Monday, February 13, 2012

A new Pew report on online advertising and news sites

It's a monster, but I found it interesting enough to skim all the way through.

Here's how it starts:

Between 2011 and 2015, revenue from digital advertising in the United States is expected to grow by 40% and to overtake all other platforms by 2016.[1]

Yet how much of that growth will go to underwrite news remains in doubt and throws into question the financial future of journalism as audience continue to migrate online. What will happen pivots in part on whether the news industry can move into the more lucrative areas of digital advertising, particularly using consumer data to target ads, persuading major legacy advertisers to also advertise online and moving into new revenue areas.

A new study of advertising in news by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that, currently, even the top news websites in the country have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online. The digital advertising they do get appears to be standard ads that are available across many websites. And with only a handful of exceptions, the ads on news sites tend not to be targeted based on the interests of users, the strategy that many experts consider key to the future of digital revenue.

Of the 22 news operations studied for this report, only three showed significant levels of targeting. A follow-up evaluation six months later found that two more sites had shown some movement in this direction, but only some, from virtually no targeting to a limited amount on inside pages. By contrast, highly targeted advertising is already a key component of the business model of operations such as Google and Facebook.

These are some of the findings of the study, which analyzed the advertising in 22 different news operations and 5,381 ads representing a cross section of media.

Most of us tend not to be thrilled about being tracked online, but what if your choice was be tracked and have access to lots of different news sites, or not be tracked and have access to fewer independent news sources?


Substance McGravitas said...

I don't mind being targeted and tracked if Google's search engine will stop sucking. AdBlock Plus is lately coming with the text ad option turned on...

Brendan Keefe said...

How has Google's search engine been sucking for you?

That aspect of ABP is more extreme than appropriate, I think. Yes, it would be nice to have an ad-free Web. But I don't see how we have a Web that is both ad-free and free, that has any solid news content. Unless we put a tax on everyone's Internet access account.

Substance McGravitas said...

I need to look at things around the world for work; I've been localized onto Canadian Google so it returns things near me before it returns what I want.

I have discovered that pretending I'm in Latvia gets me better search results: there's nothing in Latvia to get in the way.

I don't know how the internet will shake out; I used to have 4 TV channels, now I can have 400. There's no lack of media, but maybe news is not the internet's thing. And I pay plenty to be on it in any case.

It may be that the internet will work out to be a draw for other media, various sports/media conglomerates use the cheap content to drive people to the expensive stuff.

Brendan Keefe said...

Okay, I do buy that part. I, too, hate the way Google tries to "help" me by giving me the search results it thinks I want. And I really don't like that everyone doesn't get the same results for an identical Google search.

However, I've had more satisfaction since I did two things:

1. Flushed and turned off my search history (

2. Checked the "Do not use personal results" option in Search Preferences (

Not sure if these will stop Google's attempts to localize your results, based on geolocating your IP address. If not, this page looks encouraging.

Some or all of the above may require you to allow Google to set cookies on your machine, which I know is something else you don't particularly care for.

Good luck. Lemme know if you try any of the above, and if it works at all.

Brendan Keefe said...

Oh, btw, I completely cannot accept the idea that "maybe news is not the internet's thing." That just cannot be right. We're doomed, if it is.

Substance McGravitas said...

I live in a commie utopia with a taxpayer-supported public network for radio, tv and internet. They do good work. You guys should get one.

Brendan Keefe said...

Believe me, my brother, I push for one of our own every time the subject comes up. Sadly, that does not sit too well with the Free Market Magic Ponies stampeding around these parts, who point with pride to the US's plummeting worldwide position in connection speed and broadband penetration.

Or something like that. They're a little hard to follow sometimes.

However, my view of the Internet as infrastructure and public good, worth collectively maintaining as much as roads are, doesn't really address the starting point of this post, which is the worry that advertising won't supply enough revenue to sustain substantive news sites.

I am not persuaded that it would be a Good Thing for news to be taxpayer-supported. I am not wholly against it, in the abstract, mind. I think it works pretty well in more civilized countries, as with the CBC and BBC, well enough that I enjoy (freeload upon?) some of their offerings.

However, in this country … eh, let's just say I can imagine you can hear, all the way up there, the howling from the wingnuts about the fourteeen cents we as taxpayers currently give our NPR and PBS. And even worse, I remember that the wingnuts somehow got complete control of the government for six terrifying years not too long ago, and I wonder what it would be like if FoxNews was our only News™ channel.