Paywall Fever; Programmatic Agencies Find Niche With Direct-To-Consumer Brands

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Membership Has Its Privations

A paywall and digital subscription craze has swept newspapers, magazines and new media companies in the past year, but many “will soon realize the size of their ‘real audience’ and will soon realize that they don’t pass the ‘value for money’ threshold,” writes Om Malik, a partner at the VC firm True Ventures. Combined with Amazon, popular music streaming subscriptions, Netflix, HBO and more, there’s good reason to worry about a subscription saturation. More at Malik’s blog. Subscriptions can also have unexpected consequences for advertising. Sometimes subscribers shift to an ad-free experience, for instance, and the loss of a publisher’s most loyal and often most valuable audience could drain its CPMs.

Live Ad-Free Or Die

And speaking of subscriptions, Bloomberg reports that there is internal debate at Facebook about the possibility of an ad-free subscription model. There isn’t much to go on, but the company has studied the option in the past, and “now there’s more internal momentum to pursue it,” due to privacy scandals for Facebook advertising. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during his Congressional hearing last month. If Facebook did offer an ad-free option, it wouldn’t be over press controversies but streams of users identifying advertising as a reason for abandoning the app. More.

New Dogs, New Tricks

Independent, programmatic-native agencies are finding success with startup ecommerce brands (the next 400 Warby Parkers), a blind spot for traditional agencies. “If you think about a marketing manager at a giant company like Pepsi, he or she has their finger on this faucet of ad spending,” Sam Appelbaum, head of YellowHammer Media, tells Mike Shields at Business Insider. “But they don’t live and breathe the company. They really don’t care.” When ecommerce products make good, it’s often on the strength of the company’s data-driven ad plan. Traditional agencies often don’t go after brands that might go under, but smaller programmatic agencies can do very well in that risk-reward scenario. More.

Measuring More

NBCUniversal is partnering with iSpotTV to help marketers measure outcomes on their network spend. Ad buyers will be able to set their KPIs, whether that’s increase in web visits or direct sales, and iSpot will measure to that goal. But NBCU won’t guarantee results or promise makegoods if KPIs aren’t met. “We’re not ready yet to shift to an outcome guarantee,” Mike Rosen, EVP of NBCU’s advanced advertising platform, tells The Wall Street Journal’s Alex Bruell. “We need to analyze data over time with clients and agencies to jointly understand how to best apply it to the current transactional ecosystem. You need to date your data before you marry it.” More. Related: Hear CEO Sean Muller on the AdExchanger Talks podcast.

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