exchange4media, along with the BBC, had organised a round table conference on ‘The challenges for monetising news online’ on November 19, 2010. The panel consisted of industry experts such as Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar UM; Atul Hegde, CEO, Ignitee; Mahesh Narayanan, Country Manager, BD, Google India; Arunava Sinha, Head, ibnlive.com and cricketnext.com, Web18; Luke Bradley Jones, EVP, Managing Director, BBC.Com, and James Montgomery, Director of Digital Content, BBC World News.
Commencing the discussion started by Luke Bradley Jones remarked that he had been in the market for around 12 years and pointed out that this market was very different and vibrant than other markets. “One of the challenges for the digital media is monetising this space,” he said. Sharing some figures, he said that the digital advertising sector was roughly $200 million and nearly half of that was on search, while the remaining 60-70 per cent was on voice led direct response advertising. The remaining bit was for the display sector, which was not a very large amount for such a massive market. He further said that the market for display was growing rapidly. The ad revenues in the US for Q3 grew by 17 per cent on Y-o-Y basis and there was a serious migration of budget.
Jones also shared some interesting data and said, “The tablet sector is quite exciting for us as it is the most engaging medium of all. An average user of video online is 3-4 minutes, whereas the average user of video on the iPad is 30-40 minutes and the level of engagement is high.”
He also added that the transition from TV to online in most markets took a lot of time for both consumers and advertisers and he wanted to know how one could ensure that the transition from traditional media to mobile happened quickly.
Nandini Dias also agreed that the mobile medium was exciting and one could see the enthusiasm with the advent of 3G and the kind of changes it would bring in. As of now, there had been issues other than willingness to advertise. She added, “There is a disconnect between the kind of advertising the advertiser wants to do and what the operator is capable of doing.” Currently, the mobile companies are busy in acquisition and there is a potential market for this if they get organised.
Arunava Sinha pointed out that IBN Live had launched its applications three weeks ago, and while it was too early to talk about numbers, they wanted to look at these platforms for advertising revenues as well, but that would happen only after they had a substantial user base.
However, Atul Hegde from Ignitee, felt that clients looked at a digital piece as one entity and that was still too small a pie. “Once that grows, clients will then migrate to different devices. Overall, it is too early to segment the digital piece,” he said. He added that their focus was to get more clients in this space and as of now, they didn’t define it as mobile as display or search and that they clubbed the entire offering under the digital tag.
Google’s Mahesh Narayanan explained how the journey had changed over the past few years and spoke about how in the year 2002 they had to go out and justify to advertisers that people actually used the Internet. However, today when he talked about mobile advertising to clients, there was acceptance that there was a critical base that existed.
Sharing some insights, Hegde noted that in India, the first genre of online advertising that was successful in terms of returns was IT products and financial advertising and it was transaction related and one used to pay for leads. He compared that to the current situation where 90 per cent of all their campaigns were non-lead campaigns, something which was unheard of two years ago.
Narayanan pointed out that the entire industry was 3 per cent of the total advertising pie, which was spread across search, mobile and other digital media. Talking about the big spenders on the digital media, Hegde said that certain categories such as FMCG were spending on Social Media and then they migrated to other digital media. They were spending on social media to direct traffic to other digital media, he added.
BBC’s James Montgomery stressed that content did matter and consumers were more likely to search for particular brands as it was all about choice. He mentioned that BBC was the world’s largest broadcaster, it had 65 international bureaus and there was always an audience who wanted all that.
BBC.com’s Jones concluded by saying that one had to find value within that mixed environment of premium digital display and that there were signs of encouragement not only in mature markets but also in growing markets.