Digital media and publishing is a tough industry, with changing business models and competition from large and small players. Learn how a seasoned entrepreneur helped create one of the large digital media and publishing brands in the world.

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Digital media guru Anurag Harsh was recently voted as LinkedIn’s #1 Voice in Technology. He is a founding member of the executive team at Ziff Davis for the past 7.5 years and has orchestrated its growth from a small privately held company into one of the world’s largest public digital media companies with the group’s revenues exceeding $1 Billion at a $3.5B Market Cap and 200% growth in stock price.

Anurag is the author of 7 business books including three Amazon bestsellers, has published over 400 business articles for Huffpost, FORBES and other publishers, is a Wharton & MIT alum and has performed two sold out solo concerts at the Carnegie Hall as a vocalist.

From the transcript:

Anurag Harsh: Well, digital media and the advertising landscape is staggeringly complex. Let’s start with some of the misnomers that people have about the landscape. Smartphone growth is slowing. Everybody thinks that it’s all about mobile and smartphones. Therefore, a lot of the digital media publishers are publishing to smartphones. Of course, they should do that, but what they don’t realize is that global smartphone shipments actually just grew 3% this year compared to 10% last year. That’s something that’s important. In order to build a business, a digital media business, you need to understand the landscape and who your target customer is and where they’re actually browsing.

The other thing that’s happening when you think about the Internet usage growth is, at least in North America, adults are spending a lot of time every day, as we all know, about five or six hours a day, on the Internet. That’s about 3 hours per day on just mobile compared to maybe it was like 45 or 50 minutes a few years ago.

The other thing that’s happening is the online total advertising spend because all the digital media business is fundamentally advertising driven, different forms of advertising. It could be commerce, it could be display, it could be affiliate, but it’s all bundled under advertising. The total online ad spend, it’s growing steadily. Mobile obviously has now overtaken the desktop in ad dollars, just as it has with usage and time. That’s an important thing.

Anurag Harsh: But they’re only seeing 20% of the ad spend. What that tells me is there’s a massive gap, and this gap is about $16 billion of opportunity for essentially brands to have more mobile ads on the Internet.

The other thing that’s happening is–and we all know this, but I’m going to say it anyway–over the next several months, and it’s probably already happening right now, the dollars that are spent on Internet ads are starting to eclipse dollars that are spent on television. What that tells me is it’s indicating a huge opportunity for mobile products to soak up the shift. These are some of the things that are happening.

There are quite a few other things that are happening in the world of digital. This is absolutely true. There’s the ad duopoly, which means Google and Facebook control 85% of the growth in online ads, and their share is increasing every year. As more data and impressions keep helping these companies improve their targeting, it really is becoming very, very hard, really impossible. It’s an existential problem, I call it, and we’re going to talk about this a little more, eventually.

It’s becoming harder and harder for other platforms, and really any other publisher, to compete. That’s the thing. There’s this ad duopoly, and it’s not going to go away. It’s actually going to get even worse.

The other aspect of that is this whole thing called ad blocking. It’s skyrocketing. People don’t want to see ads, which is the glue and the oil of the Internet that powers all of digital media. In developing markets where data costs can be high, what users are doing is they’re increasingly blocking ads whenever they can. Nearly 400 million people around the world are blocking mobile ads, and that’s a problem.

Big platforms like Facebook, Google, Snap, they’re responding to advertisers seeking to prove return on investment on their ad spend by improving ad targeting relevance, the ads that people are going to see–hopefully they don’t block these ads because the ads are more relevant to what they want to see–and then measuring, the measurement of how these ads work. Targeting has become a huge thing.

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