According to WAN-Ifra only 2.2% of newspapers’ revenues come from digital platforms, which might come as a surprise to fans of digital media. Why is it that print on paper is still so attractive to advertisers, despite the burgeoning social media numbers?
To understand this one has to look at the basics of what makes ads work. They work when people are paying attention to their content and engage in the dialogue that occurs between advertiser and reader. According to IPC Media, every Euro spent on a magazine ad yields an average return of €1.4. This is real money coming from the engagement with print that happens in all its forms, from billboards to classifieds. As John W. Seybold once said “print speaks to us uniquely and patiently” and this means that the space wherein advertiser and reader communicate is private, and yet the process is common to all the other readers of an ad. This should be the same for online ads and yet somehow it is different, noisier, somehow too busy.
Digital ads do not speak to us uniquely or patiently. Rather, they invade that precious space between content and reader because they come unbidden and intrude. Oddly they fail to reach us in same the way that print ads do, so it’s curious that online advertisers try to mimic print advertising rather than coming up with something more distinctive.
The numbers are not encouraging for ad supported sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Global online advertising revenues grew 22% in 2011 but this is from a relatively small base. And online readers disinclined to accept online ads can exclude them, something which, inserts aside, is impossible with a printed ad. According to the Economist newspaper, 9% of browsers used to view online pages have dedicated ad blocking software. The most popular tool is AdBlock Plus an open source (free) tool that has been downloaded 180 million times since it was introduced in 2007. It blocks bits of pages so that they don’t get downloaded or displayed, excluding ads that companies have paid to have delivered via browser to readers. Not so much a value add as a pointless waste of money.
AdBlock Plus works in a couple of ways. One way is check the source addresses of HTTP requests, scripts and Flash files and block them, so that they do not appear in the browser window. AdBlock Plus can also use automatically generated user stylesheets. This makes it possible to hide certain page elements as they load.
Unlike printed ads, with digital ads users can control whether or not an ad reaches them. Therefore these ads have considerably less value than their printed equivalents. When it comes to getting messages delivered to where they need to be, and of course to getting a response, print has a clear edge.
– Laurel Brunner