Mail Online wants more readers to access its content from apps so that they can’t block ads appearing alongside articles.
The publisher is exploring alternative ways of pushing content to readers not only to improve reach but increasingly ward off the threat of ad blocking. While estimates of ad blocker use worldwide is neither insignificant or massive (yet), it’s a threat that has publishers worried over what safeguards they need to protect their shifting commercial models.
“It’s [ad blocking] very minimal for us,” commercial mobile lead Lauren Dick at Millennial Media’s Digital Upfronts (22 October). “It only affects certain browsers and a lot of our of our content is actually within apps.”
And more of its content looks set to go the same way. The online publisher has just released a tablet app alongside an update to its iOS version, with the Android option to follow next month. In-app ad blocking can occur but its technically hard to do, which is why most services sit on desktop or on mobile browsers. For the Mail Online, the move seems more like a temporary solution with other publishers like City AM calling for a more a collaborative approach to making ads between media owner, agencies and brands.
“The more we can do to move our users to the environments that we want them to be in and whether that’s our own properties or whether that’s Facebook, Apple or Snapchat,” said Dick. “We’re willing to be in all of those environments that means it’s out of browsers and out of the danger zone.”
It forms part of Mail Online’s wider effort to generate more money from ads sold on mobile devices. More vertical videos and a broader programmatic offering are underway to help address the issue and curb slowing digital revenues. Digital ad growth slowed to a 16 per cent rise in the 11 months to August, down on the 49 per cent spurt the previous year.
Dick said “vertical video is a big push for us” that’s driven by its work on Snapchat. The ephemeral app is asking advertisers and media owners to shoot ads vertically, and the Mail Online, through its Truffle Pug tie-up with Snapchat and WPP is beating the drum too.
The publisher has already hosted vertical video ads for the new James Bond film Spectre as well as for several brands, a clear departure from the usual practice of reusing ad creative first designed for TV’s landscape screen. In vertical videos, Mail Online sees a chance to lift the value of its inventory on mobile, where CPMs are usually lower and the ability to host more ads reduced because of the smaller screens.
“Anything where there’s that discoverable type of content then mobile is the first port of call," said Dick on a panel at Millennial Media’s digital Upfront yesterday (22 October). “That’s where we’re seeing big growth in our inventory in that sense. We’re also looking at how we can enable different placements.”
A key reason for broadening its inventory is to move away from hosting campaigns optmised for performance. Like other publishers, Mail Online wants brands to see it as a place to build brands and achieve business targets at scale, specifically through its programmatic offering, which is being rapidly expanded. Video, due to its popularity among readers, is seen as the most lucrative way to do this with Mail Online working to bring it closer together to programmatic.
Dick said: “I think there’s a bigger job that we can do with driving that brand engagement and making sure that video content is delivered and then underpinned by a programmatic strategy. We’re working all the brands that we partner with to develop how the two can work in tandem rather than silos. They’re much more joined up when they’re on a single platform such as ours where we can easily pick out different elements of both and have one feed the other.”