News of the demise of traditional media may have been greatly exaggerated it seems, often by the digital media. We see today that there are very good reasons why digital media has failed to dominate the advertising world as it was supposed to have already done. Increased use of ad blockers, falling ad and click-thru rates, digital fraud costing billions, the fallout from “clickbait” and thinly disguised native advertising strategies seem to have all tarnished the online experience, and advertisers have taken notice. Add in the fact that people of all ages still enjoy leisurely flipping through magazines and bonding with their Smart TVs, and the uncontested dominance of digital media seems shortsighted.
An oft-overlooked fact is that – while online traffic is rising, the corresponding digital advertising revenue is not enough to support the production of quality content. This discrepancy is giving rise to a new trend – websites partnering with traditional media, specifically television, for engaging, high value content like video. If you are not Facebook or Google, which account for more than half of all digital advertising revenues in the U.S., then traffic numbers without corresponding ad revenue growth cannot fix the content problem. Currently, websites are still looking to attract the lucrative big brand advertisers that television has been able to draw in for years, and still does.
Direct response advertising like classified, coupon codes and other take-action-now advertising is popular online, yes, but is not as lucrative as big brand advertising. A recent article on the subject titled, “Traditional Media to the Rescue” states: “ad-supported digital publishing becomes a game of ever-cheaper content strategies. It’s a business, just not the one that many people with big media ambitions wanted to be in — or one that supports the valuations investors have on digital media.” The article also lists big name websites such as Vice, Mashable and Twitter, that have made moves to create the television-like video content that will attract the big bucks. The lesson is clear: mediocre content will not support high value advertising in any medium; it’s quality content creates an environment for the big spenders, and today’s digital media simply cannot afford to pay for it.
Not only are digital media companies turning to traditional media, but marketers are quietly shifting dollars away from digital media back to traditional. According to an article in Adweek, this may come as a surprise to agencies who are still expecting the shift towards digital to grow: “Some 34 percent of marketers said they will increase spending on traditional media in 2016, while only 19 percent of agency respondents expect that to happen.”
In other words, even at the agency level – there appears to be a substantial gap between the prevailing opinion and underlying truth. Digital is hands-down the lead story in the rapidly shifting consumer entertainment pantheon, no doubt. However it appears that the early digital adopters may be stumbling upon an inconvenient truth. It’s possible that just as VCRs and DVDs did not put cinemas out of business, that a newly-shaped media world order is taking place in real time – one that is not so quick to name digital its uncontested king.
Whether the millennials or the ad agency elite are ready to hear the news, it seems that digital media has a long way to go before it takes over the world.