Blog posts for publishers

Facebook Live is trialling mid-roll ads and we’re supposed to be impressed?

Facebook Live is trialling mid-roll ads and we’re supposed to be impressed?

Facebook has announced a monetising solution for Facebook Live: mid-roll. But we’re far from impressed.

Facebook’s relationship with brands

Facebook is the powerhouse of walled garden networks. Publishers have been lured to the garden and are essentially handing their distribution over to Instant Articles for instant reach. But how will this affect publishers long-term? Whilst reach seems to be increasing, engagement and time spent visiting the publisher’s sites is declining.

The model is pushing publishers to create snackable content for Facebook feeds, rather than the stories they’d have invested talent and research in. Ad dollars are generating revenue, but is that revenue helping the longevity of publisher brands?

Advertisers are lining up too, all eager to dive into the deep end of Facebook’s brand pool. But many may find their messages hugely diluted. And their data? Well, it’s Facebook’s data now.

Facebook Live introduces mid-roll

The latest news from Facebook is that they’ll be introducing mid-roll advertising to Facebook Live. It’s being sold as a positive story, but we’re calling them out on it. No Facebook, just no!

Facebook has jumped on live streaming video because it’s the popular flavour right now, and for a very good reason. But their advertising plans are confusing. Like pairing a fine vintage wine with 2-minute noodles and expecting people to be impressed. We’re not.

(Sometimes it’s said best when you say nothing at all.)

It’s not too difficult to coerce influential celebrities and media companies to get involved in creating live stream content. Not if there’s a hefty paycheck involved anyway, and that’s what Facebook has offered.

Big budgets, small ideas

The budget set aside for paid live stream content was $50million. Various chunks of the budget are dedicated to attracting very specific media companies such as BuzzFeed and celebs like Gordon Ramsay. It may seem a lot but it’s not an epic amount when you consider the amount of content required and the percentages set aside for publishers. And what happens when that $50million runs out? Enter advertising, the solution that’s been keeping content free whilst also paying creators for years. Perfect. Well, it could be, but again – no!

Now playing, live on Facebook chart

Facebook’s consideration of the publisher and their audience’s experience seems to be non-existent. Zuckerberg has always been averse to the idea of pre-roll advertising because according to him it ‘ruins the viewing experience’. However, whilst pre-roll may not be the ideal ad format for all audiences, it’s a non-interruptive format because it sits before content. What ruins viewing experiences is an interruption.

Mid-roll is an interruption. It’s got the word ‘mid’ in it people! It doesn’t get more interruptive than that. But ‘The Berg’ isn’t concerned, that’s the very model he’s approved for Facebook Live advertising.

Why mid-roll for Facebook Live is fundamentally flawed

The nature of live streaming is that it’s live! That’s why it’s so exciting. So putting an ad in the middle of a live stream seems rather inappropriate. Especially as the advertising industry is fighting hard to provide better ad experiences. It’s a backward step being taken by a huge network.

There are much better options to monetise live streams and engage with audiences, and yes – Coull’s OverStream formats are some of those. We’re not going to shy away from the fact we care about audiences and our publisher’s content.

Our audiences deserve better than mediocre, interruptive monetisation solutions from the biggest social platform on the planet.

Advertisers and publishers do have a choice. Stop jumping in that pool. It’s tainted and it’s only a matter of time before the blue dye stains everything.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
ODV (Original Digital Video) spells good news for publishers

ODV (Original Digital Video) spells good news for publishers

Last month, the IAB released the Original Digital Video Consumer Study. This study was based on US audience’s TV viewing, compared with original digital video (ODV) viewing habits. The results aren’t particularly surprising but they do paint an interesting picture.

The study gives an idea of where media consumption is heading and this is something publishers should be taking note of. For advertisers, it’s just as poignant in defining where their spend should be directed. For traditional TV media owners, it’s about being aware of the facts and adapting.

Before we dive in and look at the results, let’s clarify ODV.

What is Original Digital Video – ODV?  

Essentially, it’s originally produced online video. It’s also defined as ‘professionally produced video’ and is made for online distribution and viewing (not TV).

Who creates ODV?

Typically, ODV is created by a range of professional media companies. For example, Wall Street Journal Live News, Glamor DO’s and Don’ts and purely online media such as YouTube Original Channels.

What other digital content owners are competing for audience attention?

TV Online

This is made up of network TV shows like Pretty Little Liars and The Walking Dead or sites on and

Amateur Online Video

This is videos created by regular people – homemade videos. These videos are generally short-form content.

The IAB outlined some of its key takeaways:

The growth of the original digital video market continues

The year-on-year growth continues for ODV. However, there’s little to no growth for online TV and amateur video.

Original Digital Video beats regular TV among viewers

ODV is popular among viewers because content can be watched anywhere, at any time – fitting around individual schedules.

Original Digital Video is becoming more ingrained

ODV’s improved quality and accessibility make it more and more of a habitual exercise. This means that not only are more people switching to ODV, they’re watching more of it.

Social media wildfire

ODV is shareable and engaging and so, this is leading to more engagement with the same brand.

If growth is the name of the game, ODV has all the winning moves

The story of ODV is one of growth. Approximately 63 million US adults are now viewing ODV on a monthly basis.

Whilst TV online and amateur video have healthy, respectable viewing numbers, the growth rate isn’t there. This suggests more people are moving to original video, and that’s a trend worth noting, especially where budgeting is concerned. The potential for advertisers to reach audiences with ODV is huge. As ad tech companies develop new ad formats, it’s likely that we’ll see more premium inventory in this area.

TV isn’t dead, we’ve changed the way we use it

Remember when the remote control first came about? Holy batman, that changed lives for the lazy. Not only did it nurture the inner couch potato in us all, but it meant we could enjoy more variety too. Simple but revolutionary.

As with everything, we continue to innovate. The TV is still sitting in the room, it’s just connected to the internet now. Audiences have adopted habits that reflect what they expect of the internet. We have so much choice, and just like ravenous consumers we are, the more choice we have, the more we want.

Whilst laptop/desktop and mobile devices remain the most popular devices for viewing ODV content, connected TV is only marginally behind. This area has had the biggest impact on the reduction of ‘regular’ TV watching. It’s the business model, not the TV set that needs to adapt now.

Social creatures

It’s not surprising that ODV viewers are discovering their content via word of mouth and social media. There’s an interesting gender divide in the way content is discovered. Females are discovering the majority of their content via friends, family, and social media. Whereas their male counterparts tend to follow links, recommendations and search results. This just paints a picture of how much video content is being discovered socially, rather than on a publisher’s own site.

Modern media offers disparate audiences so much variety, it’s astounding. Content is becoming personal, but it’s also incredibly niche so segments are becoming more identifiable. ODV makes it possible for media companies to present quality, highly-engaging and targeted content. Now, advertisers have the technology at their fingertips to engage through connected devices in a way they never have before.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that viewers like the flexibility of ODV. The fact is, we all have different devices we use daily and we have much more choice, control and a completely different way of engaging with content we love. This IAB study shows a significant shift, but this is something we’ve known for some time – just ask any millennial!

Millennials drive the habitual change, the next generation takes it even further

Personally, I don’t have a TV subscription. I didn’t include it in my ‘broadband bundle option’ because I knew I had other options that suited my budget and my viewing preferences.

It’s little wonder that 18 to 34-year-olds are the biggest driver of this significant viewing evolution. What’s also interesting is that the advertising is more memorable in this format, contrary to some popular belief. This is just the tip of what’s happening right now. The ads in the very near future will be dynamic, highly-personable and definitely more interactive.

Millennial audiences have sparked the adoption and growth of connected TV, ODV and amateur video. But this should pave the way for an even more, user-focused digital model. Traditional models of media, including TV, shouldn’t begrudge this change, it should be seen as a real opportunity.

There’s no need to hollow out the old set and put Mr goldfish inside just yet. But you may just find the communal ritual of watching TV becomes more personal, more enjoyable and dare we say, more profitable?

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Five ways to improve digital advertising now

The Perpetual Flaws of Digital Advertising

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Coull Quickie – May 2016

The Coull Quickie for May is here and it’s not good news for publishers as 3 Mobile UK sets to trial Shine’s ad blocking tech at network level. The IAB US reveals some interesting stats around new viewing habits, AppNexus launches free viewabiltiy measurement for its partners and the Guardian launches their own native mobile ad formats. Get all the latest programmatic video advertising news right here, every month.

Watch the Coull Quickie – May 2016 right here, right now:

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
The IAB’s ad blocking primer for publishers

The IAB’s ad blocking primer for publishers

The IAB Tech Lab Ad Blocking Group has compiled guidance to help publishers manage ad blockers. The Publisher Ad Blocking Primer provides tactics for responding to ad blocking. This is a result of the high adoption rate of ad blockers provided by companies such as AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. These are businesses too, making money by either whitelisting preferred ads (or ads that have been paid to be whitelisted) or collecting and selling data. So while publishers lose out, these companies are thriving.

Ad blocking guidance

In this post, we’re going to break down the guidance so publishers can understand how to approach ad blockers and monetising their videos. The purpose of this post is not to criticise ad blocking but rather, to help publishers take ownership of their revenue and communicate better with their audiences.

Specific tactics are outlined in the IAB Primer, and each is based around a process called DEAL. Each tactic should keep the premise of DEAL in mind.

The DEAL process

D – Detect ad blocking in order to initiate the conversation.

E – Explain the value exchange that advertising enables.

A – Ask for changed behaviour in order to maintain an equitable exchange.

L – Lift restrictions or limit access in response to consumer choices.

Shifting the focus from ad blockers to the consumer is really important. Publishers can then educate their audience on their business models and commitment to providing a better user experience. The IAB’s Primer makes 7 tactical suggestions as listed below.

The IAB Ad Blocker Primer suggestions

  1. Notice
  2. Access Denial
  3. Tiered Experience
  4. Payments from Visitors
  5. Ad Reinsertion
  6. Payment to Ad Blocker Companies
  7. Payment to Visitors


Ad blocking

Tactics to encourage disabling ad blockers

Notice – educate and signpost

When an ad blocker is detected, publishers can present the user with a notice. For example, a message in the page header, within video content or on a landing page. This could even be triggered later on, once the user has engaged with the content.

The notice can serve a variety of purposes including:

  • Educating the visitor about ad blockers and the threat they pose to content providers.
  • Requesting the visitor to disable the ad blocker.
  • Request the visitor for payment for access to content.
  • Informing of the consequences of them using ad blockers. Such as limited or completely restricted access to the content.

Educating your audience about the importance of advertising is the first step. However, this could draw attention to ad blocking, raising awareness of the widespread use.

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you do enable notices, some ad blocking has the capabilities to block those too. If you decide to issue a notice, this should not be a standalone tactic but part of a wider strategy.

Access denial – risky business

This tactic is pretty straightforward. If ad blocking is detected, publishers can simply disable access to content. This is, however, a drastic measure and shouldn’t be implemented without explaining how users can regain access.

Access denial invariably leads to a smaller audience and less sharing of content. So this is only appropriate for publishers who already have a loyal audience and don’t depend on new viewers.

Access denial can also lead to a reduced search rank because it can limit search bots ability to crawl the content. But if publishers don’t rely hugely on organic search then this isn’t an issue.

Tiered experience – limited access

This option grants restricted access to visitors with ad blockers. Instead of denying them content, it offers, for example, limited time per session or articles per month. Many publishers use this approach for their subscription service but in this case, we’re talking about its application to ad blocker users.

The risk of the tiered tactic is that some visitors may become accustomed to the limited experience and simply settle without taking any further action. It requires additional work for developers and may make measuring visitors difficult.

The positive of this approach is that it gives your audience more options, leverages the available inventory and is less likely to compromise search rankings.

Payments from visitors – subscription

This is essentially the subscription model. It’s a highly risky model as a way to counter ad blockers because there’s no obligation for audiences with ad blockers to pay for content. It’s their prerogative and you could run the risk of seriously reducing your audience. Payment for content can, however, be lightened by offering voluntary payment options, or tiered payment options.

Subscriptions can increase operational costs and the pricing of your content can become complicated. The desire to share socially is greatly reduced with paid for content, so losing audiences – both direct and via social – is a big risk.

Payment to visitors – the flip side

There have been various reward systems in place for visitors in digital publishing for years, but now the aim is to entice visitors to disable ad blockers. This can be done via a revenue share, rewards, or collaboration with other publishers.

Again, this tactic requires some additional work on the development side but could be a viable solution, especially in the gaming industry. Some publishers already have a system where users are rewarded for watching ads with vouchers, bonuses or hints in a game.

Ad reinsertion – beating the blockers at their own game

The word reinsertion is a little misleading. Whilst technology can place an ad where an ad blocker had previously removed it, it doesn’t mean the same ad will appear. And this doesn’t guarantee what the value of the new ad will be.

Additional tech is required, meaning additional cost. Also, the more ad blocking processes going on in the background, the worse the user experience is (because of latency issues and limited data collection).

There are various methods that can be used to re-insert an ad or block the ad blocker. These include obfuscation, in-browser modification and on-server. This involves serving the ad from the same content side. Each of these requires additional work, but it does provide consistency for visitors and enables the publishers to control their revenue stream.

woman on mobile - ad blocking

Consider, communicate, collaborate – conquer

If you’re a publisher looking to implement one or more of the IAB’s recommended tactics, we suggest that you consider every option. Consider how the tactic applies to your specific business model and how it affects editorial content and your audience. Find guidance in the official IAB ad blocker primer document here.

The IAB should be commended for initiating the conversation around fighting against ad blockers. Ad blockers may have won some judgments in the EU. And they may have managed to bypass some publisher revenue models, but ad blockers are not the future.

Audiences need to understand the value exchange, publishers need to retain control of their own revenue, and users need better experiences. This all comes down to advertisers providing more engaging and creative ad formats, and publishers ensuring the quality of that relationship.

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Coull Programmatic Video and Ad Tech Predictions for 2016

We want better ads

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment
Coull’s 5 programmatic video and Ad Tech predictions for 2016

Coull’s 5 programmatic video and Ad Tech predictions for 2016

It’s been a big year in programmatic video advertising and the scale of change has not gone unnoticed or unanswered. There have been big challenges to overcome in 2015, such as the pitfalls of viewability, fraud, brand safety and ad blocker issues. But these issues have become the ‘make or break’ for ad tech companies hoping to survive.

In reality, there’s been a lot of negative press surrounding programmatic video and advertising as a whole. We need a bigger effort from industry bodies to provide consistent standards that meet advertiser expectations. Educating audiences about the differences between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ advertising is key for the following year. We need to show that ‘good’ advertising is useful and engaging for audiences and funds quality content. And we need to show ‘bad’ advertising is not creative or engaging and doesn’t comply with IAB standards.

Huge potential for programmatic video

There’s a massive opportunity for programmatic to consolidate the great work that’s being done with proprietary tech. But there’s also a small margin for error with agencies and DSPs fighting for the unique factor that will make or break their bottom line.

The IAB have predicted, around 70-80% of all digital spend will be programmatic by 2018, and therefore, we expect the coming year to have even more growth than 2015.

Our 5 ad tech predictions for 2016

Here are our top 5 programmatic video predictions for 2016, as foreseen by our trusted oracle, CTO and Coull founder, Aden Forshaw.

1. We’ll see the rise of AVOD (advertiser-supported video on demand)

Subscription services like Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime offer people quality content for a monthly fee. And whilst a lot of UK viewers now have subscriptions to 3-4 services, as well as BBC iPlayer, there are a countless VOD services competing in the US. While competition is good, there’s only so many services people will pay for – it’s a zero-sum game.

Having said this, there are many traditional media companies with loyal audiences, and in some cases, these brands already have their own original content. These media companies should now translate their offering into online platforms and support it with advertising to quickly gain market share.

2. Media companies take more control of their own data and targeting

Video supply platforms will be bought or white labelled. Big publishers creating more video and new content platforms will want to white label or buy supply platforms to help them integrate with the demand side. This consolidating takes out more of the middlemen and creates a stronger proposition.

3. Shakeout of DSPs

DSPs act as the gateway to the market for advertisers, but as more advertisers bring this knowledge in-house, only the most useful DSPs will survive. DSPs that present no points of difference are in danger of extinction or at the very least, absorption by another powerhouse.

4. Trading desks put under pressure

The route to the programmatic market is becoming more commoditised, and as this continues to happen, trading desks will be swept away. If a trading desk can’t provide a unique way to improve ROI, advertisers will seriously question their use and either move activity in-house, go direct, or switch platforms.

5. Agencies, with so many cooks in the kitchen, it’s time to get creative or get out

There’s been a lot of talk about the role of agencies and how (or even if) they fit in the programmatic ecosystem. Agencies have lost the responsibility of ad spend. So, to survive they need to get creative and partner with ad tech providers to enable new ways to run campaigns.

Google VR cardboard - programmatic video ad tech predictions

Source: New York Times

A great example of innovative storytelling is Google’s VR Cardboard – a piece of incredibly engaging kit, made from cardboard. Who’d have thought it? Well someone did. And that’s exactly the point, we need ideas and agencies need to make those ideas a reality.

When the New York Times, Google and collaborated to create Google Cardboard, even they couldn’t have dreamed it’s huge success. It really was the start of a remarkable new way of storytelling with the most important factor: accessibility.

The scope of possibility is only limited by imagination. If agencies are to survive, they need to be relevant and valuable. Agencies need to be pushing those limits, collaborating with tech partners and helping brands tell stories in exciting ways.

So that’s our top 5 predictions for 2016! It’s definitely going to be a huge year for programmatic video and we couldn’t be more excited.

If you enjoyed reading this, we also recommend:

Five ways to improve digital advertising now

We want better ads

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

The Perpetual Flaws of Digital Advertising

Ads clutter the internet. I work for an advertising technology company and I’m not afraid to say this to you, potential clients, existing clients, industry colleagues. It’s the truth and it’s important to recognize the big problem in our industry right now. Ads!

One of the biggest threats to the digital advertising industry surrounds misconceptions about advertising and poor campaign execution. The perceived arbitrary nature surrounding ad serving arises because of poorly delivered campaigns, poorly designed creative and the manner in which we exchange remnant inventory. Format too is a huge factor in influencing attitudes toward online advertising. The idea that banner ads are intrusive comes about from a neglect in banner creative, perpetrating invasive campaigns, and filling pages with irrelevant ads. However, poor performance often comes down to the enabling of completely unseen ad impressions. The same goes for other ad formats that are being traded irresponsibly, either without viewability or fraud standards, or simply served to the point of saturation. It’s these very things that give consumers a valid reason to choose to use ad blockers.

Always remember your customer and prioritise their experience

image via

beer ad.png         Samsung ad.png

It’s the obstructive, invasive, visually and audibly loud, data sucking ads that have stippled the industry with a ghastly reputation. Rising from the ashes of that reputation can seem a futile undertaking, but premium publishers and ad tech companies are doing what they can to clear the debris, and improve the ecosystem.

Programmatic entered the game and rather quickly became the norm for buying digital inventory. But not without some serious flaws caused by such automatic functions as matching brand to keyword rather than context (as can be seen in the above examples), poor reporting models, lackluster standards for providing transparent ad request information, and many other inefficiencies.

The advertising model, while oftentimes not ideal, is crucial for businesses, and is helpful for audiences. In fact, professionally designed creative and well strategized advertising can be awesome. But when low quality, non IAB compliant formats are traded programmatically and sold to publishers who don’t much care how they appear, or sent to invalid/fraudulent publisher sites – the whole thing falls apart. Industry bodies have taken a back seat for too long. They need to do more to regulate both the quality and viewability of ad formats.

Why not just block the ads?

Ad blocking has been around for years but has only now become an issue of contention due to the nature of how it’s being used. Blocking ads only halts the flow of revenue for media providers and smaller creatives who can’t afford to implement paywalls, it doesn’t solve the problem. It should come as no surprise that audiences are choosing to install ad blockers, though while this ‘apparently’ gives audiences more choice, it gives publishers none. And in terms of economic sustainability, this makes no sense.

Ad blockers play havoc with the democracy of digital content. Instead of destroying the digital media economy, we should demand more of advertisers by only allowing quality ad formats, of an acceptable and compliant nature to be traded in our marketplace. Publishers too, should be required to provide more transparency as to the inventory they are selling. Following the release of iOS 9 which enabled ad blockers to be downloaded and installed on Apple iPhone, a leading ad block application Peace, had a change of heart, disabling its service after just 36 hours and refunding customers. Why? Because ad blockers are unfair on digital media publishers trying to survive.

If the ‘solution’ of ad blocking were applied to the film or music industry, there would be no doubt of content piracy. You cannot simply take someone else’s work without paying for it. Simple. Companies like Israel’s mobile ad blocking startup Shine, believe they’re doing nothing wrong – but they are facilitating the distribution of other people’s content without obliging the recipient to pay. That’s what The Oxford Dictionary would term as stealing. Their definition is of course:

Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

Yes, it’s stealing!

Just because the content is not technically being reproduced (though there is an argument that downloading is a form of reproducing – see Ad blocking panel discussion from ATS London via Exchange Wiredoes not mean it’s not being stolen. It’s still being made available, to a huge number of consumers – free of charge, without the permission of the publisher. Get a grip!

The industry needs to take responsibility

Audiences have spoken out by the million about their objection to the quality of ads, by downloading ad blockers. In the US 41% of 18-29 year olds use an ad blocker (Secret Media). There is plenty of room to further improve existing ad formats, and new formats are patented every day, giving publishers and audiences more choice. It’s not up to us, the industry and everyone involved in it to make this happen for our audiences and our clients.

So how exactly do we improve digital advertising so that it can be a viable format of monetising inventory is growing media companies. Check out 5 ways to improve digital advertising now.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Coull Quickie – June 2015

The Coull Quickie for June is here. Get a wrap up of all the digital advertising news for last month. Elise talks about Cannes Lions 2015, introduces a new company that aims to give publishers their power back and looks at Snapchat’s new ad format as well as Facebook’s immersive advertising plans. It’s all here in the Coull Quickie for June.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull video
Why a YouTube subscription service is great news for the video ecosystem

Why a YouTube subscription service is great news for the video ecosystem

In the advertising space, the ever-studious tech behemoth Google has a long history of calculated moves that make marked contributions to its bottom line. Each strategic tweak to its advertising products normally sees a groundswell of discussion followed by an almost immediate and widespread take-up by marketers.

Adwords has seen limited time offers, bulk uploads for multi-product sales, call-out extensions and call tracking all welcomed by media professionals. Elsewhere, Google has kept its DoubleClick product ticking over with the recent additions of viewability metrics, radius targets for location extensions, reporting for remarketing lists and support for Baidu accounts in DoubleClick Search.

While such features have been successful with marketers, the launch of YouTube’s subscription service has stirred up some scepticism. There are benefits to the consumer, for instance it is easy to see the adblock generation paying $10 a month to purge pre-roll advertisements from their viewing experience. For marketers, though, the devil is in the detail.

Publishers are being incentivised, or coerced depending on your views, into supplying their inventory for the YouTube subscription model whether they like it or not. In a letter to YouTube Partners, Google gave video creators a decision to make – either they allow their content on to the subscription service or they will no longer be able to make revenue from YouTube’s regular advertising model.

A bigger cut for publishers?

Google’s ultimatum might not sit well with creators who see little to be gained from the ruthless terms. Only a small slice of YouTube’s subscription fee is distributed to the publishers and even that is dependant on the amount of time people spend watching their channels. It is unlikely to be the catalyst for a mass YouTube exodus, yet it is possible that some aggrieved creators could abandon the video-sharing platform.

Publishers were already feeling the squeeze earlier this year when YouTube clamped down on sponsorship. In February the platform put a stop to “graphical title cards” by amending its ad policies. The only way a similar ad package might be permitted is if it is done through a full Google media buyout on the Partner content by the sponsor.

In addition, advertiser-created and supplied pre-rolls that are burned into a publisher’s content, or other commercial breaks where YouTube offers a comparable ad format, have been banned. YouTube has said that it will stop monetization of videos that feature this outlawed content.

Last year YouTube owned a 20% share of digital video ads in the US alone and attracted $1.13 billion of video ad revenue, according to eMarketer figures. The last thing Google needs is for a misstep that sees some of this revenue and ad share divvied up among competitor platforms, especially when the site is reportedly unable to turn a profit. Unless the search giant backtracks on the terms of the YouTube subscription service, it could face a publisher revolt.

The YouTube alternative

Aside from YouTube, there is a rich array of alternatives. One of the most popular is DailyMotion that boasts 128 million monthly uniques as of 2014 and counts Showtime, Buzzfeed and Mashable among its publishers. For the TV series content creator there is Blip, which was founded at a similar time to YouTube and on the other end of the spectrum business-centric Wistia assists brands in publishing video on their existing websites. All four are great options, but it is new platform Vessel that is making the most noise in 2015.

Vessel, launched in March by former Hulu execs Jason Kilar and Richard Tom, is taking aim at YouTube as it looks to capitalise on those exiting the video-sharing network. Dubbed The Fremont Project in its early days, Vessel features a $2.99 subscription option that offers ad-free video viewing and 72-hour exclusive access for viewers. There is an ad-supported tier for users who are unwilling to pay for a subscription.

Publishers are being drawn in with the promise of a 70/30 split on ad revenue for content that premieres as part of a 72-hour exclusivity window on Vessel. They will receive that deal for however long the content remains on the platform. Content owners will also receive 60% of the subscription fees that come from the early access period, which runs Tuesday to Thursday. Vessel puts publisher revenue earnings in the region of $50 per 1,000 views, a figure that is said to be 20 times higher than free web distribution.

Vessel is still in its embryonic stage and if it is to become a successful and viable alternative two things have to happen. Firstly, its user base needs to expand and this will come about through the site’s USP of pushing out exclusive content. The big question here is, will users want to pay for this? The answer is an obvious “yes”. You only have to look as far as television to see an example of consumers paying a premium to get access to their favorite series first.

When the number of users reaches critical mass, then Vessel will be an attractive proposition for more content creators and in turn advertisers. It is at this point we will be able to see if the platform can really take it to YouTube.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Consumers – The forgotten part of The Advertising Value-Chain

Digital advertising just isn’t relevant to 21st Century consumers. At best they ignore it. At worst they abhor it.

Advertising used to be applauded, admired. People came to adore brands because of advertising, with the Mad Men celebrated as defining the cultural zeitgeist with every new campaign. Now they’ve come to despise it, and by extension, the brands that create them and the publishers that push them.

Why? Because it’s not relevant. Not relevant to their interests and their impulses. Not relevant to their changing digital behaviors. Because of this they’ve learned to tune them out, skip them or, increasingly, block them completely.

Users, and user engagement, are the currency of the digital advertising world. If they’re not viewing, or engaging, brands see less ROI and media companies see less revenue.  This presents a serious problem for the digital content economy.

From tune-out to active disengagement

The conversation used to be about banner blindness, about users passively tuning out advertising that existed at the periphery of their vision. Now it’s got to the stage where consumers are actively installing software that blocks advertising.

PageFair and Adobe recently released a report that showed a growth of more than 50% in internet users who had ad-blocking software installed over the last year. When they boiled the numbers down by demographics, they realized that in the highly sought after 18-29 age category, 41% of American internet users were using such software.

A sustainable digital economy can only come from a true value exchange between all relevant parties. But that virtuous cycle of a sustainable digital economy isn’t being realized. Instead we have quite the opposite, a vicious cycle characterised not by mutual benefit, but by an ever decreasing rate of return for everyone involved.

Advertising is not being delivered to consumers in the right way, rather than supporting the context of whatever experience they’re having and adding value, it inevitably jarrs. This triggers the decline in engagement that has become so apparent over the last few years, and reduces the amount advertisers are willing to pay for ad impressions. Dwindling revenues lead to publishers and content creators making up the shortfall by turning what was content real-estate into ad units. Cue consumers becoming even more disillusioned and the cycle continuing.

Extending the contract

The issue we have is that the problem is not being tackled in its entirety. As advertising technology vendors we are striving to give advertisers better ways to target consumers and improve campaign effectiveness, while working with supply-side partners to provide new or improved revenue opportunities. What we as an industry don’t do well is communicate to consumers why advertising is important.

There’s an entire cohort of internet users – typically the millenials that most frequently block ads – who have grown up with free, instant access to the world’s knowledge and opinions. That content is largely paid for by advertising, just as social media networks like Facebook or Twitter are able to be kept free-to-use.

Sean Blanchfield of PageFair, rightly comments that some education of users is going to be necessary.

“The thing about advertising is that the end user isn’t part of that contract; the contract is between the publisher and the advertiser. The end user who installs Adblock really isn’t mindful of the fact that they’re impacting the revenue of the publisher.” The Guardian

This education is important, but it’s not a one-way conversation, where poorly constructed advertising experiences are forced on users. If the advertising contract is to be extended, there needs to be an open, inclusive conversation about what exactly constitutes relevant advertising for digital audiences in 2014, ‘15 and beyond.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment

Perceptions in Digital Advertising

‘Sustainability’ is something we talk about a lot as a company. Of course we would, we’re in the digital advertising business, we’re invested in the industry and its long term success is clearly to Coull’s benefit.

However, no-one is quite sure what the future of digital advertising will look like, with issues like viewability and the challenge posed to multichannel-marketers by the proliferation of devices and shifting consumer behaviors.

Those are structural issues and are slowly being addressed by the industry through technical innovation and movement towards widespread adoption of standards. What will also need to be overcome, sooner rather than later, are the perceptions of digital advertising. And that’s what I’ve chosen to look at here. What common perceptions are held regarding digital advertising by three groups most invested in it: Advertisers, publishers and consumers.


Perception: It’s unreliable.

Why? Here we are at a time when marketers have never had such a surfeit of information at their fingertips, and yet doubts concerning quality of inventory, effectiveness in driving ROI and visibility are commonplace.

We’ve gone beyond the point where digital is perceived as the poor cousin of traditional channels, but if primetime TV is the straight As, golden child of the advertising household, digital is still the scruffy haired son who occasionally draws a sigh of disappointment.

Doubt will linger until marketers can plan campaigns against consistent metrics across multiple platforms and have clear visibility of the inventory they are buying.


Perception: It’s unsustainable

Why? It just isn’t making enough money… Digital advertising is going through a rapid period of innovation right now, and for publishers it can’t come quickly enough. Forced to transition from print to digital to keep up with consumer demand, monetizing online just isn’t as easy, especially as mobile takes up an ever increasing share of consumer browsing time.

This perception (and to be fair, it’s more than a perception, it’s the reality) has led publishers to search out innovative new ways of generating revenue. Safeguarding digital entities and setting them up for a profitable future relies on it.


Perception: It’s annoying

Why? There’s two types of advertising. Valuable and non-valuable. Valuable advertising is useful, it adds something to the recipient’s day. Be it a smile, a helpful hand, a grain of wisdom – the consumer gets some value from it.

Unfortunately, that’s not most digital advertising. The majority of digital ads either interrupt a consumer’s experience or distract them. Videos autoplaying somewhere out of sight, banners flashing from the virtual sidewalks like a discount dollarstore’s facade.

Consumers have become jaded and learned to tune out distractions. However, content isn’t free, it needs to be paid for somehow. Consumers need to accept that, but they shouldn’t have to accept mediocre experiences.

If the advertising industry can address structural problems around viewability and consistent standards, and publishers and advertisers adopt innovative new advertising formats, there’s no reason all three perceptions can’t be turned on their head.

Posted by simonholliday in Coull comment