Why tablets are good news for advertisers (and media owners)

Rupert Murdoch's defunct The dailyI keep reading that if media owners put their content behind paywalls, then advertising revenues will suffer. The theory, I guess, is that fewer people will access the content, and so the value to the advertiser will decrease.  But people have always paid for good content, and advertisers have always targeted subscribers, whether that content is a game, news, or a glossy magazine. What they pay to access it on, is – or should be – irrelevant. An active, engaged subscriber is surely worth more to an advertiser than an anonymous ‘eyeball’. 

Tablets are already changing the way we consume, and pay for, content. Not quickly enough to save Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only paper ‘The Daily’ (which closed in December), but enough to increase the chances of success for already-established media brands. A study from Pew Research into news consumption in the US shows that while print news may be in decline, online and mobile news is on the up. We still read, but in a different format.

Of course, there are variables: media owners are still working to get their pricing and subscription models right, toying with ‘all you can eat’ deals, and figuring out whether one subscriber needs access on more than one platform. Getting it right takes a shift in thinking and requires great content that consumers want to pay for.

Despite these challenges, there is huge potential in tablet advertising, both for media owners and advertisers. We know that more people click on tablet ads than on mobile or digital banners. The size of a tablet is ideal for full-screen interactive ads, and the quality of the graphics and images you can create is better than on any other device. The audience is growing, too: tablet sales will hit 172.4 million units in 2013 (IDC) and 655 million units in 2016 (Gartner).

Tablet advertising often seems to get lumped together with mobile, but consumer behaviour on each is different. Research from ABI shows that we are more likely to use tablets than mobile for online shopping, reading print media and watching TV, videos or films. It makes sense; the tablet experience is much cleaner and easier to navigate than a smartphone.

So, if tablets are helping media owners improve their readership and subscriber base, and consumers are more likely to buy from a tablet, here is a real opportunity for advertisers to create great ads for the tablet editions of media sites, and for media owners to increase their revenues from advertising alongside subscriptions.

But like the publisher’s content it sits within, a tablet ad also requires a shift in thinking. Gone are static ads, banners at the bottom of the screen or flat graphics. Tablet advertising also needs to be about great content and interactivity. Video, rich media, storytelling and user interaction are more likely to attract and hold attention; and content has to be absolutely relevant to the subscriber base. Here is an advertising platform that is as personal as a mobile, with the creative scope of TV, and the direct response potential of online.

Combine that with subscriber data, and tablets could just be the answer to creative advertisers’ – and media owners’ – prayers.

Mark Cluer is MD of digital creative agency, PMA Digital (www.pmadigital.com).