What's Next: Brief insights on the path ahead in digital communication.

Are Google and Facebook competitors?

Most people think that Google and Facebook swim in their own lanes and blissfully run a duopoly over the internet and its advertising channels. While its true that these two companies will accrue roughly 60% of online ad revenue in the USA in 2017, the two companies are increasingly competitive with each other. Consider that Facebook has become a leading platform for video (serving, sharing, advertising) in competition with Google’s YouTube. Google’s communications tools (Gmail, Hangouts) have lost market share to Facebook Messenger. Facebook has even evolved its search capabilities, becoming one of the top destinations for image searches. While Facebook can’t challenge Google on search and display advertising yet, we can foresee future incursions on Google’s home turf related to behavioral targeting (across the internet), analytics and even search.

Ad blockers are killing your analytics

Few organizations have dealt with the growing problem of under-reported traffic. Ad blockers block more than ads. They’re commonly configured to circumvent site analytics as well. Given the exponential adoption of ad blocking technology, your site analytics could be missing out on 30% of visitor activity in 2017. This battle between publishers and the web-browsing public has a long way to go. Will leading websites prevent visits from ad-blocking users en masse? Will paid subscriptions become more commonplace for everybody’s favorite sites? We have a hunch about how it will end: two can play the game of blocking. While this conflict plays out, if you’re wondering why your traffic is dwindling and interested in ways to measure all of it, let’s talk.

Rough days ahead for ad-spamming publishers

The rise of ad blockers came as a wake-up call to the digital ad business. A necessary one. Ad spamming on sites arose as publishers tried to squeeze more revenue out of each page. This has deteriorated user experience—at times leading to unusable conditions on leading websites. But the pendulum is swinging back. Google Chrome, by far the world’s most-used browser, will soon release ad blocking for auto-play videos and other types of ad spam. Sure, it will help them solidify their control over the industry. But it will also incentivize publishers to clean up their act.

Less clutter = more ad revenue

And happier users, too. Finally, some online publishers are getting the message. When you remove the click bait and reduce the density of advertising on your pages, your ad revenue can actually rise. This is because users spend more time on such sites while avoiding the ones that devolve the user experience in exchange for a few extra ad impressions. The Wall Street Journal suggests that ad blocking technology arose largely as a result of debilitating ad proliferation. Publishers must solve this problem. And it looks like the tide may be turning. Quality, not quantity, will make the future of digital advertising thrive.

Do corporate intranet sites still have a place?

Yes. And that place is in the background. They still serve an archival purpose, especially if they’re empowered by a useful search tool. But employees aren’t seeking out information on these sites as they did in years past. Smart companies are communicating with employees through well-written (non-repetitive) email. They’re using text messaging for urgent updates. And they’re using creatively-designed, social-media-style posts (in short format) to keep employees plugged into the company culture and mission.

Verizon is up to something (potentially very cool)

The Verizon acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo could lead to some powerful new ad tech in the years ahead. The big checkmark didn’t buy these web 1.0 legacies for their millions of remaining email accounts. AOL and Yahoo had robust digital advertising networks and a lot of targetable data. These assets are now part of the biggest mobility company and one of the largest ISP and TV providers in America. It’s not unthinkable that we might see a digital advertising platform evolve at Verizon that competes with the biggest player of them all: Google.

Is print news still alive?

There’s something squirrely about the latest metrics on print news subscriptions. Pew reports that print newspaper circulation has fallen to a 77-year low of about 35 million. They also report that the top 50 papers in the USA currently get about 12 million unique visitors per month, which seems low by comparison. On paper (if you’ll pardon the pun), this might lead you to think that more Americans get their news through a newspaper subscription. However, one year ago, Pew reported that twice as many Americans get their news online compared with print. So, if you’re wondering what’s really happening with all those print papers getting delivered, you’re not alone.

People still see video ads, just not on TV

Illogically, the cost of TV advertising has risen over the past year while viewership has declined. TV ratings have plummeted by 1/3rd over the past four years. Almost 90% of viewers skip the commercials. And TV still can’t properly measure the distribution and impact of advertising. The smart budgets moved to digital years ago. The question now is: How long will TV remain a force in advertising? As Facebook launches new video content to compete with YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, digital advertisers will have more options than ever for targeted and measurable video ad delivery.

Don’t Play the Odds with Security

There are 1 billion websites in the world. Google bans 20,000 of them each week for hacking. Tens of thousands of websites get hacked each day. Most of this hacking is automated and undertaken by robots, not targeted by humans. Don’t let your site fall victim. Take the necessary precautions: maintain updated infrastructure and software, use monitoring tools, and periodically test your recovery process.

The paradox of digital communication

Want to know the paradox of digital communication? Fail small. Win big. When you test a variety of messages and assets in your websites, social channels and ad campaigns, your audience will rapidly help you optimize the relevance of your outreach. The old school called for a few, carefully-prepared messages to be delivered in bulk to the whole audience. It can work. But it’s empirically prone to bigger fails. Fresh thinking plus a willingness to fail small is today’s strategy for winning big.

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