Digital Publishers: Facebook's Mobile Problem Is Your Problem, Too

Many in the industry have watched with interest (and perhaps a bit of schadenfreude) as Facebook shares have plunged to under $27. Obviously, multiple factors have contributed to some of the luster coming off this once glistening object, but a significant factor has to be concerns over Facebook’s ability to monetize its growing mobile user base through advertising. But here’s the thing, digital publishers: mobile monetization isn’t just Facebook’s problem; it’s your problem too.

If anything, the publicity around Facebook’s mobile challenges brings to light what has become a very open secret among digital publishers – mobile isn’t a great advertising business. And it won’t be any time soon, either.

Rapidly changing consumer behavior has turned mobile into a massive media platform, with over 1/3 of US online adults owning 3 or more connected devices (typically a PC, smartphone,  and tablet), going online multiple times a day, and from multiple locations – a segment Forrester calls the Always Addressable Customer. This is a tremendous opportunity from a content perspective – publishers can now engage audiences essentially whenever and wherever they are by building mobile apps galore and optimizing their websites for easy, on-the-go mobile and tablet consumption. But monetizing those content assets is another story altogether.

Sure, US mobile display ad spending will eclipse a billion dollars this year, and network players like Millennial and Google will continue to reap the rewards. Meanwhile, traditional content creators will struggle to find and deliver scale – a complaint we often hear from media buyers eager to engage mobile audiences. If this sounds like a repeat of the history of digital advertising, it’s because fragmentation and lack of scale is true for almost every media innovation.

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The Forrester SSP Wave Is Now Live

Forrester clients can see the research here.

It’s been a couple years since SSPs (and their buy-side cousin DSPs) were truly the rage in ad tech investor circles; nonetheless, they remain more relevant for their clients than ever as monetizing indirectly sold inventory continues to challenge digital publishers. The 6 vendors we reviewed – Admeld, AppNexus, Doubleclick ADX, Pubmatic, Right Media, and Rubicon Project – are by no means new to this game. Still, we were astonished at how quickly these vendors and enhancing and expanding their product offerings – even over the course of the Wave process. With that in mind, here a couple of key observations on the SSP landscape that will lend some useful context for the report:

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Publisher-Side Ad Technology Continues To Garner Investment

I’ve written before on the relative dearth of investment in publisher-side ad technology – at least compared to the VC windfall recently bestowed upon buy-side start ups – but my prior complaints are quickly becoming outdated. Look no further than yesterday’s news that ad server OpenX raised $20 million to support its continuing development of a platform geared for premium digital publishers. I recently got a chance to demo the new OpenX platform and found that they are doing some interesting and useful things around the integration of exchange-based selling and audience data into the core ad serving environment. Still, normally such news wouldn’t merit a (rare) blog post from me, but the particulars of this round of funding highlight a couple broader trends that are going to deeply affect the sell-side over the next two years.

 ·         The publisher ad server wars are heating back up. DoubleClick’s DFP still dominates the enterprise ad serving market for publishers, but smaller vendors like OpenX are beginning to make inroads with up and coming publishers and in emerging advertising markets (especially in Asia). It’s going to take a lot to get a publisher to rip out the core of its business by replacing its ad server, but the pressures of managing new, complex products (e.g. audience targeting, exchange-based sales) across more channels (e.g. video, mobile, and tablets) will make this a consideration for many publishers. This trend has already hit the market as publishers have turned to specialized ad servers like Admeld and Rubicon Project (for exchange-based sales) and FreeWheel (for video).

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Adobe/Demdex Deal Is Big News For The Interactive Marketing Technology Ecosystem

Earlier this month, Forrester published a report on audience data management platforms (DMPs) for digital publishers. It’s a testament to the rapid pace of change in this space that our outlined vendor landscape is already somewhat outdated. Last week, Adobe announced the acquisition of Demdex, a pure-play data management platform that’s been gaining traction with both publishers and advertisers. This is the first of what I believe will be multiple strategic acquisitions of DMPs in 2011. Forrester will have much more research on data management platforms and the evolution of media buying later this year, but first a few thoughts on what this acquisition means for the interactive marketing ecosystem:

  • Data management platforms are more than just a shiny new object. Data-driven media buying is real and -- barring regulatory Armageddon -- there’s no turning back for digital advertisers and publishers. The addition of data management platform capabilities to the Adobe online marketing suite does much to legitimize the space and bring DMP technology to a wider client pool.
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Calling B2B Marketers For The 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards

As per Josh Bernoff's earlier post, it's that time of year again and  we are now accepting entries for the 2010 Forrester Groundswell Awards. After so many impressive entries in 2009 , I'm happy to say that the B2B category will return to the awards this year. While consumer marketers might get all the love from the trade press, I know that many B2B marketers are producing amazing social media marketing applications. This is a great opportunity for B2B marketers to show that they too create great social marketing programs that generate actual business results.

So how do you enter the Groundswell Awards? The hard part comes first: you'll have to have launched a great social marketing application in the past 12 months. Then read Josh's post and (this is very important) the Groundswell Awards rules. The deadline for 2010 entries is August 27, but submit early so the Groundswell community can vote on your entry. B2B award winners will be announced online on October 28. I can't wait to see the submissions!

Takeaways From The Yahoo! Investor Day: The Focus Moves To Display Monetization

I spent last Wednesday at the Yahoo! investor day conference in Silicon Valley where Yahoo! execs outlined the future of one of interactive marketing's largest players. Yahoo! spent a large part of the day on its content and audience, touting its efforts in customization, mobile, and social integration and demoing a slick and creative web-based email client for the iPad. It was nice to see Yahoo! show off some content innovation, but what I (and I suspect many of the financial analysts in the room) were really interested in was Yahoo!'s approach to advertising and its revenue projections. That's not to say keeping and growing its audience isn't key to Yahoo!'s advertising offering. Yahoo! is as close as the web has to a "must buy", TV-scale property and that in and of itself is a strong incentive for media buyers to keep pumping dollars its way. Still, the future of Yahoo! as well as the broader online media industry isn't just about obtaining the largest audience, it's also about effective monetization.

Yahoo!'s own projections bear this out. Let's take a look at some numbers presented by Yahoo! CFO Tim Morse:

That +4-5% number labeled as "volume" is what Yahoo! expects to get from its content and user experience initiatives. The +6-7% that Yahoo! labels as "yield" is all about monetization. Yes, scale and audience engagement are going to be significant contributors to Yahoo!'s revenue growth, but even more important will be convincing marketers that an ad on Yahoo! is worth more than it is today. Some of this will come simply as the economy turns around and demand for advertising grows. Still, it's going to take more than just passive efforts from Yahoo! to hit its projections. So how can Yahoo! do this? I see two core components:

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My Key Takeaways From The Forrester Marketing Forum

I’ve had a few days to catch my breath (and catch up on email) after the Forrester Marketing Forum in Los Angeles and I’m finally in a position to reflect upon what was an exciting and informative few days on the west coast.  A few key takeaways:

  • B2B marketers are dedicated to social and have a lot to learn from each other. I had the pleasure of hosting a one day workshop on B2B social marketing with colleagues Peter Burris and Peter O’Neill. Technology marketers have dominated past workshops like these, but I was thrilled to see clients from a diverse array of B2B industries in the room, including financial services, pharmaceuticals, travel, manufacturing, and marketing services. It was a great, active group and what impressed me most was how attendees related to the pain points and best practices of other attendees in the room. Dealing with government regulation was a hot topic and it wasn’t just financial services and pharma marketers who had something to share. Although some regulatory bodies create more difficulties or ambiguities than others (I’m looking at you, FDA), B2B marketers can learn a lot from each other when it comes to creating a social strategy and building an organization capable of navigating regulation.


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B2B Interactive Marketing Spending To Hit $4.8 Billion by 2014

Forrester’s five year forecast of B2B interactive marketing spending has gone live on the Forrester site. This report marks the beginning of a chain of research for interactive marketing professionals at B2B companies. It should be no surprise that B2B interactive marketing spending continues to grow – and quickly at that. We project B2B interactive marketing spending to hit $4.8 billion in 2014, over double an estimated $2.3 billion in 2009.

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