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Letter from the West Coast: No 5. The dark art of content monetisation

Advertisers: Look Sharp

Affiliate links look poised to become a straightforward tack-on to advertising for monetising online content, especially for material unlikely to attract subscription fees. While the likes of VigLink can grab a slice of the market by helping to shape this area as it develops, the move to online has placed significant demands for revival for the advertising industry. As people become more discerning, ads have to become smarter to earn our attention.

Online advertisement is moving from static ads towards more moving content, meaning the focus is less on how many clicks generated but on getting people to actually watch the ads, explained Suranga Chandratillake, President of Blinkx. A key selling point for Blinkx is the ability to recognise meaning from audio and video, enabling only relevant advertising to be placed alongside. A similar change is happening at YouTube: five seconds in, you often get the option to skip the ad. This means the ad has to be good enough for the viewer to actually not mind watching it, or no one gets paid. This further personalises the experience for the viewer, and it raises the game for the advertiser to come up with something good, and ultimately, effective.

But throw the mobile internet into the mix and the issue of monetisation becomes a lot more challenging. Static ads do not work as well on the tiny screen, and people accessing data on the go will have less patience for video ads. “The mobile world is fascinating,” said Chandratillake. “There is a usage revolution happening, not just with apps but also with accessing web services through the mobile phone. The size is a disadvantage, but the advantage is that the platform knows who or where you are.”

Copying the web content monetisation models is not working on mobile, asserted Chandratillake, pointing out that even relatively new companies such as Facebook are running into problems as their mobile interface does not support ads in the same way. 69% of UK Facebook users have a smartphone, a statistic that rises to 82% for Twitter users, according to a recent Ipsos Mori poll. So how can companies monetise their content when users increasingly access it through mobile devices?