Pew: Online advertising passing by news organizations

Project for Excellence in Journalism
News organizations are doing a crummy job of capitalizing on online advertising’s growth. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism studied the websites of 11 newspapers, several TV networks, and Yahoo and the Huffington Post, and found that “even the top news websites in the country have had little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online.”

Just three of the 22 outlets studied offered targeted advertising based on their readers’ searches, pages viewed or other activity. “By contrast,” Pew’s summation of the report notes, “highly targeted advertising is already a key component of the business model of operations such as Google and Facebook.”

Some other findings:

  • The largest category of online ads at news orgs? House ads.
  • Newsgathering organizations mostly took a pass on coupon ads, and those that did mostly featured their own sites.
  • Search ads weren’t evident, but Google-provided text ads were on many sites.

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  • Anonymous

    I support the aims of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism and
    others who want to help ensure the survival of serious news reporting in
    the U.S., especially in newspapers.  But the center’s new study
    fails to address the key questions–and policy issues–connected to
    digital advertising and newspaper sites.  Ironically, if they had asked
    their outside expert Prof. Joe Turow what questions they should ask, instead of only using him for a informational sidebar,
    they would have likely had to revise their methodology and analysis. 
    Pew also failed to address the ethical and consumer protection questions
    intrinsic to digital advertising, further disserving the profession.

    So here are several crucial points Pew needs to address.

    1.  Contemporary digital advertising is increasingly focused on
    “audience buying”–not sites.  Individuals are bought and sold (and
    tracked and profiled) in real-time, via ad exchanges.  In other words,
    who you are (your demographics, financial status, interests, etc) is
    more important than where you are online at any moment.  Ad exchanges
    and retargeting technologies can identify you and buy a targeted ad when
    you, for example, leave a newspaper site and travel to  Dreck charges far less for behavioral targeting, and
    its impact on a user can be just as effective (if not more) than when
    someone is on a news site.  (To see what The New York Times and others
    do with behavioral and ad exchange type targeting, see:  QuadrantOne, for example.  QuadrantOne has worked with Admeld, now a Google property, and a leading data targeting  type player.)


    2.  As Turow has written, digital marketing now labels individual users
    as either a “target” or “waste.”  In other words, loyal users of news
    sites may not be considered worth targeting at all (they skew too old,
    have limited financial prospects and narrow online purchasing behaviors,
    etc).  If digital marketers see the non-top newspaper site users as
    “waste”–then little can be done to boost revenues.


    3. Digital advertising views social connections as a very important
    variable when determining online ad buys.  To the extent that newspaper
    site readers don’t provide the array of connections to help influence
    others via social commerce, their prospects are dimmed significantly.  
    Social media marketing has combined with behavioral targeting in the
    current influencer economy.


    4.  Financial service digital advertising is about generating leads,
    sales, and other direct responses (in addition to brand reputation). 
    Newspaper sites aren’t the best environment for what are many dubious
    (and deceptive) practices used by the online financial and lead
    generation industry.


    5.  Advertisers increasingly want to control and shape content
    online–influencing both the editorial and marketing message.  We are
    back to the era of radio and early TV in terms of sponsor influence. 
    Independent sites can be helpful, but face a tidalwave of digital ads
    that merge message with content.


    6.  Privacy of users are compromised when they are behaviorally
    targeted.  This is a front-page policy debate around the world, and the
    study should have focused on the ethics and impact of such targeting
    (esp. when users/readers are targeted with financial, health, and
    political ads that use profile-based targeting). 


    What’s required is a serious investigation of digital marketing
    practices, how news sites are potentially being discriminated, and what
    new federal safeguards and ad industry self-regulatory efforts are
    required.  Pew and the news industry should be in the forefront of
    supporting consumer protection and privacy safeguards for digital
    targeting of users.  Pew needs to revise its research and do a better

  • Anonymous

    I might need to add this software doesnt find all advertising networks / ad placements yet as it is still in alpha. Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  • Anonymous

    I have quickly run an analysis with a tool I wrote and didn’t see the same results. Huffingtonpost, for ex., has over 5 ads (doubleclick / google ads, doubleclick targeting ads per default) on their frontpage and not a single one marketing their own properties (house ads if I didn’t misunderstand you), same for (3 ads, yieldmanager). The more tech-oriented newsportals like techcrunch (15 google ads / doubleclick) and mashable (8 doublelick ads) also don’t self-reference their content…

    You can check out the results here:

    For ex. Mashable: