Media sites don't use tools for online advertising effectively

Broadcasters, newspapers and print magazines are not using the tools available to them to maximize online digital advertising to news sites, and apparently they are suffering as a result.

Results of a study released this week by the Pew Research Center Project looked at 22 news sites and 5,300 digital ads. The study viewed six television outlets, 11 newspapers, four magazines and two online-only sites and focused on premium digital ad placements.

“One of the great challenges that faces the financial future of journalism is, how can you begin to charge more for digital advertising?” Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Pew Center told the “New York Times.” “The gold dust of the Internet will be consumer information.”

Twenty-one percent of the ads seen on news sites, Pew found, were for the company’s own products, such as subscriptions. The second-largest category of ads was for financial services companies. Ads for consumer packaged goods were even less.

The winners, meaning those that used the most user-focused technology, were Yahoo, The New York Times and CNN. Fox News, The Washington Post, The Economist, Time, The Los Angeles Times, ABC News and The Atlantic, on the other hand, used very low levels of the technology to measure digital performance.

Whatever today’s performance, digital advertising is expected to continue to grow. Between now and 2015, revenue from digital ads in the U.S. alone is expected to grown by 40 percent. It is expected overtake all media platforms by 2016.

Yet, how much of that revenue will underwrite news remains in doubt and throws into question the future of journalism—including television—as audiences migrate online. A comparison of CNN’s television site versus it’s online sit revealed that for TV the top three ad categories were motion pictures and television, insurance and telecommunications companies. On, they were financial ads, toiletries and cosmetics and job search.

The study found that most of the news sites did not feature ads targeted to consumers based on their online behavior. Also, news organizations tend to rely most heavily on static banner ads.

Rich media ads that make use of techniques like popping up in the screen or animating the content in the ad are rare on news sites. So too are video ads, one of the fastest growing types of ads on the web.

EMarketer predicts video advertisings will increase 43 percent in 2012 while static banners will grow just 18 percent and is expected to level off as consumers are drawn to newer, more eye-catching formats. Yet static banner ads remain the style most prevalent on major news sites.

None of the sites studied produced video stories as one of the top five on the days studied. Therefore, there were no actual pre-roll video ads (those embedded inside video stories). Instead, the video ads that appeared were standalone. Since the study, Yahoo News created a content partnership with ABC News, which included plans to feature more video amid Yahoo News’ top news stories and reports are that ABC’s viewership has soared.