Media, technology and metrics pose challenges for publishers

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The media world must come to grips with new technologies that help advertisers better understand reader behavior, according to participants in a panel earlier this month at the New York Technology Council's conference entitled “How Analytics and Data Are Changing Media.” All the panelists agreed: It has not been an easy process. “We know that advertisers shouldn't advertise by channel but by content,” said Justin Webster, executive director-product development and operations at The Wall Street Journal. “But measuring performance across platforms is a challenge for publishers. “At [parent company] Dow Jones, we're responsible not just for printing the Journal but also putting content on the website, tablet products and mobile,” Webster said. “We have great new products launching in the next few months; but we always lag the launch in getting measurement back from it, and that's scary.” Balancing advertiser commitment across channels is also fraught with uncertainty. “Each of the new channels requires measurement in support of ad sales,” said Gregg Liebman, senior VP-ad sales research at CNN. “It's a challenge to demonstrate the value of ads on these new devices and not have these new platforms cannibalize traditional media, especially when you don't offer the same premiums as with your TV products. “I don't want to get bogged down too much in new, exciting digital media and lose my focus on the big picture. We're still a TV-driven medium.” Advertisers are clamoring for faster results with measurement data, said Leslie Darling, senior VP-digital innovation at Kantar Media Intelligence; but accuracy may suffer if the data are collected superficially. “Where do you dance on the line, making sure the data that comes back has a sufficient sample behind it and is demographically distributed correctly?” Darling said. “We're trying to come up with additional platforms to get data back to clients fast and in a format that can speak to the tools they're developing to filter out different segments.” The clash between digital and TV was summed up by Liebman and Webster as one of faith versus measurement. “The metrics issue is a smokescreen for a cultural issue,” Liebman said. “It's easiest to put a lot of dollars into TV ads; you don't really have to justify that. Our advertisers are asking why they should support new products and services they're not familiar with. They're risk-averse.” “This is a topic we have all the time, especially with online video,” Webster said. “There is a measurable element to online media where we know an awful lot about our customers. In many respects, we know a lot more about our customers viewing our content in any given minute that broadcasters know about their viewers.” Liebman agreed: “Online, you know exactly who's exposed to a particular ad, rather than just an average profile,” he said.
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