Editor’s Note: Josh Jaffe is the VP of Business Development at VigLink. As a former journalist, there is no better person to tell the story of the intersection between consumers, digital media publishers and advertisers. This article is adapted from a popular talk he often gives at conferences when asked to speak about VigLink’s business today. Find him at @joshjaffe or email@example.com.
The digital media industry is grappling with two big shifts. One of those changes began ten years ago and has had serious implications on monetization and user experience strategies. The other – which is beginning this year – could be more truly disruptive and change everything that publishers currently hold sacred from content creation to distribution to monetization.
I saw a harbinger of the first shift to hit the media industry firsthand In 2002. Based in London, I was a foreign correspondent for a financial magazine called The Deal. My beat was European innovation. One night, I attended a product launch near Haymarket where a series of booths were set up. When I approached the first one, there was music playing and written instructions to hold my phone up and text the numbers two five eight zero. About 60 seconds later, I received a text that read: Elton John, Tiny Dancer. It was Shazam’s launch party. And it was the first time I began to understand the power that the mobile device was about to have on the publishing industry.
Since then, the time people spend each day on their phones has increased from less than an hour to 5.6 hours, according to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report. Of all the mediated time people spend in front of a screen each day, 51% is with their phones as opposed to a laptop, desktop or tablet. That’s up from 12% in 2008. Everyone in digital media is aware of this shift. Despite that, the mobile monetization gap remains stark. While 25% of consumption is occurring in mobile environments, it makes up only 12% of the revenue. And on the technical side, there are no easy answers for publishers grappling with questions around responsive sites, iOS and Android apps and mobile data policies.
An even bigger shift than the desktop to mobile is coming. Consumption is increasingly shifting to social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That’s where the audience is. Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, speaking earlier this month at the i2 conference predicts that 90% of attention and consumption will occur on centralized networks (social platforms) in three to five years. And the networks are accommodating this change. Facebook launched Instant Articles in May. Snapchat’s Discover platform is in high demand. Google and Twitter are cooperating on their own initiative to enable direct social publishing.
The implications of this shift on content creation, distribution and monetization are enormous. In a world where 90% of a publisher’s content is consumed off site, the need to have a native advertising program that monetizes content wherever it is consumed will be paramount.
That native ad strategy could take many forms and must be tailored to the nature of each specific centralized network. Content on live streaming platform Periscope would be very different than what is created for an image oriented site like Pinterest. One common thread across all the social platforms is the link. The actual hyperlink in the text, image or video could be an intentionally placed buy button, a content recommendation or a more subtle in-content link. Whatever form it takes, it is portable and moves with the content.
Last December, NiceKicks, a men’s lifestyle site posted a link on Twitter to the page on Nike.com where the Air Jordan 11 shoe was available for purchase. This was a highly coveted restock of a shoe that had not been available for years. Within 24 hours, that link on Twitter was clicked on 72,000 times, yielding nearly $500,000 in sales for Nike and almost $50,000 in commissions split between NiceKicks and VigLink, which NiceKicks partnered with to affiliate that link. That’s the power of influence, audience and the link.
The amazement I felt at Shazam’s launch party continues today as I see so much innovation in the media space. As the industry continues to grapple with the challenges and opportunities posed by social and mobile shifts, it’s important to remember that the link lives on across platforms and devices. The link is the most native ad of all.