Goodbye Print, Hello Mobile: A New Ad Platform Gains Momentum

Last Updated Aug 29, 2008 4:39 PM EDT

There are very few analysts covering the newspaper business any longer. What's to analyze? Once a patient is on life-support, the role for a doctor in diagnosing and treating him has ended. Care-takers can handle the rest.

Last year, the most authoritative newsletter covering the American newspaper industry -- The Morton-Groves Newspaper Newsletter -- decided to cease publication. In his parting column, the co-publisher explained that " Many [newspapers] have already passed the point of opportunity ... For those who have not made the transition, technology and market factors may be too strong to enable success."

Two publicly traded newspaper chains that between them own 99 U.S. newspapers -- the Journal Register Company and Gatehouse Media -- are teetering on the verge of life-support. The Journal Register's stock has lost 99 percent of its value over the past year, and has been downgraded by Standard & Poor's to junk. Gatehouse has lost 97 percent of its value and is about to be de-listed by the New York Stock Exchange. Morningstar says the fair price for its stock is now zero.

As these print operations pass from the scene, advertisers that used to sustain them are migrating to the next big platform -- mobile, now that standards have been set and metrics are available to provide effective measurement of their effectiveness.

In the early days of the Web, these same issues -- standards and metrics -- plagued early experimentation with ad units. There is cross-tension between the desire to experiment and innovate, which might provide a competitive edge, and the need to standardize the size and shape of ad units, and to agree upon measurement standards in order to actually start booking forecast-able revenue.

AdMob now boasts a monthly inventory of 4.6 billion mobile ad pages on a global basis. The second-biggest network, Buzzcity has 1.7 billion pages. This is certainly enough inventory for advertisers to discover how targeted ads work in this environment, and many are doing so. Among the brands actively advertising on mobile are Ford, Jaguar, EA, Coca-Cola, BBC and Adidas.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.