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Mobile Readers Abound; the Ads, Not So Much

31 August 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Traditional and online publishers are struggling to cash in on their surging mobile traffic, raising questions about their future growth as consumers increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets for media.

News and information outlets ranging from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to Business Insider and About.com all can point to rapid growth in mobile usage. Time spent on publishers’ mobile offerings jumped 40% in the 12 months through July and now accounts for 55% of total time spent on their properties, up from 42% two years ago, according to estimates by measurement specialist comScore.

The problem is that for many publishers mobile revenue isn’t keeping pace—by a long shot—creating what industry executives are calling a “mobile gap.”

Selling advertising on mobile devices is proving difficult: It is hard to show mobile users enough ads, traditional ad formats like “banners” perform miserably, and publishers can’t easily do sophisticated tracking and targeting of ads. These issues extend from publishers’ mobile websites to their apps.

. . . .

More than half of unique visits to The Wall Street Journal Digital Network—which includes the Journal, MarketWatch, Barron’s, and WSJ Magazine—now come from non-desktop devices, but mobile accounts for less than 20% of the network’s digital ad revenue, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)


32 Comments to “Mobile Readers Abound; the Ads, Not So Much”

  1. Never mind the ads they want to use are distracting and cost the user bandwidth (and that hurts if you only get so many gig per month on your plan.)

    So many users will go out of their way to find apps and other ways of blocking those ads.

    • Not to mention ad networks are a top malware delivery method.

      • That said, I believe malware delivery is mostly through Flash, which is no longer supported on modern mobile devices.

        • True, but as I read it, it’ll be even harder to block ads coming through that HTML5 thingy (the old ads were easy to ‘see/block’ because they came with their own third party network addresses — which may be harder to deal with in the new format. A ‘wait and see if it’s really better/worse’ is coming … 😉 )

  2. I am inundated with ads. Now I just skip websites that are more ads than substance.

    I paid extra for my kindle to NOT have ads on it.

    I can’t imagine phone companies allowing ads when customers are paying for a set amount of data each month.

    • (hint, they make even more money when you go over — another reason your provider loves ads … 😉 )


      As my kindle was given to me, I found out the fun way how it’d change its cover to ‘ads’ for books I have no desire to read. I did discover it drops back to the default if it can’t contact the mother-ship for an ad update, so it gets side-loaded and the wireless link stays off …

    • How do you suggest the people developing the content get paid for it, so you can keep getting content to view?

      • The same way anyone else does? By providing something people are willing to pay for?

        And it’s not like there was a lack of ‘content’ before advertising hit the Web. Advertising just made the useful content hard to find in a maze of sites which only exist to scrape from elsewhere in the web to appear high in search results so they could make advertising revenue.

        • “Useful content” is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. I’m talking about news content and professional entertainment content. Yes, it used to be available, with a lot less ads… it was underwritten by print subscription costs.

          Facebook and social media content was underwritten by investors… who now need to be paid.

          Advertising has been pretty ubiquitous on the web for 15 years now. Prior to that, only 20% of the US population even had internet access.

          • If it’s useful… people will pay for it.

            If it’s not, people won’t really miss it.

            It’s not like there’s anything much I couldn’t do in the bad old days in the pre-Facebook era that I do now on Facebook. Just saves me having to put a lot of Cc:-s on my emails, and simplifies my relatives uploading photos for the rest of us to see.

            And, yes, I fully expect the Social Media Bubble to burst in the next few years.

    • @the Other Diana

      All the more reason for the US mobile networks to go to the European model: he who makes the call pays the freight. Costs nothing to receive a call.

      • In this case ‘you’ make the request for the page — if it has ads on it you pay for them as well …

  3. Some site’s ads break their mobile versions. I’ll follow a link and then just back out because I can’t even find the content.

  4. Gosh, it just breaks my heart that they can’t effectively fill my screen with ads and get me to click on them.

    Oh yeah, that’s right. I use ad blocker software, and I have a policy to NEVER click on an online ad and, when possible, to avoid purchasing from companies that sponsor those ads.

  5. P.G.

    I’m not usually known for pure homicidal mayhem…but advertising does make me reach for the Heckler and Koch MP5. Ah the joy of giving an extra set of lips to those lying swine in the one eyed god..


    brendan the peacemaker:)

  6. They’re probaby just butthurt because Apple have announced that iOS 9 will support ad-blocking extensions.

  7. I think this kind of story goes well with the story about amazon underground and the free aps. That even if you give something away for free, people will stop using it if it becomes annoying/distracting/ or otherwise hinder the activity they want to do.

    I have no problems with ads on a website if they are kept minimal, no sounds, and don’t cause the site to take forever to load. Instead some companies websites look more cluttered than an 8 year olds floor. For example when I look at MANY newspaper’s websites I get the impression that they are really an advertising agency with a small side business of hosting a news blog or two.

    I have no sympathy when they complain about the loss of ad revenue. You abused your customers with too many ads and now they are finally starting to see the consequences of it.

    • The flip side of that is with no revenue they can’t pay their writers.

      • The upside is, the Web will implode, as all the sites which exist solely to rake in advertising revenue will disappear.

      • Lots of companies make lots of money without selling ads.

        If your content is good enough people will pay for it. Same concept of the apps and games in the other article. Look at your gaming companies, Nintendo didn’t make they’re money selling you ads while you played Mario brothers.

        If they can’t come to a viable economic model if the ad revenue drops… well no one is guaranteed to make a living simply because they write a blog or an article on a website.

      • One final point, long term. Every business should have a viable model for funding their operation.

        I think the newspapers and newsites giving away all their content for free is coming back to haunt them just like all these “free” games with their in app purchases and tons of ads.

        But when you’d rather have lots of page views in the short term or lots of app users right away and THEN figure out how to make money off of them… I would argue you’re better off making a few dollars a customer with a thousand people vs making NO money off of a million people.

        • Most of the ‘major’ newspapers seem to do little more than regurgitate press releases these days. So there’s little value to their ‘content’, and there’d be no great loss if they shut down.

          What I would pay for is the local news that actually affects me on a daily basis.

          • Or when it is not a press release, its one source “breaking” a story and 200 other websites announce it as breaking news and may or may not mention the first source. So if you do an internet search on that topic you get bombarded with tons of “news” articles that are the same thing just on different sites.

            I think the world will manage to survive without 100 sites for apple rumors and 75 sites for android rumors. And if killing them off means we get to kill ads… I call that a WIN WIN situation!!!

      • @ Big Al

        “The flip side of that is with no revenue they can’t pay their writers.”

        They don’t pay writers anyway. E.g.: HuffPo, et al.

        Harlan Ellison is right on: Pay the Writer, dammit!

        Ditto for Mike Montiero: F*** YOU, Pay Me.

        • I officially put The Atlantic in the podunk category when they didn’t want to pay Nate Thayer, a veteran reporter, for an article of his that they wanted to re-purpose.

          “You’ll get exposure!” said Olga Khazan.

          “Exposure Doesn’t Feed My F**** Children!” Thayer explained.

          In the old days, you were supposed to work your way up to outlets such as The Atlantic, where you’d get paid the big bucks. But as they don’t want to pay anymore, there’s no difference now between them and HuffPo and other content mills.

  8. Ads are a pet peeve. I don’t like pop ups, auto start video ads, or those that slide open after you’ve begun reading an article.

    Banner and sidebar ads are fine. I loathe sites with more ads than content.

    • I feel the same way. I particularly loathe Alibaba ads. They either 1) take over the whole page and start a video or 2) intrude on the text I want to read and take 5 seconds before they give me a ‘Close’ tab. I know nothing more about Alibaba, and I never will, because their adverts are so annoying that I swear I will never buy from them.

  9. The media seems to rock back and forth. Didn’t I just read about how the major media corporations were going to destroy the old Internet where everyone knew each others’ names and would stand on the corner discussing “Buffy”? Now they’re wringing their hands over not earning enough money to keep the multinational media corporations’ doors open.

    • Flashing back to my second internship at a business magazine, where two people stepped into a corner near my desk and began analyzing the latest episode of “Buffy.” I believe it had to do with one of the times she died, and whether or not her father would have to be a cold-hearted SOB to not show up finally.

      So the big dogs think it’s okay to stand in the corner for real, just don’t do it online? Giggle.

      They’ve got to get a clue about ads. Ads taking up the whole page, or freezing the site for several seconds, or running a script that slows the entire browser is exactly the reason I started using ad blockers.

      • It’s not just the scripts slowing the browser. When I briefly had to use a Windows machine at work with no ad blocker, the pages that took thirty seconds to load would usually be ‘stuck’ trying to download some crap from an ad server. After I put a dummy IP address in the hosts file for those sites, the pages I wanted loaded in a second or two.

        Ads are the worst thing that ever happened to the Internet.

  10. There are now mobile ads that AUTO PLAY SOUND. When I’m browsing at work or on the bus, I don’t need your stupid ad blaring at everyone around me. Whatever your content is, it’s not worth that kind of annoyance.

    • You had to remind me of two things from the past …

      The first was I owned a windows 98 gateway system that came with a volume control knob right on the keyboard (bars across the bottom of the screen told you the volume setting every time you changed it.) Imagine my surprise when going to certain sites would bring the volume bars up — and max them out! Seems that site wanted to yell at me, too bad for them I had run the computer audio through my entertainment center — so no sound unless I wanted there to be …

      The second was a comic I’d seen that I pinned right next to my dilbert comics at work (dell at the time.) It showed a no-walls office with lots of people looking over at one guy. his monitor faced the wall (no one behind him) so they couldn’t see what he was looking at, but his speakers were blaring out: “Thank you for visiting the first ever sex site with sound!” 😉

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