The Future of Publishing and Advertising

No one knows exactly when the first advertisement was published on a printing press. We do know: In 1609, a British newspaper published an ad for migration opportunities to America. For hundreds of years, ads and print went hand and hand. Then came the Internet. AT&T was the first to pay HotWired to display the first ever online ad; a 468 x 60 banner that came to life on October 25, 1994.

Do you remember the days of explosive CPMs? Many people long for those times – before rates for traditional banner ad plummeted just as the market crashed from 2000 through 2002. These banner ads couldn’t support those rates because low click-through rates (CTR) and conversions didn’t justify the spend. To find ways to make online ads justify premium prices, publishers have had to experiment with all kinds of formats, including all intrusive full-page overlays to the content the reader is after. This still wasn’t the answer any one was hoping for.

There have even been attempts at changing the nature of print ads. Everything from CBS embedding a video screen into an “Entertainment Weekly” magazine to creating ads that you place your iPhone over to make the rest of the ad “come to life” like this example from AXA.

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Then along came Steve Jobs (I wish him a quick return to health), and the introduction of the iPad.Nearly 15 million iPads sold this past year. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) seemed to be a lot about iPad accessories or iPad “killers” and the nature of consuming content is changing dramatically. And as part of that change, it seems that advertisements have changed as well.

While many magazine publishers are still struggling at grabbing subscription revenue from their iPad digital magazines, a recently completed study by Alex Wang, Ph.D., on behalf of Adobe is showing the effectiveness of ads placed in these digital magazines. Participants in the study who saw the interactive ads had stronger engagement, message involvement, and attitude than participants who viewed the same static ad in a print magazine. Participants who engaged with the interactive ads also perceived stronger interactivity than the participants who saw the static ad. It is easy to speculate that higher ad interactivity could generate higher brand awareness.

All this interactivity combines the best elements of consuming printed content with the Web’s full interactivity. Best of all, the tracking of metrics is built right in. Now publishers and advertisers can find out how people really are engaging with their ads and content. This is why a software company like Adobe acquired Web analytics company Omniture; it saw where publishing was headed and how all this fit into Adobe’s Publishing Suite. Next step, Adobe just acquired audience optimization firm DemDex.

Matt Langie, an Adobe senior director, told PaidContent: “Audience optimization, which we define as putting all of the data that a publisher collects and matching it to an advertiser looking to reach a specific segment of those users, is the key driver of online advertising’s growth.”

It won’t be long until advertisements in digital magazines will be personalized based on a reader’s past participation with content and ads, location, time of day, etc. Might this also be where book publishing’s future is headed? Perhaps there will soon be interactive books that are free but supported through targeted advertisements or additional embedded content? The future is always interesting.

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