From Ad Blockers to Wearables, What Newspapers Need to Know About Digital in 2016

By: Adreana Young
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All Things Digital

Newspapers have been preparing for digital in many ways, but in 2015, digital took center stage. As we begin a new year, topics like ad blocking and podcasting will still be in the front of every publisher’s mind, but how concerned should they be about drones and connected car technology? To help, E&P has compiled a list on what you need to know about digital in 2016, right from the mouths of experts and your newspaper colleagues.

Ad Blocking Technology

Ad blocking dominated the news last year with mixed reactions. Ray Faust, vice president sales, emerging media for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said they tested a “blocking the blockers” strategy for eight hours one day in October. The trial resulted in the Star Tribune’s website being whitelisted by 50 percent of ad blockers. Whitelisting is when ad block users enable specific sites to not be blocked.

But Faust admitted that blocking the blockers isn’t a long-term solution. It’s more complicated than that, he said. Ad blockers were able to bypass the Star Tribune’s code and re-block the ads. Faust explained there are three primary reasons users utilize ad blockers: intrusive ads, privacy concerns and the user experience.

Going forward, Faust said all eyes will be on mobile ad blocking. Although there hasn’t been an issue with ad block on mobile yet, it can be prevented by mobile phone providers who regulate data usage fees for users.

Big Data

Big Data continues to make strides in 2016, and according to Andrew Lipsman, vice president, marketing and insights at comScore, he’s never been more excited about the possibilities of data and the business of journalism.

“It seems like we’re finally moving in the right direction,” he said about monetizing online data metrics.

Last year, some feared that mobile was eating up the desktop audience, but Lipsman said that wasn’t true. Desktop audiences have largely remained the same, but mobile audiences exploded, meaning digital audiences are growing, not being spread out over different platforms.

In 2016, Lipsman said the key to increasing costs-per-thousand impressions (CPM) prices is to have targeted ads with impact, good viewability and free from fraud, or non-human traffic.

“Good quality inventory will increase in value,” Lipsman said. “By optimizing ad inventory and yield, publishers can get the ad dollars they deserve.”

He said being able to understand your data, including your audience and how they interact with content and ads, will account for some of the best innovation in 2016.

Connected Car Technology

Connected Car Technology

Connected cars will continue to make waves in the automotive and technology industries in 2016. When E&P first covered revenue and reach potential of connected cars last year (ow.ly/WqG4a), it was more of an idea than a working practice. But according to Garter, a leading information technology research company, by 2020, a quarter billion vehicles will be equipped with connectivity abilities. While still in the beginning stages, it’s important for publishers to connect early on with this new platform.

Drones

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s the local newspaper!

According to Matthew Schroyer, executive director of dronejournalism.org, the FAA is preparing to announce new regulations for drones that would change licensing requirements, from having to acquire a pilot’s license (which can cost $3,000 to $4,000) to only needing to pass a knowledge test.

“The new rules mean you have to know the air space,” he said.

These new regulations would allow cash strapped newsrooms the opportunity to utilize drones for reporting, taking photos and videos. Schroyer said drones have the ability to take high definition photos, video and produce 10 times better quality maps than Google maps.

Drones
Matthew Schroyer, executive director of dronejournalism.org and PSDJ vice president Ian Hannah with a DJI Hexcopter at a 2013 conference in Toronto, Canada

Facebook Instant Article

Internationally, Facebook’s Instant Articles has more than 350 publishing partners, promising them faster load times and richer engagement on mobile. But after publishers voiced concerns that Instant Articles made it too difficult to generate advertising revenue, the social media giant made some changes that allowed for more ads. This was a big win for publishers on the distributed content front.

Micropayments

Micropayments (or pay-per-article) strategies might soon see an uptick in usage as the Dutch online news platform, Blendle, heads to the United States this year. Currently, Blendle works with more than 100 Dutch, German and Belgian publishers.

Alexander Klöpping, Blendle CEO, said he believes micropayments will become common place for longform, opinion and analysis type articles, but not for the daily news.

“I don’t see micropayments as a replacement for subscriptions. I see them as a way to monetize casual readers and make the step to subscriptions easier,” said Klöpping. “For the more special journalism, micropayments are a great way to foster a deeper relationship with the reader.

“Because of the transaction costs, you need to use a wallet system to make micropayments work. Thus, my most important piece of advice is: don’t do it by yourself,” he continued. “Micropayments only work if multiple publishers share one single system: one registration that works for everything. That’s why iTunes succeeded and the record companies failed in all building their own iTunes.”

Pay Meters

Publishers will continue to move away from a hard paywall model and more toward a metered paywall. In 2015, Tribune Publishing Co. opted for a metered paywall strategy, offering readers a limited amount of “free” articles per month before being asked to pay for a digital subscription. This allows premium and unlimited access to paying subscribers while not cutting off potential audiences that haven’t yet subscribed.

PeriscopePeriscope

For Michael Shepherd, Bangor (Maine) Daily News statehouse reporter, Periscope, the live streaming app, is a simple way to connect with audiences. The app allows him to stream press conferences, get sources on record and provide transparency.

The free app is user-friendly and only requires a smartphone. Simply turn on the broadcast function on the app and followers can see in real time what the reporter is filming. Periscope also has a location function, to allow users to see where you’re at and provides interactive capabilities for audiences to connect with the reporter.

“I see it as a no brainer,” Shepherd said of using the app. “It lets people into this world that they weren’t ever allowed into.”

Podcasts

The momentum of podcasting doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. The audio medium has created an opportunity for publishers to connect with younger audiences, discover new revenue streams and provide mobile-first strategies for newspapers.

According to Edison Research, 23 million U.S. podcast listeners are 18-34 and 64 percent of podcast listeners have bought product they heard advertised on a podcast. From 2006 to 2015, the percentage of people who have ever listened to podcasts tripled, and, according to Tom Webster, Edison vice president of strategy, the medium’s steady growth will continue into 2016.

News alert Push Notifications

Sometimes the only way to get the attention of readers today is to light up their phones. What better way to do that than with push notifications (or news alerts) appearing on their phones. According to recent reports, push notifications have an opt-in rate of more than 65 percent (ow.ly/WCDPO).

Personalized push notifications would allow publishers to send notifications to readers based on location, time and activity. This would enhance the user experience by not bombarding audiences with news alerts while they’re at work or otherwise unavailable. Instead, publishers could target audiences for the best times to send the notifications.

Robot Journalism

At the Associated Press, the human staff members have been able to focus on bigger projects while their non-human colleagues have taken over the responsibility of writing routine business and sports stories. Automated reporting (otherwise known as robot journalism) might be the most practical and strategic move for the AP and other publishers to freeing up resources for more involved or complicated stories.

According to Jim Kennedy, AP senior vice president for strategy and enterprise development, after using automated reporting technology, the AP increased their story output from around 300 to 400 business and sports reports to 3,000 to 4,000 a quarter, and they saw a drop in inaccuracies.

Snapchat

According to a comScore report, Snapchat is the third most popular app for millennials after Facebook and Instagram.

The Washington Post uses its Snapchat account to allow readers to go behind-the-scenes. Ryan Kellett, digital audience editor, said they use the social media tool for breaking news and for event, such as a recent chat with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“We were also among the first to use it for breaking news by capturing the Baltimore riots on Snapchat,” he said. “Overall, we were very early to the game in getting established on Snapchat and believe in using it when we have something visually interesting to share.”

With the launch of Snapchat Discover last year, the app now allows content from brands and media partners to be viewed by the highly-targeted 18-to-34-year-old demographic. Last month, the Wall Street Journal became the 19th publisher and the first U.S. newspaper to join Discover.

moments copy

Twitter Moments

In October, Twitter launched its Moments feature, a live stream of curated news items on the social media platform. As a result, publishers working with Moments can now have their news featured as trending topics. This can build an even wider audience for publishers already on Twitter.

At the time of the launch, media partners included Bleacher Report, BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly, Fox News, Mashable, the New York Times, Vogue and the Washington Post. In December, Moments launched in the United Kingdom with 18 publishing partners.

Virtual Reality

In 2015, the New York Times partnered with Google on a virtual reality project, where more than a million subscribers received a Google Cardboard headset in order to view its VR film “The Displaced” in the New York Times magazine. The film is the first of a series of VR films the Times plan to release.

Although VR makes for a great storytelling tool, there is also potential to bring in advertising dollars. For example, animation studio ReelFX recently filmed VR commercials using 360 video, creating a VR holiday shopping experience for retailer JC Penney. It also created a recruiting ad for the U.S. Air Force. Check them out at ow.ly/WqJFA.

Guardian app copyWearables

From watches to eyewear, wearable technology is a chance for publishers to find new readers and users outside of the printed world. Launched last April, the Apple Watch allows publishers to send alerts to your wrist for quick, “glanceable” news items. To prepare, the Guardian launched a Moments feature in its app, created specifically for Apple Watch.

Google Glass is another wearable device that has potential to change the industry. At the University Of Southern California Annenberg School Of Journalism, students have been testing its journalism abilities. They developed a “real time audio knowledge engine” app called Google Genius that brings up information in the Google Glass about the subject being discussed. To see more of their work, visit glassjournalism.io.

Published: February 15, 2016

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