February 12, 2012
Who Advertises on News Sites and How Much Those Ads are Targeted
"Between 2011 and 2015, revenue from digital advertising in the United States is expected to grow by 40% and to overtake all other platforms by 2016. Yet how much of that growth will go to underwrite news remains in doubt and throws into question the financial future of journalism as audience continue to migrate online. What will happen pivots in part on whether the news industry can move into the more lucrative areas of digital advertising, particularly using consumer data to target ads, persuading major legacy advertisers to also advertise online and moving into new revenue areas. A new study of advertising in news by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that, currently, even the top news websites in the country have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online. The digital advertising they do get appears to be standard ads that are available across many websites. And with only a handful of exceptions, the ads on news sites tend not to be targeted based on the interests of users, the strategy that many experts consider key to the future of digital revenue. Of the 22 news operations studied for this report, only three showed significant levels of targeting. A follow-up evaluation six months later found that two more sites had shown some movement in this direction, but only some, from virtually no targeting to a limited amount on inside pages. By contrast, highly targeted advertising is already a key component of the business model of operations such as Google and Facebook. These are some of the findings of the study, which analyzed the advertising in 22 different news operations and 5,381 ads representing a cross section of media. Researchers compared website ads to the advertising in legacy platforms. They also measured the level of ad customization online by having different researchers visit the sites at the same time. In addition, the report also contains a companion report by Professor Joseph Turow of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication that offers a primer on digital advertising."