Perhaps the biggest challenge for publishers in moving beyond the print replica to a responsive reader experience is how to help their advertisers move with them. The advertisers pay the bills, and efforts by publishers attempting to move beyond the replica often stall trying to get their advertisers on board.
It’s been well documented that the utility of the “digital replica” is in rapid decline; users expect a great reading experience on every screen size, and the pinch and zoom experience of the replica isn’t cutting it. There are two big problems from the perspective of most advertisers:
- Many traditional print advertisers aren’t able to provide responsive, digitally-compelling advertisements to match the content. While the industry figures out the right combination of interactive, banner, native, video, programmatic, etc. that will result in brand success, advertisers that have traditionally dealt in print are stuck in limbo. Staffing up to tackle the latest fad isn’t something many advertisers have the opportunity to do; most will sit back and watch the early adopters figure out the right formula before they dive in.
- Shoehorning print ads into a modern content experience may make advertisers feel like their brand is getting second rate treatment. This varies from brand to brand, but we’ve seen some publishers repurpose full page ads from their print editions only to say “boy, the content looks great, but the now the ads don’t match and we’re worried about how our advertisers will react.”
Bridging the Gap
As the industry figures out how to make the leap, we’ve been working closely with some partner publishers to find a way to ease the transition to digital for traditional print advertisers and agencies. Here’s what we’ve found to work well:
#1 – Multiple Static Assets (that act responsive)
The biggest obstacle for many advertisers is simply that they don’t have the skillset to produce rich digital creative. The single most effective way to help these advertisers has been to ask for multiple static assets which get swapped out at different screen sizes. This gives advertisers a way to show readers a solid result on every device size using their existing staff and processes.
#2 – Leverage Video
Video is all the rage and is the one thing that seems like a sure bet for advertisers in whatever shell it comes in (native, banners, interstitial, etc). We’ve seen very good results with overlaying video on simple static backgrounds to provide a solid experience on every screen. For publishers leveraging video in their editorial content, pre-roll advertising can be a big win.
#3 – Publishers as agencies
We’ve seen several publishers provide creative services to build rich advertisements on behalf of advertisers (and make money doing it). Success here heavily depends on an advertiser’s willingness to trust others to produce creative for their brand; minimally, publishers should expect advertisers to demand several review cycles and a signoff process.
#4 – Bundles
In the long term, separate buys for print and digital advertisements is going to be the most profitable venture for publishers and provide the most value for readers and advertisers alike. The problem for publishers who produce a digital replica today is that it’s set the expectation with print advertisers that they’ll “just be included” in the digital version. A great way to start to divorce print from digital in the mind of the advertiser is to offer bundles which include both a print and digital presence. Publishers can begin by giving existing print advertisers a great deal on a bundle that includes both print and digital placements while also making it clear to the advertiser that print and digital will be divorced in the future. This approach also begins to get advertisers to start mentally assigning a value to their digital advertising opportunities from the publisher.
If you have other ideas, we’d love to hear from you!