Neil Ackland runs Sound Alliance – a fantastic business that includes inthemix, Faster Louder, qjump, Same Same, Thought by Them and has a team full of some amazing people.
I’ve known Neil for the past 6 years and have been using inthemix since the start of 2000 (as a younger, probably not cooler person). The rise and rise of Sound Alliance has been fantastic to watch and moving into 2010 they begin their 10th year of operation as one of Australia’s leading online businesses.
I asked Neil what his key areas of 2010 were to watch and he delivered me the following nuggets.
Specialisation: Audience specialist publishers will challenge strongly, taking traffic and dollars from the portals. Advertisers will target more effectively by using specialist publishers and networks to reach their audience. Shespot for mums, First Digital for affluent businessmen and Sound Alliance for youth, are just a few examples of publishers growing audience share, increasing engagement and broadening their audience knowledge, so adding value to advertisers.
Diversification: As digital publishing models are tested in 2010, diversification will be a key growth area for publishers. Specialist publishers have the opportunity to extend their remit to include a range of consumer and business offerings. eCommerce, events, brand consultation, research, content creation and websites are just the tip of the iceberg. Publishers who rely too heavily on advertising are in trouble.
Engagement vs Reach: Reach, the metric predominantly used to evaluate digital media, is so 2009… 2010 will be the year of Engagement. Reach is only part of the puzzle, but not the whole story. Metrics including frequency, session duration and page duration will become more important. Reach figures alone are easily inflated using SEO & SEM or sharing traffic around a network. In 2010 the ABA are planning to establish a recognised engagement metric which gives advertisers a simple comparison tool to identify which sites are truly engaging. Engagement will be top of mind in 2010.
Fish where the fish are: Brands will move away from over-investing in flashy websites, to existing in contextually relevant environments, where their audience already spends time, either communicating or exploring interests. Numerous opportunities exist, from offering content and interactivity within ad units, to developing branded content, to publisher partnerships, editorial exposure, sophisticated sponsorships and integration. This means the role of the digital agency changes from being the best at building flashy websites to being the best at utilising digital channels to have the right dialogue, or message conveyed, to the right people, at the right time.
Bringing sexy back to display: After a decade, medium rectangles and leaderboard banners are still the industry standard. For an industry that supposedly celebrates innovation and change, digital display advertising is still in the dark ages. In order to further challenge other mediums, increase yield and prove that online can build brands, publishers need to embrace new creative formats, and new buying models, that deliver sexy, relevant, appealing advertising.