facebook absorb five percent of online ad spend by year's end? According to how many media outlets are interpreting a recently published forecast, yes.

I say, not so fast.

There's spend and there's spend. Some of it is on digital advertising, and some is on digital marketing. There's a world of difference between the two - particularly prior to one of the year's most eagerly anticipated and ballyhoo'd IPOs.

The report in question is Efficient Frontier's Global Q4 2011Digital Marketing Performance Report. It states Facebook's spend share "reaches 2.7% of biddable online advertising spend in Q4 [2011]."

OK, I can buy that estimate, give or take.

It's the 2012 forecast, however, that's highly questionable. Note that Facebook's 2011 spend share is qualified: biddable online advertising. I know what that is. Efficient Frontier's Facebook forecast for the coming 12 months is all over the board:

FaceBook [sic] WILL REACH 5% OF ALL ONLINE ADVERTISING SPEND BY THE END OF 2012. As marketers improve their ability to acquire and engage Facebook fans, brands will continue to pump new budgets into Facebook to capitalize on the social network’s reach and the amount of time users spend there."

Five percent may be a great headline, but it's highly unlikely that Facebook advertising is what's being referred to here. Will advertisers double their "biddable online advertising" budgets to "acquire and engage Facebook fans"? Don't bet the farm on it.

What I do agree with is that marketers will "pump new budgets into Facebook" to reach and engage consumers. Every single one of the 56 marketers I interviewed for my forthcoming research report on content marketing are creating more content, much of which is going into social media channels, such as Facebook.

What's important to understand (and it's hard to believe media reports on this have been so sloppy) is these are by no means advertising budgets. This is marketing spend, and much of this money is not funneling directly into Facebook's coffers. These new budgets are going into strategy, creative and production.

Anyone considering buying Facebook's stock would do well to understand the difference.      

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Learning in 2012: My 10 Top Digital Marketing & Media Topics

Another year, another stream of predictions. Not that predictions aren't interesting, mind you, but I've never been one to focus on them. Sure, I avidly follow trends in digital marketing and media, but what really jazzes me about following the sector for a living is the surprise factor. It's not knowing what comes next because next can be so out-of-left-field disruptive.

The other cool thing about this job is it's like being permanently enrolled in grad school. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love constantly watching and learning. So rather than share predictions for 2012, it seems more grounded and sensible to share a list of the top things I plan to study more closely and learn more about in 2012. Perhaps one or two of these topics will turn into a formal research report, perhaps not (oh, to be able to deep-dive into everything!).

  1. Behavioral Targeting: Not to begin on a negative, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced BT plain doesn't work. That's why I'd like to examine it more closely. Having done all my holiday shopping online, as well as extensive research and buying for a home remodeling project, it's appalling how many wasted BT ads I see, most for the selfsame products I actually bought from the advertiser. "This can't be right," says my consumer persona to my analyst persona. "Look more closely at the methodology of all those studies out there that 'prove' BT's effectiveness."
  2. Personalized Search This has been going on a while now, of course, but more and more, your search results differ significantly from my search results. Location, time of day, social graphs, search history -- a zillion factors figure in to what search results are displayed, and as a result, what ads and data appear in your browser. Need to keep up with this continually moving target.
  3. Social Media Fatigue Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Miso - and that's just a few off the top of my head. Just as consumers never watched all of the 200 or so cable channels bundled into their subscription packages, there's only so many hours in the day to update where you are, what you're doing, what you're watching and eating and with whom. This space seems primed to shake out, doesn't it? How will consumer behavior and adoption change, and how fast can new social plays keep launching?
  4. Big Data Collecting, crunching and making actionable data from disparate on- and offline sources will require significant investments in technology, manpower and learning for companies. Big data is all the buzz, yet many marketers still don't know precisely what it is. Everyone needs to bone up on this topic in 2012.
  5. Real-Time Marketing Top consumer brands, notably Pepsi, are starting to take this topic very seriously, and even some B2B giants such as GE are looking at the space. Monitoring, assessing, triaging, assigning, and responding to real-time conversations, events, posts, tweets and other digital information increasingly matters. And like Big Data, the challenges and resources it requires are formidable. A fascinating area to keep an eye on.
  6. Regulated Industries It's fascinating to watch highly regulated industries, such as pharma and banking, attempt to embrace digital marketing in general, and social media in particular. They face formidable barriers and more interesting challenges than most. I'm hoping to speak with more marketers from regulated sectors to learn more about how they're coping.
  7. Internet of Things When everything has an IP address, everything gets a lot more interesting. Once devices from cars to refrigerators and the dog's food bowl are connected, the implications for marketing, communication and even society will take surprises turns. This space is quite simply mesmerizing.
  8. Effects of Social Movements Occupy Wall Street fallout, the presidential election in the US, societal shifts in the Middle East. Social change resonates in digital channels (and vice versa). It's going to be a big year for social change, and that will inevitably impact digital.
  9. What's Starting Up? As always, I'll be keeping a close eye on start-ups. What's launching trend-wise? Who's getting funded? Who isn't? Following the money and the technology is not optional - it's integral to watching this space.
  10. Content Marketing A pet topic, the subject of my most recent book and my forthcoming research report. Keeping a close eye on how marketers are moving into content, which requires a rebalance of thought processes (ongoing, not episodic, campaign-based thinking), as well as new budgets, agency relationship and staffing requirements - not to mention a shift in corporate culture.

That's my 2012 syllabus. What's yours?

Please reply in the comments. And if you're behind a company active in one of the above areas, perhaps we should arrange a briefing sometime this year.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

A Content Marketing Conversation at Digiday Agency

It's always a good thing when industry conferences share their content, speakers and insights with the wider world. We can't all be in the same room at the same time, after all.

This week at Digiday Agency, Pulsepoint's razor-sharp CMO Rose Ann Horan and I kicked off the day with a half hour chat about content marketing. Because my upcoming research examines how agencies and enterprises alike are shifting resources and strategy to meet new demands in a world shifting from media buying to content creation, it was exciting to take the discussion into an agency context.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

A Mass Audience for Mobile?

What will it take to achieve mass in mobile?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately (in part because I'll be addressing it at Publishing Apps Expo in a keynote tomorrow). There's a lot that stands between mobile, its audience and advertisers: platform incompatibility, development problems, and just plain old lack of a real advertising model. Mobile tends to conflate utility and content into new hybrids we don't intuitively understand yet.

So it was interesting being briefed yesterday on Flipboard's next foray out of the iPad and into the iPhone. As you'd expect from one of the most visually stunning iPad apps, great care was taken to adopt Flipboard to its new and inherently more mobile home on a smaller screen.

Co-founder Evan Doll expained the new app is intended to "fill in the gaps in daily moments," like standing in line at the coffee shop. Browsing is therefore one-handed, flipping is vertical.

What's really compelling is how this new Flipboard aggregates content into just one app. Not just newspapers and magazines, but also social activity from multiple sources including Facebook and Twitter. This indicates the iPhone version of Flipboard could be the go-to app for iPhone owners. It puts a lot of information into one place with one very pleasing and intuitive interface.

Why this matters from a media perspective is that we're a long way - a very long way - from mobile mass media. In fact, we'll likely never get there. But by migrating to the iPhone from the iPad, Flipboard has put itself with reach of millions more users than it's already more-than-respectable 4M user base. And it's built compelling content into a beautiful, intuitive UX.

Exactly the direction mobile needs to take to become attractive to advertisers.

Update: The service has proven so popular that Flipboard services have gone down. See what I mean?

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Talking Tablets & Super Bowl with Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble

Delivering observational sound bytes is part and parcel of the job of an analysts (and a very enjoyable part at that).  Even more exciting is the rare opportunity to swap opinions and observations with one of the most respected observers and interviewers in all of digital.

I was lucky enough to have just such an opportunity when a visit this week to Altimeter Group's San Mateo HQ coincided with none other than Robert Scoble paying us a visit. We've met in the past, but my heart sunk when I sat down to do an interview with him and reminded him my coverage area is advertising and media. "No one cares about advertising but the companies that sell it," proclaimed The Scobleizer, who said maybe we should hold off on talking until some big advertising event in the future, like the Super Bowl.

No interview? Oh noes! #Fail.

We continued on with an amiable offline chat, until I mentioned that next month's big game will be the first Super Bowl in which tablet use could likely dominate secondary media consumption. Scoble pricked up his ears and our interview was underway. You can listen to it here.

II also recommend listening to his much longer and more in-depth four-part discussion with my Altimeter Group colleague Susan Etlinger.  

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Why Isn't There More "Immersive" Advertising?

What ever happened to “immersive”?

You know, those campaigns that are so absorbing, so experiential, so deep and rich and mesmerizing that the viewer/audience/consumer is swept up in the experience. Transported, and in some small way, transformed. They’re also compelled to share and pass on campaigns like this. Truly immersive ads are always viral.

Digital was supposed to be more immersive than present reality allows. Arguably, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken was immersive. People spent hours commanding the chicken to do things, and even hacking the chicken to do NSFW things. According to the advertiser, the campaign even sparked a spike in the sales of the chicken sandwich it oh, so subtly promoted.

As digital technology has evolved, you’d think there would be more immersive campaigns, wouldn’t you? We’ve learned and grown, have more tools at our disposal and sophisticated developers who can manipulate them, working in tandem with inspired creatives.

I’m not talking world-class video here. Not to denigrate top-notch video, but even at its best video is engaging, not immersive. I’m making that call because video – even digital video – is so rarely interactive, even when it is beautiful and breathtaking.

What recent campaigns have been genuinely immersive? Not a lot comes to mind. Two are Facebook integrations. First, Intel’s breathtaking Museum of Me,  Intel's visual representation of your social life as a museum installation.  Because the rich, sweeping and breathtaking visuals pull data from the viewer’s Facebook profile,  some critics decried the initiative as creepy.

The Museum of Me wasn’t as creepy by half as its evil twin, Take This Lollipop. This Facebook integration (now offline, with a page cryptically stating “it has begun”) was the fastest-growing Facebook application ever. But it wasn’t a marketing campaign, but rather a side project by Jason Zada who, according to Mashable, created OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself.

Another fairly recent example of a truly immersive execution was the Google Chrome HTML5 experiment, The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive film built on (among other things) Google Maps. It eventually brings the viewer home. Literally.

What do all these immersive campaigns share in common? The oldest, most hackneyed truest truism in digital marketing: it’s about the user. All these executions are, literally, about the user, who is front and center in the action. The viewer is the star of the show, and firmly in the driver’s seat.

So why aren’t we seeing more of this highly creative and utterly interactive immersive stuff?

In many ways, what technology enables, technology taketh away. At least, it does in this still early stage of  digital evolution.

As rapidly as the cool new technologies are being rolled out that enable this stuff, so too are new platforms (especially mobile ones) being introduced every day on which they’re incompatible. Even on PCs, they require updated browsers and installed plug-ins.

Making an app? Is it for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire or Blackberry? Digitally, we still live in an era many of us have experienced before. Bet you remember some of these: 8-track or cassette? Betamax or VHS? Regular DVD or Blu-ray flavor?

The point? To be immersive, a campaign has to be really, really interactive. But it also has to provide an utterly flawless user experience. Otherwise, it’s immersive in all the wrong ways.

It’s hard to conceive how, with a proliferation of new technologies and new platforms, many of which have not yet figured out how to meet in the middle, campaigns can be truly immersive – and reach everyone.

We’re just not there yet.                  

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Roundup

Most of my writings on digital marketing, advertising and media don't make it to this blog. Instead, they're published elsewhere - and a girl can do only so much typing sometimes.

So herewith, a roundup of recently published thinking that's appeared elsewhere over the past month or so:

My new book! Obviously, this is the big one.  Content Marketing published in late October. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you read it. And thanks for waiting at least a couple of months before asking when I plan to write the next book!

The Altimeter Blog Some topics I've address on my company's blog include covering a Pilot Event at company HQ on the future of media at which I spoke with my colleague Jeremiah Owyang; Occupy Wall Street: Disruption & Leaderless Leadership; and thinking about how content marketing is impacting the advertising ecosystem, the topic of the research report I'm currently working on. It will look at how organizations are rebalancing to incorporate content marketing into their other marketing activities.

TopRank Blog I was honored when my friend (and interview subject for the above-cited research report) Lee Odden) asked me to guest post on his TopRank blog on Mastering the Content Workflow. It's a bit of tactical advice for getting a marketing operation running like a newsroom.

iMedia Connection For the better part of the year, I've been writing a fortnightly column for iMedia Connection. My editors there just invited me to write my first feature (or as they call it, "cover story") on mastering geek speak. It's practical advice for marketers struggling to communicate with their developer and programmer and generally more techie colleagues. Never have left brain/right brain schisms been deeper than in digital marketing disciplines, but there are ways to bridge those two hemispheres of the brain.

Other recent columns for iMedia include a guide to getting started with content metrics (based on a recent talk I gave at eMetrics New York); and avoiding brand embarassments in real-time.  

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


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