Online business site Quartz warns publishers to ‘hold strong’ on mobile yields

Joy Robins address the INMA World Congress

Joy Robins address the INMA World Congress

The head of revenue and strategy for online business publication Quartz is calling on publishers globally to “hold strong” on their yields on mobile, despite an explosion in ad inventory as mobile audiences rise.

In a presentation to the International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress, Joy Robins argued many publishers did mobile advertising badly and were at the same time underpricing themselves.

“We haven’t been willing to negotiate,” Robins said, revealing they charge the same CPM for mobile as desktop. “I think a lot of people saw demand fall and audiences rise and decide – based on supply and demand – to lower their prices when you see too much supply.

“What we did was hold strong, even when demand wasn’t high. We knew this would be an effective medium and the result would prove that and so we stuck to our pricing model and we’ve seen people adopt that easily.”

Robins chastised many publishers for disrespecting the reader in the mobile platform and failing to create advertising that suited the more “intimate” user experience.

“Focus on quality, create experiences people want to share and stand by your pricing,” she told the room.

“There is no question the media industry is changing and evolving more quickly than before. In the face of all this change publishers need to go through a complete change of mindset and behaviour.

“Quartz was built from the perspective that the world was going to change and that we were going to have to change with it in order to thrive.”

However, the Quartz executive said many businesses weren’t making that mindset shift.

“Advertisers and publishers aren’t really built to deal with this and so making the shift is hard.

“As publishers we basically just tried to jam our desktop screens into a mobile screen, as well as our advertising experiences. They were not designed for the mobile mindset and while people were spending more time there on mobile they were doing it in shorter bursts.”

Robins said instead of focusing on apps and inventory publishers must first nail the reader experience.

“The question now isn’t how to create a mobile native app, or responsive site, it is how to create a destination,” she said.

“When we talk about being a ‘mobile first’ publisher there are definitely perceived challenges – its a smaller screen size – but to fully take advantage of the opportunity you need to take advantage of the mobile mindset.

“The mobile is probably one of the most intimate places you have access to someone in.

“But to appeal to that you have to recognise what’s different about the mobile space: firstly don’t try and ‘fake’ high quality experiences.”

MobileRobins posted a number of examples of what she saw as bad mobile advertising.

“What do I mean by that? Here is a Forbes story that talks about respecting mobile users but then puts an ad over the content over the bottom of the screen,” she said.

“Is it any wonder this user took to social media to complain about it?

“What we did on mobile is actually to create larger ads, ones that pushed down or invaded the space and experience. That helped us bring back our CPM level.

“But what it created is a feeling that someone is yelling at you or interrupting your overall experience.”

She also criticised the repurposing of desktop advertising arguing that to get an appropriate premium ads needed to be custom made for mobile.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 1.03.21 pm“Taking a desktop unit and simply importing it to mobile with no regard for touch swipe technology is a way of creating ineffective ads. You can engage people in a more powerful way.

“We don’t have standardised ads which can be a challenge from a sales point of view… When it comes to mobile we only do custom which means we have control over the user experience. With our desktop and tablet ads are all Html5 responsive and in the best cases advertisers let us control the difference between all those screens.”

Quartz itself is only three years old with Robins admitting it had yet to achieve profitability.

“Our business model is media, we do do some events and I’d say 95 per cent of our revenue is advertising. We would have been profitable in 2015 and could have been but we decided to forgo profitability in favour of investing in the product.”

Nic Christensen in New York 


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