Gravy CEO Point of View: Closing the Mobile Gap for Online Publishers

I was reading a Wall Street Journal piece published on August 25, 2015 entitled Mobile Readers Abound, the Ads, Not So Much which describes the challenges online publishers are having driving mobile ad revenues despite their surging mobile traffic.

My reaction to this piece was, Say WHAT?

The author, Jack Marshall, points out, “The problem is that for many [traditional news] publishers, mobile revenue isn’t keeping pace—by a long shot—creating what industry executives are calling a “mobile gap.”

Publishers mentioned in the piece cite the following reasons why mobile ad revenues are lagging:

  • Traditional ad formats don’t work well: squeezing in ads for mobile users is hard
  • Desktop tracking mechanisms don’t work well on smartphones and tablets
  • Targeting is difficult due to lack of data on their users (vs. Facebook, Google, and Twitter)

How can this possibly be? 

Publishers have the solution to these problems sitting right under their noses—their mobile apps.  Why is it that they’re not recognizing it?

First, let’s talk formats. Yes, banner ads have performed poorly in mobile, in part due to limited real estate, in part because they’re inherently best for brand building vs. direct response.  But push notifications, for example are a great solution to this problem—if they contain personalized offers and are delivered at the right time to the right user.

Next, Tracking.  Mobile is perfect—way better than desktop—at anonymously tracking where users go and what they do in their daily lives, giving publishers and their advertisers two advantages: they can know what users are interested in and care about for personalization and targeting; they can precisely attribute foot traffic and purchase results from the campaigns they run.

Finally, Targeting/Lack of Data. Really? Because publishers can create anonymous location data-driven profiles of their app users based on the local events they attend and the places they visit every day, they can build the most conclusive, predictive targeting data available—far better than tweets, posts, or check-ins. And because users have their devices with them all the time, they can target users anytime and anywhere, when they’re most likely to engage and convert.

Let’s apply these concepts to a “problem” noted in the article–

“It is now common for a retailer to deliver ads to a person’s desktop computer promoting, say, a pair of shoes that the person viewed online but didn’t buy. Doing that on a mobile device is significantly harder.”

Wrong! In this example, that retailer can (through a publisher’s app or their own): 1. know how to personalize an offer to the person based their profile; 2. directly push that offer to them immediately after cart abandonment or better yet, deliver the offer to them as they physically approach one of the retailer’s brick and mortar locations.

So, yes, there is a “mobile gap” for publishers and advertisers, but small device size, an inability to track and target, and a lack of data with which to do so is a fallacy.

The solution is real and ready to go. Are you?