In a New York Times column published May 8th, David Carr explores the world of advertising on tablet devices. The article discusses the recent decision by the Audit Bureau of Circulations to include digital subscriptions in the calculations of rate-base, and the response by some brand advertisers that they are not willing to “simply go along with the assumption that a digital subscriber should count the same as a paper one.”
This raises an interesting point about the assumed value of a subscriber based on the channel. What's more important is to understand the value of an audience and how effective a channel is for reaching that audience rather than simply knowing the number of subscribers.
There are three basic measures of value for advertising:
· The audience: Do you know who is seeing the ad?
· Share of voice: How much is the advertiser’s message competing with others on the page?
· Engagement: Did the consumer interact with the advertising or take action as a result of it?
Pricing is driven by value. Whichever media channel scores higher across these dimensions is going to deliver more value and command higher pricing.
If the tablet versions of popular publications don't provide insights into the audience and engagement, don’t expect pricing to be higher in the long run. You’ll see some higher prices in the short term due to the novelty effect of a new ad format, but the pricing won’t be sustainable if advertisers can’t ultimately measure and determine the true value.
Where tablets can bring a significant improvement is in improving the share of voice and quality of the advertising. Until digital ad formats are evolved sufficiently to equal the experience (and therefore the engagement) of high quality magazine and TV ads, they will lag in value and pricing.
The critical question for advertisers to ask is how effectively a specific channel or publisher will allow them to reach their audience. Without that information all of the subscribers in the world won't make a campaign a success.