Media: Double Standards - Web publishers ready to put gloom behind them

With the 2010 AOP Census revealing expectations of growth in digital revenues, we ask whether Channel 4 and Thomson Reuters share the optimism.

ERROL BARAN - Head of online sales, Channel 4

- If you had to identify one reason for strong online revenue growth during 2010, what would it be?

While the market is showing some early signs of recovery, it is still very fragile. However, confidence is starting to return in video-based advertising and I believe video-based advertising around professional content will be a key market driver for 2010. In 2010, I see FMCG spend going some way to filling the void left by the automotive sector as FMCG clients continue to explore new and engaging ways of advertising digitally.

- What has your business in particular done to accelerate this?

Channel 4 worked closely with agencies in 2009 to ensure our digital services, platforms and strategies were developed in line with commercial demand. And this has already proved effective - viewing figures online have increased more than 100 per cent in the first quarter.

Our syndication partnerships have started very brightly and the continued increase in 4oD consumption is a clear indicator that the balance between commercial advertising and content is right. But we have also very deliberately made a point of difference between long and short-form content, offering clients and agencies an option with their investment choices. Finally, Channel 4 is the only broadcaster to make all its archived content available via its VoD platform free of charge.

- How vital will mobile ad revenue be during 2010?

Channel 4 has always tried to innovate across all possible platforms and we continue to look at mobile as a platform, but, to date, it has not played a critical role. However, we do have some interesting projects planned that we hope will offer some traction into 2010.

- What is the biggest challenge your business faces this year?

4oD is the UK's leading commercial video-on-demand platform - maintaining this remains a principle point for us. Alongside this, Channel4.com continues to perform strongly and we have seen some great results this year across our lifestyle and entertainment verticals and the relaunch of Film4.com. Our third-party syndication partnerships offer some very exciting possibilities and, underpinning this, the launch of C4 Audience Intelligence later in the year will reaffirm the successes of video advertising and highlight the need to continue to communicate and engage with our agencies and clients.

- How are you innovating, if at all, with online ad formats?

We have started a creative digital think tank with some key distributors where we are looking at ways, particularly around 4oD, to innovate and build new ad formats. We are in the final stages of an exciting new integrated project that will contain some new creative executions around video content. Add to that our content lounges, cross-platform commissions and bespoke ad-funded projects and our aim of innovating at every opportunity remains a clear objective.

TIM FAIRCLIFF - General Manager of Consumer Media, Thomson Reuters; chairman, Association of Online Publishers

- If you had to identify one reason for strong online revenue growth during 2010, what would it be?

There is no simple answer. In my opinion, growth is driven by confidence in the market. Globally, publishers have taken the challenges of a tough economy and a changing media landscape, and begun to innovate new opportunities to communicate and measure brand messages. Metrics and user behaviour have become more sophisticated, and campaigns have followed. Ultimately, there is no one factor that spurs growth, but it is the collective that gives advertisers and publishers greater confidence in online news sites to deliver brand messages that drives growth.

- What has your business in particular done to accelerate this?

With Reuters.co.uk, we are focused on meeting the needs of the market - pure and simple. Whether that means developing greater user engagement for our readership, or working with agencies and marketers to create meaningful campaigns, we have taken this moment in time to stop assuming we know, and really listen. Better understanding the needs of our audience, clients and partners has fostered user engagement and developed some really great relationships - some are even commercial. A great example is Barclays Capital's sponsorship of our Davos coverage - we saw the opportunity because we were out there listening to what the market was telling us.

- How vital will mobile ad revenue be during 2010?

Mobile is increasingly important and, across Thomson Reuters, we have developed applications with a variety of business models (subscription, pay-per-download, ad-supported etc). Thomson Reuters News Pro, which is now on BlackBerry, iPhone and Android, showcases our editorial content and is a true companion to our online publishing business. We see the creativity of marketing solutions in the mobile arena really taking off this year (eg. viral apps for iPhone or interactive for iPad), and that will also help create exciting new revenue opportunities.

- What is the biggest challenge your business faces this year?

Ensuring we continue to expand our audience and engagement across our web, mobile and outdoor platform (Canary Wharf digital sign), and drive revenues.

- How are you innovating, if at all, with online ad formats?

Late last year, Thomson Reuters launched a bold, new online platform in the US and we are excited to launch a new website here in the UK in the coming months. The website is designed to evolve alongside the demands of our professional consumers in the new era of digital news, and has some really unique advertising opportunities.

We have some innovative new advertising opportunities including point-of-entry advertising packages that allow advertisers to target visitors regardless of where they enter the website; and Smart Topic technology that adds in a layer of contextual targeting by connecting pre-established keyword criteria to relevant editorial content.

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