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The New Mobile Display Ecosystem report, published by Econsultancy in association with OpenX, explores the latest trends in mobile advertising and looks at what the future might hold.

The report, which includes insights from more than 20 industry leaders, explores the impact of increasingly mobile-centric consumer behaviour on different stakeholders within the marketplace.

This article is focused on how publishers need to adapt to the rise of mobile.

For many traditional publishers, moving from print to desktop was a challenge. Migrating to an ever more complex landscape is equally challenging, but can be as richly rewarding for the companies that do it right.

Part of this strategy shift is the concept of going ‘mobile first’ and developing content with smartphones, tablets and readers primarily in mind.

That’s a radical shift for many content owners, but with mobile usage surpassing desktop for the first time ever in 2014, publishers are working hard to take advantage of the opportunities.

Firstly, some stats taken from the report. Only the internet itself surpassed the massive growth in mobile advertising adoption since its inception.

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), from 1996 to 1999, internet advertising grew at an astonishing compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 159% in its first four years. 

Mobile grew nearly as quickly; 123% over its first four years, from 2010 to 2013. Even television advertising – as disruptive a technology as any – only managed a 98% CAGR in its first four years.

So, mobile advertising is huge, growing and here to stay. How big is it? In 2012, mobile measured as an ad format took 10% of a £5.45bn overall market in the UK, according to the IAB. A year later, mobile formats sucked up 16% of a £6.3bn market. 

With all of this in mind, it is imperative that in today’s market, publishers understand the new mobile landscape, the advertising technology driving innovation in the space and how smart content owners are monetising their properties.

Although publishers are starting to build competencies creating unique content and experiences across screens, it is still challenging to translate those efforts into mobile advertising revenue.

According to Sam Finlay, head of digital advertising at IPC Media, building a mobile culture is critical for publishers: 

A lot of publishers are realising that you can’t really put mobile first if it’s just lumped in with other inventory which is part of a network sell. There will be more engagement if mobile is taken out of the aggregated pool of inventory.

Publishers are often initially attracted to the cost efficiencies of the network rather than managing it themselves which is more labour intensive but higher margin. As a publisher, it’s your brand and your audiences, so it makes sense to own it.

Mobile publishers that own video content now have an exciting opportunity to capture broadcast and spot television budgets, and new digital video networks and exchanges are leading the charge in scaling the marketers’ ability to access mobile video audiences.

While many agree that the mobile video opportunity is massive, there are real challenges to migrating mobile ad spending to the ‘small screen’:

  • Mobile video pre-roll and other units do not enjoy the 100% completion rates of unmeasured broadcast television.
  • Repurposed television content does not always work for certain mobile sites, where content is consumed in shorter bursts.
  • Bandwidth (free through the airwaves and inexpensive through cable providers) is expensive through mobile devices.

Tim Cain, managing director at the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), said:

It's all about serving content in a seamless way on any device the consumer wants to read it on, which is why more publishers are adopting a mobile-first strategy and using responsive design to create flexible content output that gives the user the best device specific experience.

It's a skills challenge and and investment challenge but essential as the premier device becomes mobile rather than treating it as a bolt-on experience.

Publishers also need to consider how traditional video and interruptive advertising medium can impact the consumer experience.

Mobile users are just a thumb-click away from another app or utility, so mobile publishers need to balance the use of video content with the overall functionality of mobile websites and applications. 

According to Andrea Marsh, digital director at Factory Media:

Consumers also want content consistency between devices. They don’t always want a short watered-down service just because it is on a mobile. I think that publishers should be thinking about summarising articles but still give the options of viewing the whole thing.

As more and more users move to mobile devices, a mobile-first content strategy should be considered.

That said, mobile video advertising provides a compelling experience that the ubiquitous, small and overly commoditised display ad cannot.

Video ads can convey emotion, tell stories and connect with consumers in a way that display advertising and most of today’s native executions cannot, and thus command larger prices.

Publishers may want to consider whether less video monetisation may create a more engaging overall mobile experience than one that features ubiquitous display ads.

Although it’s early stages in the state of mobile advertising, the experts agree that it’s almost too late for advertisers and publishers just starting to look strategically at mobile.

Mobile expertise must be part of an organisation’s DNA and successful companies will lead with mobile when considering future revenue initiatives.

However, all is not lost. There are great rewards for companies that can create technology to close the much-quoted Mary Meeker gap (shown below) and enable marketers to reach consumers where they are spending their time.

Meeker Chart Mobile Ad Spend Growth

See this post about our new Cross-Channel Marketing Report for Econsultancy's UK version of this much-referenced chart. 

For further insights, download the New Mobile Display Ecosystem report, or check out this blog on what the future holds. 

Ornaith Killen

Published 12 August, 2014 by Ornaith Killen

Ornaith Killen is part of the Econsultancy research team.  Follow on Twitter @ornaithk.

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