Thursday 29 September, 2016

The marketing world has been through some tumultuous times in recent years, particularly with the digital transformation. 

Brands have had to adapt and find a way to navigate the mobile world to reach and engage new audiences. Marketers and communications professionals have had to quickly learn how consumers interact with new platforms, while also learning from the steps and missteps of others trying to reach them. It’s virgin territory.

Data has been key to all of this. There have recently been three important sets of findings  – the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, Pew State of the Media and Columbia University Tow Center for Digital Journalism – which have uncovered valuable data on consumer behavior around the world.

These trends show a continuation of the shifts we’ve seen in recent years. All content creators have to accept the ongoing challenges, particularly as a handful of platforms become dominant, and as multitude of new channels give us more creative ways to tell stories.

The most important findings are:

Facebook is the dominant network for news.

Facebook has nearly double the number of news users than second-placed YouTube. YouTube is top in Japan and Kakao Talk is level in Korea.

What does this mean? We cannot ignore Facebook. The algorithm is constantly changing, but there is an unwavering emphasis on content that your friends are liking and sharing. It’s not enough to collect Likes on your page. Unless users are liking and sharing your posts, your content won’t breakthrough.

Half of global media consumers are doing so on smartphones.

53% of those involved in the Reuters study say they use a smartphone to access news each week. Smartphone users tend to read more of the news, more frequently, and use the most data.

This means we need to adopt a mobile-first strategy. Marketers need to create experiences that are “digital native”, by designing with mobile devices and behavior in mind.

Social media is the main source of news for young people.

According to the Reuters report, 46% of all global respondents use social media for news each week, almost double the figure from 2013. Nearly a quarter of millennials say social media is their main source of news.


We are moving away from the homepage/landing page era and being fully immersed “in the stream”. Content will live within each individual social media stream – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Stand-alone content created for mobile channels first is essential in reaching customers. A website is great for archiving your creative or showing off goods, but the age of people finding sites on their own is over.

Older generations still rely on TV news, but that number is shrinking.

It’s no surprise to learn that TV is still the primary source of news for the 55+ demographic. What is interesting is that a quarter of this group considers digital to be their main source of news.

TV buying is increasingly ineffective and inefficient way to reach your target demographic, especially if TV content is not part of a multi-platform strategy.

Video news is growing (but not as quickly as expected)

The large majority of people still mostly rely on text for news (78%) and news video consumption is highest in the United States (33%). Efficiency of reading and an annoyance for pre-video ads or content were cited as the main reasons for this.

To best understand this, we each have to consider how to convey our message. Sometimes text with an image is exactly what’s required. Video requires time, effort and skill, and may not be the best way of getting your target market.

Ad blocking is going to be a boom business.

Ad-blocking adoption among consumers ranges from 10% in Japan to 38% in Poland. The UK (21%) and the US (24%) are somewhere in the middle, but both figures are expected to rise as a third of respondents expect to use an ad-blocker on their smart phone.

Mobile ads as we know them won’t survive. Rich, immersive experiences that inform or entertain will. Consumers are only going to engage with things they find interesting or useful.

More people prefer an algorithm to an editor for news.

There has been some discussion recently about Facebook’s decision to move from human editors to algorithms based on your own personal reading history. 36% of respondents to the Reuters study preferred to have their stories delivered this way, rather than based on the judgement of an editor (30%).

Online consumers are demanding increasing control over what kind of content they consume. This may well have implications for paid-for advertising, putting further risk on the platforms to fine tune their offerings, or risk alienating would-be customers.

digital marketing

Recognition of news brands on social media feeds is declining.

In English speaking markets, only a third of those interviewed were aware of which news organisation was behind the stories they discover in their feeds.

There has been a significant loss of control in the environments in which brands’ messages show up, and so there is greater pressure to make sure that individual pieces of content gain greater engagement and positive attention.

We’re comfortable with targeted advertisements, as long as they’re clearly labelled. 

Less than half of people interviewed feel sponsored content on news sites is labelled clearly enough.In the US and Canada these ads are well accepted, but in Korea and Germany there is far greater skepticism. Disclosure and trust are paramount.

The highest acceptance rate is in the U.S. and Canada, least accepted in Korea and Germany.

Mobile ad spending is leading the way

Spending on mobile advertising now tops $32 billion, but according to Pew State of the Media, almost two-thirds of this goes to Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Twitter. Only 5% of local TV advertising revenue is from digital, and it’s just 25% for newspapers. While mobile ad spend is starting to catch up, money is now flowing into display ads.

Why? Ad blocking, viewability, ad fraud and poor creative all play a part. We can do far more about the latter and create content that drives engagement.

Only 5% of local television stations’ advertising revenue is from digital, newspapers’ digital ad revenue is 25% of the total…but falling in absolute terms.

Re-edited from a piece by Vivian Schiller, editor in chief and head of Mediaco in North America at Weber Shandwick.