The Third Choice for Digital Investment

By USA Today Network Archives
Cover image for  article: The Third Choice for Digital Investment

Earlier this month at the 2017 Digital Content Next annual meeting in New Orleans, there was a lot of talk about the duopoly affect that Facebook and Google are creating in the industry.

Many in the room, USA TODAY NETWORK included, work with Facebook and Google as valuable platform partners helping us reach new audiences, grow engagement with existing readers and help us search for potential and burgeoning new revenue streams.

Over the past two years, Facebook and Google have built fast, mobile experiences (Instant Articles and AMP respectively) and are now hosting our and other leading publishers' content on their platforms. We have learned a lot from our experiments here, too -- including the importance of ad slot positioning on mobile article pages, speed of loading content in the user (and advertiser) experience and new ways to configure the design of mobile pages to maximize impact.

Yet hovering like an albatross over all of the dynamics between publishers and the platforms is data (from Morgan Stanley, Pivotal, DCN) that shows that Facebook and Google are now projected to receive somewhere between 85-100% of digital ad spend growth.  That is crazy.

Yes, both platforms have obviously proved to be effective for performance-based, direct response advertising -- some of which is due to mobile instream "component-based" ads, which use Multi-Armed Bandit testing on three components of the ad: thumbnail/image, headline and copy.

But great journalism created by premium media companies fosters a relationship and context with a reader that can drive elements and advertising for a brand that they, Facebook and Google, simply cannot equal.  We also believe that the same core science that drives performance for component-based ads on both of these platforms can work even harder for brands in the trusted, relevant context created by great journalism and storytelling.

At USA TODAY NETWORK, we believe that we, as creators of great, trusted journalism with local to national relevance, deserve to be the third meaningful choice to an advertiser's investment online.  And we are setting out to prove that out in Q1 2017 and beyond.

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