Getting the metrics right

With the battle for audience attention becoming increasingly fierce and common, measurement standards are the challenge facing publishers and marketers says JJ Eastwood, the CEO Huffington Post Australia.

“Attention in today’s digital world is fleeting, especially for ads,” says Eastwood. “Publishers that can capture such a scarce resource through engaging content and experiences are sought after by brands and their agencies.”

“The paradox is we are pricing and selling ads based on the impression. In that respect almost every ad impression is given an equal value with little to no value going to attention and engagement metrics. Therefore, the big opportunity for premium publishers and advertisers over the next couple of years will be the mainstream acceptance and adoption of attention and engagement metrics across the digital ad ecosystem.“

The digital advertising ecosystem is changing as platforms come to dominate audience traffic, says Eastwood.

JJ Eastwood, CEO, HuffPost Australia

“Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, Facebook’s Instant Articles, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and a big one for us that surprises most people is Pinterest, it's right up there with Twitter in referrals. I think it's surprising people don't seem to think there's a referral story for publishers but certainly it's a big platform for us.

“It's quite interesting. Facebook is pretty general, everything works on Facebook and the same with Google. Where Pintrest lends itself to lifestyle categories and obviously Twitter is a much better platform for breaking news and politics.

“With Twitter, the market has to take a step back and ask 'if I want mass reach and scale' then you don't look any further than Facebook. If you want specific audiences who are on Twitter and active and engaged then there's certainly audiences you can talk to. Twitter has some products coming down the pipeline as well.

“I think there's been a lot of people who've been quick to dismiss Twitter but its still a huge platform with lots of opportunities I think for both publishers and advertisers.”

The paradox is we are pricing and selling ads based on the impression. In that respect, almost every ad impression is given an equal value with little to no value going to attention and engagement metrics.

- JJ Eastwood

Outside of social media, which drives much of Huffington Post's traffic, Eastwood sees video as the next big driver for online media channels.

“The dominant way in which people produce and consume video content is in transition. Video is a format that really resonates with consumers and advertisers and over the next couple of years immersive video and VR will present a whole host of exciting opportunities for both publishers and advertisers. Through our acquisition of RYOT we are already producing 360-degree VR experiences.

“Some of the 360-degree video experiences are phenomenal and they are winning awards, the exciting things is around branded content and I think this will be a natural extension of that.”

Branded content presents opportunities and challenges for marketers and advertisers in today's shifting media industry, Eastwood believes.

“Our branded content, whether it's video or text, has to be good enough to stand alone. It has to engage and be as powerful as anything our journalists will produce.

“There's a lot of confusion between branded content and native advertising. Branded content is produced by the publication on behalf of the client. We need to be clear of the differences between advertorial and content, anyone can do an advertorial. It doesn't take good editorial chops to basically regurgitate bullet points a brand has given you.”

If there's any aspect of today's digital media industry that is being overused, it's retargeting. Eastwood says that while it's a useful tool, it is being misused.

“Retargeting or messaging can be a powerful digital marketing technique that can improve brand recognition, recall and revenue. I believe it’s been oversold.

“Don't get me wrong, I think retargeting is a valuable advertising technique, or strategy, but it's been oversold in a sense that I think advertisers use multiple vendors and it gets really difficult. I think a lot of people are jumping into retargeting without building their brand first.”

Ultimately though Eastwood is optimistic about the changes in the media landscape, particularly in the acceptance of advertisers in experimenting with new ideas and technologies.

“What's kind of refreshing – and challenging – is advertisers are always prepared to do something new which is great. What they are looking for is more creative and immersive advertising opportunities.

"What could be done better is every ad impression or opportunity isn't created equal, it's a really big challenge for the industry in working out what's better. It's going to do involve better education and research to measure effectiveness.

"Most marketers should avoid being distracted by tactics and focus on the objectives and how to achieve those goals.”