Nick Blunden is global publisher of Economist Digital, overseeing all commercial aspects of Economist.com, including the ongoing development of The Economist online as a digital media brand and community. He spoke to eMarketer’s Ellen Oppenheim for the eMarketer Media Voices series about the best practices the UK-based brand has developed for marketing across multiple channels, including tablets.
eMarketer: What is The Economist’s overall share of revenue between advertising and subscriptions? Does the percentage differ for your digital vs. print products?
Nick Blunden: Broadly 50% of our revenue comes from circulation and subscription, about 40% from advertising and sponsorship, and about 10% from other activities. If you look at the digital editions of The Economist and Economist.com, it’s slightly more weighted in favor of advertising—about 70% advertising and 30% circulation and subscription.
“We’ve learned people will pay for a combination of content and experience.”
eMarketer: What other forms of revenue are growing for you?
Blunden: For The Economist core business, we are experimenting with ebooks and things like The World in Figures app, a print product that we’ve moved into digital and offer on a paid download basis. We’re also experimenting with app singles, where, rather than just taking the weekly cut of The Economist content and putting that into a digital edition, we take a vertical slice, for example, around innovation, and put together our best content to use as a revenue-generating opportunity, either as a sponsorship or as a paid-for download. At the moment those are not huge revenue streams, but they could become significant going forward.
eMarketer: What are you learning through this experimentation?
Blunden: We’ve learned people will pay for a combination of content and experience. The content we put into individual app singles is available online for free, but, if you put it together into a nice package that people can download and use on their iPad or iPhone, it creates enough value for the consumer that they’re willing to pay for it. Paradoxically, the web, which has unlocked this huge wave of available information, has made editorial curating and analysis even more valuable.
eMarketer: What have you learned so far about digital advertising that you’re sharing with advertisers?
Blunden: We are seeing average recall rates of about 70% across a wide category of advertisers, from financial services through luxury through aviation, and we’re getting engagement levels of 20%-plus on average. The canvas is extremely rich, so we encourage our advertisers to think very creatively about how they want to represent their brand.
When I look at campaigns that have run on the digital editions of The Economist, we were very proud that the Avis “It’s Your Space” campaign won the digital media award for advertisement of the year in the UK. The ad uses the motion-detection capability of the iPad to change the way you interact with the device, which is a lovely way of exploiting the iPad’s rich potential.
eMarketer: What have been the biggest tablet and smartphone advertising challenges?
“One of the surprises is the degree to which people say that the advertising adds to their experience or doesn’t distract from it.”
Blunden: On one level it’s around education about full-page, interactive advertising. We have to educate people about how that works—from a results perspective but also just the fundamentals of how you execute it, how’s it served, how’s it bought, etc.
There’s also a challenge around assets. Clients say, “I’d love to advertise in your digital editions, but I just don’t have the assets.” We have to be able to help them with that problem, and we have an in-house team who can create the assets for clients. Often, the client’s creative agency will not produce assets specifically for tablets and smartphones.
eMarketer: From the consumer side what’s been the most challenging and successful aspect of your tablet and smartphone apps?
Blunden: One of the surprises is the degree to which people say that the advertising adds to their experience or doesn’t distract from it. There is a challenge, however. There are advertisers who would like to load extremely heavy files into our digital editions, which we won’t allow them to do, because it impacts download time. You want willing engagement with the advertising, not to end up with people who feel trapped.
We’ve developed a set of best-practice guidelines that help in creating a compelling advertising experience without detracting from the experience. For example, in print you can do a multi-page spread, but we encourage our advertisers in our digital editions to keep the page spread to a maximum of three pages. Or, in some apps it’s possible to get stuck because the ads take over the complete screen, and there’s no way of swiping or tapping through to the next piece of content. We have very specific advertising requirements about where the interactive portion of the app is and where the portion of that app that is for navigation should be.
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