Mastering Digital, the topic of the last panel discussion at The Future of News 2011 conference, organised by afaqs! in New Delhi on August 4 had panellists debate on the use of digital media forms by firms.
The panellists for the session at The Future of News 2011 conference, organised by afaqs! in New Delhi on August 4 included Anjali Hegde, chief executive officer, Reprise Media (India), Sukiriti Gupta, chief executive officer, MMI Online (Jagran Group), R K Laxman, head, digital business, MCCS, and Pradeep Chopra, co-founder and chief executive officer, Digital Vidya. The session was moderated by Arunava Sinha, head, IBNLive.com and Cricketnext.com.
Why does the digital medium not make money? According to Hegde, the primary reason why digital does not make money is because people are lazy, and suffer from intellectual laziness, and are not comfortable with what they know. "By people, I mean advertisers and media planners. I am saying this, as there is no single person in this conference today whose life is not dependent on the mobile and the e-mail. If digital is very much a part of our life, why is it that you don't make the effort to understand how this medium works, and how it has come to be a one-to-one and such a powerful medium?" questioned Hegde.
Laxman pointed out that over-measurability of the internet medium has also become a liability. "The medium is highly measurable, and lets you know what kind of returns you get on a particular investment. In both print and TV advertising, where the advertiser spends a lot of money, you only get to know/measure the returns after a certain period of time," said Laxman.
"Because of the measurability of the medium, advertisers want to try more of 'lead-generation' campaigns," Gupta added.
Agreeing with Gupta's point of view, Chopra said, "Digital agencies and marketers have overshot the measurability aspect of the digital medium. People expect that for one dollar spent on digital, they will get 1(x) return. Another reason could be that people are not aware or able to figure out the opportunity. For instance, some brands in India are getting couple of million impressions/views on their Facebook (Pages) daily, but they are not leveraging that. Imagine how much money advertisers need to spend if they have to reach the same audience through other mediums," Chopra pointed out.
Laxman further pointed out that in the case of the internet, a brand can run ads on leading websites via ad networks without spending a significant amount, so one does not build the credibility even after advertising on large websites. "Publishers need to be more selective on brands they allow to advertise on their site and should not try to monetise each and every page view they serve via ads, as this will lower their credibility in the long run," he said.
Hegde remarked that if publishers create great content, provide solus positions for advertisers, and offer value and better visibility to brands, they can demand a better premium for the ad. "In that case, you can sell ad space on 'Share of Voice' basis as well, instead of the usual cost-per click (CPC)/cost-per lead etc. basis, wherein publishers are able to sell about 40-50 per cent of their inventory," she said.
Hegde further added that publishers need to create new ad opportunities by figuring out new ad units/formats and should evolve beyond ad units which are there since 1999, in order to provide value to advertisers.
Gupta said, "Though we have one advertising slot on our Jagran website (Jagran.com) home page, and two ad slots on the inside pages of the website and no matter what ad possibilities we offer to advertisers, the discussion always boils down to 'how much', or the 'rate' of the ad unit."
Sinha asked Chopra, whether publishers are in a hurry to monetise or earn revenue, or are there any lessons to be learnt from Facebook, Twitter and Google, who waited many years to build their customer base before monetising their platforms? Chopra replied, that given the competition, drive for numbers is natural, but there is an opportunity in that as well. Publishers need to use different approaches to gain traction. Assuming that news publishers have unique content, they can leverage social media to make news more relevant and personalised. If the news comes to a user as recommended news (from his friend), its value multiplies. Huffingtonpost.com has integrated social media interestingly.
Sinha pointed out that Google's ad revenue is larger than the ad revenue of all newspapers combined in the US. He asked Hegde, "In the Indian context, do you think that media groups -- whether online or not -- have any future, or does the future belong to companies like Google, Facebook and other social media sites?"
To this, Hegde replied, "News as a genre reaches out to about 40 per cent of the total internet population in India. News on the digital medium is not similar to the way you look at news on other mediums. On digital, everything is news. My Twitter and Facebook updates are news. How can you restrict news on news publisher sites? Therefore the definition of news is huge and extremely liquid on the digital medium. That's the reason why news publishing sites only get a small fraction of the spends. Publishers really need to rethink and should try to integrate social media with their news content."
The event was sponsored by STAR News and IBN Live.