Pam Horan is president of the Online Publishers Association, which represents quality online publishers to advertisers, press, government and the public. Her prior experience fuses technology and publishing. Before landing at OPA, Pam was vice president of marketing for Zinio Systems Inc., which sells print magazines in virtual form online via single issue or subscription. She has held executive positions at International Data Group, Symantec, and Women.com.
The Makegood: What is the biggest issue facing digital publishers right now?
We take a look at the role that different online environments play: portals, social sites and media sites. The content that appears on media sites provides deeper connections than those consumers make on social sites like Facebook. Why that’s important is there is a brand halo that exists for marketers whose brands appear on those media sites vs., say, Facebook, because there’s a different type of trust consumers place on that content. We’re encouraged by the shift we’re seeing in marketing dollars from what has historically been very much tied to direct response marketing to delivering brand messages online.
The Makegood: What are the most promising new revenue streams for publishers?
Display advertising will always be a significant revenue stream but publishers are exploring many new revenue streams and innovative ways to connect with new audiences and find ways to potentially offer products that the consumer will fund in a different way – a subscription model or single payment. In addition to subscription models, we see publishers investing more in exploring opportunities in the ecommerce area. For example, you may have heard that Hearst announced a plan to make Kindle Editions shippable through links on Amazon. Also another area of exploration is daily deals. Some of our members such as TheStreet have very successful events businesses. A&E has an interesting gaming app in association with a pawn store broker. There is definitely exploration to identify potential revenue streams that could complement advertising revenue, which will always be a significant revenue stream.
The Makegood: Should publishers form their own private exchanges to sell premium advertising via real time bidding?
Many members of OPA have established their own private exchanges, including CBS, Conde Nast, and Gannett. There are a variety of publishers very active in establishing private exchanges. If we look at CBS and Conde Nast, they’re examples of companies that don’t work with ad networks. What they’re doing is exactly what you’ve described. If you want access to premium inventory, you will work with us [directly] or via the exchange. There is the control publishers will have on inventory. It provides opportunity to reduce any channel conflict. I think we’ve got a group of publishers who are in the process of implementing and strategizing around this. It will be interesting to see what type of inventory they are able to move through that and what kind of premium they will be able to command.
The Makegood: Many in the industry have criticized the “last click” method of attribution for online advertising. What would be a better method, and what can the industry do to hasten its adoption?
Yes, we set ourselves up ten or 12 years ago when we talked about how the Internet is the most measurable medium. There was a great deal of excitement and we thought the click was the right mechanism to do that. Over time, [we’ve come to appreciate] the reality of the fact that the click is a great metric if you’re measuring direct response, but the platform has evolved and more partners are looking to use this as a branding opportunity. Branding is more about building a relationship with a customer over time, not about getting the consumer to click.
Several years ago we released a study “The Silent Click: Building Brands Online.” It looked at consumers who were exposed to certain brands and the next month the brands they searched on or brand sites they visited. The average click through rate was less than 1 percent, but we were encouraged [because we] built in latency and found the numbers were [much higher in the sense] that those individuals who were exposed to brands went and visited those brands’ websites. There are better ways for marketers to capture impact, in particular as we think about branding. A lot of companies establish their own measurements.
Whether it’s a survey or building in their own media mix modeling, the industry is getting smarter about it. We have quite a bit of progress to make. The 3MS – “Making Measurement Make Sense” – that the IAB, ANA, 4As and also OPA is involved with – is ultimately about establishing metrics and cross-media metrics and assessing the viewable impressions and will get us closer to where we need to be.
The Makegood: How do your members feel about current government privacy standards? Do they go too far, not far enough, or are they just right?
The publisher has a unique direct connection to the consumer. Privacy is paramount. The basis for the relationship the publisher has with the consumer is trust. The publisher takes that very seriously. We are very active in participating in the Digital Advertising Alliance’s self-regulatory program, and we worked hard to make sure there was comprehensive adoption of everyone in the ecosystem being accountable. We worked very closely with the Federal Trade Commission and were encouraged the FTC recognized the unique relationship publishers have. They clearly distinguished that online advertisers should not include first parties, and contextual advertising should not be included, which is the majority of advertising that OPA publishers serve. We feel it’s important that we offer consumers transparency and choice, and universally the publishers are very much committed to that.
The Makegood: Thanks, Pam.
*Note: Interview has been edited and condensed.