Irish Examiner: Ad blockers offer opportunity to online publishers

Imagine a web without ads: No more intrusive page takeovers, no more irrelevant pop-ups, and no more bizarre, third-party banners promising a septuagenarian’s secret to wrinkle-free skin.

For millions of media consumers around the world, this commercial-free utopia is a reality.

Ad-blocking has been a major concern for digital publishers and advertisers for a number of years, with consumers migrating to mobile, where the uptake in ad-blockers is greater.

PageFair, a Dublin-based company that provides media organisations with ad-blocking analytics and which creates anti-ad blocking technologies, published a report last year in conjunction with Adobe. It found that 200m desktop users have installed ad-blockers in their PCs and laptops.

A second report, focusing on mobile ad-blockers, was published last month. It found that 419m mobile users have installed ad-blockers in their devices.

“We’ve had 20 years of the online advertising industry, and it has gotten itself to a point where it faces a cul-de-sac that is self-destructive,” said Johnny Ryan, head of ecosystem at PageFair.

“Ad-blocking is like the remote control for TV, invented in the 1950s. It might have taken a few years to land on your couch, but it was inevitable that it would eventually do so. I think it is possible to slow the spread of ad-blocking, but I suspect that the genie is out of the bottle,” he says.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau — IAB — a non-profit group that promotes best practice for online advertisers and publishers, has strongly condemned companies that create ad-blockers.

Recently, the IAB published the results of a small survey on ad-blocking, quizzing 1,300 desktop users and 201 mobile users in the US.

It found that 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile users avail of ad-blockers. A further 17% of the sample, who do not currently use blockers, are “at risk of starting to do so”.

Similar to PageFair’s research, young respondents were the most likely to block ads, particularly young males who play data-heavy online games.

The reasons for using blockers are varied: over-populated ad spaces are distracting for consumers, ads sometimes intrude on content, and interactive ads consume a lot of data — a reason why many readers in emerging markets use blockers.

Mr Ryan says the rise of ad-blockers is also because of digital advertisers’ over-use of personal data.

“Advertising has evolved into a position where the industry is preoccupied with the notion of monitoring your behaviour to build a profile of you.

“It’s a mistake, because advertising worked just fine before the web. It was based on the idea of context,” Mr Ryan says.

The over-reliance on data has also led to inaccurate counts of genuine readers viewing advertisements online.

However, the problems created by ad-blocking and poor online advertisements have given publishers the opportunity to reimagine online advertising.

Mr Ryan, who is author of the book, A History of the Internet and the Digital Future, sees the problem of ad-blockers “as being one of those historical milestones”.

One proposition is to simply reduce the quantity.

Ads would cost more for advertisers and give readers an uncluttered space.

Suzanne McElligott, CEO of IAB Ireland, which in September will publish a Red C study on ad-blocking in Ireland, predicts that “we will see more engaging, more creative, better-quality advertising served in a more user-friendly manner”.

She thinks publishers will have to educate online users about the purpose of ads.

Harry Browne, a journalism lecturer at DIT’s School of Media, said he likes and uses ad-blockers.

But he warns that “it breaks the 200-plus-year-old, traditional media business model more surely than the mere provision of free content online ever did.”

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on August 1, 2016.

Advertisements

Irish Examiner: Marketing gurus catch a ride on Pokémon Go craze

Marketers will have to catch ‘em quick if they want to capitalise on the Pokémon Go craze.

Savvy retailers have already taken advantage of the game’s augmented reality function, where digital graphics are viewed in the real world through a smartphone camera.

In a bid to entice gamers to congregate at their shopfronts and boost footfall, businesses can use “lures” to increase the number of Pokémon characters in an area for a set period of time.

But simply dropping lures and hoping for the best is not enough for small businesses, according to Ellen Ryan, managing director of Yellow Machine, a communications firm specialising in the 18 to 35-year-old demographic.

“Create a bit of a buzz in your store with an event. You might have discounts around the store and have some goodies to give away. There is a small spend through the app, but you can really leverage that yourself and drive it to the next level by doing these incentives.”

Other brick and mortar businesses could use the game to attract attention and showcase their services too, she suggested.

“There are an awful lot of brands looking to capitalise on it,” said David Hayes, director of social search and performance media at digital agency, In The Company of Huskies.

“A lot of people want to just piggyback on something to make themselves look relevant. It’s like any major event. People will see through that.”

He argues that because Pokémon Go is a location-based app, brands that are somehow connected to mobility, such as businesses in the leisure, tourism or retail sectors, will benefit the most.

“One of our clients is Fáilte Ireland. We would be suggesting proactive pieces around [the game] because we think it is applicable to tourism.”

The Youth Lab, part of Thinkhouse youth marketing agency, has also explored opportunities Pokémon Go offers to brands, especially those looking to reach the coveted millennial market through “nostalgia culture”.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Claire Hyland, director of insights at The Youth Lab, explained young people have this sense of sentimentality “because we’re in such a fast-paced, instant, everything-now world.

“Things are fleeting in so many ways that young people can actually have a nostalgia for something that happened six months ago or a year ago.”

She said that Pokémon Go’s ability to project the game into real-life scenarios makes it similar to the image messaging app Snapchat, which is largely associated with the youth market.

For advertisers, in-game promotions are certainly not a new concept but has largely consisted of pop-ups, that tend to irritate players.

It is hoped augmented reality will help solve this problem: Snapchat recently filed a patent for an ad-overlay system that turns messages into ads. For example, if a user takes a picture of their latte, a coffee brand’s logo will appear as a suggested filter.

With Pokémon Go and other augmented reality games, big brands should look to reach people using similar techniques that don’t intrude on the overall experience.

“The key thing is that [advertisements] don’t take away from the game,” said Eddy Danielsson, Gamestop’s director of merchandising, marketing and e-commerce for Northern Europe.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on July 25, 2016.

5 steps to building your own brand newsroom

 

Just so we’re clear, I absolutely believe that there should be a clear distinction between journalism and advertising.

But as branded content comes back in vogue (the practice has actually been around for quite some time), I think PR and communications teams should think seriously about how they communicate their messages.

If someone is going to advertise to me, I want to be offered something of sustenance, not just a command to buy a product or a lifestyle. And I should know exactly who has paid for that content—slap a big advertorial banner on top of the piece.

With that in mind, here are my five tips for building a brand newsroom:

1. Hire the talent—or mine it

There is an increased demand for information and quality content. In order to generate meaningful stories, you’ve got to have a team of cracking storytellers with a nose for news and a sense of branding.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of hiring a batch of journalists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your current PR team a shake-up.

Be bold—create a new role as chief storytelling officer and make that individual responsible for keeping your brand narrative on-track and on-trend.

2. Find your content crossover

Look for the crossover between what your brand wants to say and what interests your audience. All of your successful stories exist in that space.

Look at your area of expertise, find a topic of interest, then own it. Just like mattress start-up Casper launched Van Winkle’s and owned the topic of sleep. What topics does your team knows better than anybody else? Remember, anything can be interesting if you find a way to make a good story out of it.

3. Connect creators with your sales team

Branded content does not necessarily have to create a direct revenue stream, but aim to generate a sale or make some kind of connection with every story your brand newsroom shares.

Your content team should liaise with your sales team throughout the week. See what leads the sales team is trying to attract and generate content that will entice them to your brand.

4. Have a ton of ideas ready to go

At the beginning of each quarter, put together a host of story ideas that reflect your sales target for the period.

The walls of MediaHQ’s newsroom is covered with post-its with clear, concise headline ideas. That way, our team can peel one off the wall and knock out a 300-word post in the half an hour.

5. Look for openings

Don’t underestimate the power of traditional media. Syndication will help generate brand recognition. Write an op-ed on behalf of your company’s CEO and submit it to a Sunday paper. How about offering an insightful listicle to an industry magazine? Why not pitch a package to feature on a radio programme or podcast?

Your brand newsroom should act as a wire service between established media and your organisation. If you can offer them quality content—not god-awful ad copy—they will gladly give you the publicity.

A version of this article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

Press releases: Here’s what you’re doing wrong

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

There is nothing more frustrating that crafting a press release that goes nowhere.

Some stories make the news, some stories don’t. It’s an unfortunate fact. Sometimes the elements are just against you—but other times, you may have dropped the ball.

Here’s what you could be doing wrong:

It’s a misfire!

We’ve said it lots of times on the MediaHQ blog: You always have to do your homework before sending a press release to a bunch of journalists.

You have to be sure you are targeting the right people: Unless it’s relevant, don’t send an education story to a beauty columnist. It’s sounds like PR For Dummies, but you would be amazed at how many misfired press releases land in journalists’ overcrowded inboxes every day.

Our research team updates our contacts database on a daily basis to ensure our clients don’t send their press releases to the wrong journalists.

There’s just no story

Unless you have a story to tell, nobody will pick up on your release.

Journalists are expected to inform and entertain the public. They are all about the story so your press release must be newsworthy and must have a clear lead.

Press releases should be written in the style of a news article: Eye-catching headline, strong introductory paragraph with detail in following paragraphs. Remember the five Ws of your story and use the inverted pyramid.

You’ve used jargon

Journalists are trained to be cynical. They are always painfully aware that a PR pro is trying to promote an organisation or a range of products.

Nothing turns a journalist off a story more than a press release laced with exaggerations and jargon. Don’t oversell yourself. You may consider it industry lingo, but to a journalist it is just a load of marketing guff.

You want to interest them in your story, so the story is main concern.

Your quote is unbelievably dull

This is the part of all press releases where PR pros truly get to show off their creative side.

Quotes can breathe life into a press release. They add the human element to your story, which always interests journalists.

If you are battling with a difficult approval process, tell senior management that you believe it is better to seek forgiveness than ask for approval (something of a motto at MediaHQ). They should trust their PR team to do their job and trust that you will maintain your CEO’s integrity—and ensure they get their voice heard in the media.

3 tips for pitching through Twitter

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

There are now more ways than ever to communicate with a journalist—but that doesn’t mean they are more likely to pick up your pitch.

If a particularly influential reporter likes to hang out on Twitter, why not reach out to them there rather than through their overflowing inbox?

Here are three tips for pitching through Twitter:

1. Show some interest

Follow the reporter in advance of tweeting your pitch. That way they will know you are serious about sharing your story idea and aren’t just spamming every journo in sight.

Try to engage with them beforehand as well—like some of their tweets; comment on a couple of posts. Show some genuine interest in their work.

2. Go public

If you tweet ‘.@username’, your pitch will be visible to other Twitter users, so even if this particular journalist isn’t interest, another reporter might spot the tweet and take you up on it.

Equally, remember to do your usual research before reaching out—a journalist might publicly call you out if you tweet them a totally irrelevant story idea.

Check what topics they tend to cover, look at who they are following and scroll through their likes. This should give you a good idea of what they are interested in.

3. Follow-up—but only once

If the journalist doesn’t respond to you within a reasonable time (this depends on the shelf life of your story and how active the reporter is on Twitter), there is no harm in sending a courteous follow-up tweet.

If they don’t respond on Twitter, don’t email them the same pitch with a follow-up email, followed by a pitch via LinkedIn messenger with yet another follow-up.

There’s a reason you chose to contact them through Twitter—if they didn’t get back to there, they won’t respond anywhere else.

 

Be your own editor: Smarten up your copy in 5 steps

smarten up copy

Behind every great writer, there is a great editor — someone who ruthlessly hacks away at the text until it is fit for print.

Unfortunately in the the communications game, we don’t always have the luxury of a second pair of eyes to cast over our content.

Never fear. Here are five ways you can smarten up your copy and be your own editor.

1. Use active verbs

Sentences are weakened by passive verbs — see? Wouldn’t it have been clearer if I had said “Passive verbs weaken sentences”?

Sentences written in the active form are usually much snappier and make your copy easier to read.

Remember, if you are issuing a press release, you have to grab the journalist’s attention immediately, so you don’t want them to get bogged down in clunky sentences. Speaking of which…

2. Shorten those sentences

A rule of thumb is to create a new paragraph for each new idea and for quotations.

Broken-up text is much easier to read than text that is presented in long, uninterrupted blocks with excessive use of commas.

If you find a paragraph is running on for more than three sentences, see where you can create a break and turn it into two paragraphs.

3. Pull the plug on extra punctuation

Writing that is littered with punctuation doesn’t flow well and can distract the reader.

The best way to clear out any excessive punctuation is by ending a sentence or starting a new one.

4. Bye-bye big words

One of the golden rules from Strunk and White: Omit unnecessary words. Three words that good communicators should live by.

Jargon and big words don’t make you sound smarter. They make it sound as if you don’t know what you are talking about and you are deliberately trying to confuse the reader.

See how the media chastises politicians for polluting their debates with jargon.

If you want to make your point clearer, use familiar words and find shorter words in a thesaurus.

5. Show redundancies the door

Don’t say the same thing with two words: “[Brand] new”, “[very] unique”, “could [possibly]”, “plan [ahead]”.

Cut them out or separate them with an “and”. Keep your sentences smart.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

5 things to quit in your PR pitch

quit in pitch

As the media evolves, so does the pitching process.

Shrinking newsrooms at traditional media outlets mean reporters are now busier than ever. That’s why it is important for savvy PR pros to smarten up their pitching techniques if they want to sell their stories to influential journalists.

Here are five bad habits to kick if you want to become pitch perfect:

1. Making your story too complicated

Journalists are likely under pressure for time, so you’ll have to really grab their attention. The most effective way to do that is to keep your pitch clean, simple and powerful.

Make your message snappy and include only what is necessary.

If you are pitching a complex topic through email, break the story down to its simplest form and use bullet points.

Avoid jargon because it is awkward and a journalist will dismiss it as marketing-speak.

2. Not researching a reporter

If you are pitching an exclusive to an individual reporter, make sure you know about their past articles and specialist areas. There is no point pitching an education story to a health correspondent (unless it is somehow relevant, of course).

Also, check that they haven’t already covered stories on your competitors and look into the media outlet they contribute to.

This will help smarten up your pitch and make it easier to establish a repertoire with the journalist if you already have some context about their career.

3. Not personalising a pitch

Rather than putting someone at the butt end of a mass email, personalise your pitch with references to past articles and connect with them through social media.

It’s possible to personalise media releases on MediaHQ’s system. You can learn more about that here.

4. Weak subject lines

If you are emailing a pitch, a snappy subject line is crucial.

Keep it short and write in vivid, simple language. Write it in the active verb form, and use the present or future tense.

Remember, the subject line is supposed to attract the reader and capture the essence of your story in a single sentence.

5. Being a nuisance caller

If a journalist doesn’t respond to your email or your Tweet, they certainly won’t respond to your call.

And if they have ignored your story idea, don’t hunt down their co-workers as well.

If you want to learn more about pitching story ideas, come along to our Pitch Perfect training course on March 8. MediaHQ.com’s managing director Jack Murray, an expert on pitching ideas, will teach you how to connect with journalists, build media lists and get your story heard.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company, with contacts to more than 7,000 journalists on our database. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

Inbox etiquette: How to write a snappy subject line

write snappy subject

PR pros have to compete with hundreds of other emailers if they want to grab a journalist’s attention when they mail a pitch or media release.

That’s why it is important to have a snappy subject line that jumps out of the inbox — and won’t get marked as spam.

Here’s how to create the perfect subject line:

Lead with your hook

Journalists receive story ideas and media releases all day, every day. Think about what makes your story stand out and lead with the angle.

Tackle inbox obstacles head-on and avoid the guillotine

If your subject line runs over 50 characters, chances are the journalist’s inbox will chop off the end. It’s like the trap door opening mid sentence.

Aim for five to seven words. Like a good headline, write it in the active verb tense or future tense to create a sense of immediacy. It will also make it easier for your reader to understand if they are quickly scrolling through their inbox.

Don’t be mistaken for spam

Subject lines that are written in all caps or include multiple exclamation points (two stylistic sins) will increase the chances of your message getting lost in the spam box sin bin.

Pose a question – or chance a joke

An interesting (and relevant) question will focus your reader’s attention and entice them to look for the answer.

Depending on your organisation’s voice, a pun here or some wordplay there is good way to get your message noticed.

Politely command them to open your email

Sometimes a straightforward command — “Join us on this date”, for example — is the best way to make your subject line stand out.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.

MediaHQ.com is Ireland’s largest and most dynamic media intelligence company, with contacts to more than 7,000 journalists on our database. Since we started in 2009, we have helped Ireland’s best known brands connect over 100,000 stories with the media.

3 key takeaways from MediaHQ’s Story Bootcamp

Story bootcamp

Here at MediaHQ.com, we love good story telling.

We host a number of training courses that are designed to help PR pros connect with the media and share their stories.

Below are three key points that cropped up in our latest Story Bootcamp workshop. Find out about our upcoming courses here.

Continue reading “3 key takeaways from MediaHQ’s Story Bootcamp”

5 PR myths – busted!

Pr myths busted

Everybody in the communications game knows not to believe everything they hear, so MediaHQ.com decided to debunk five PR myths.

There are plenty of misconceptions in the PR industry that clients sometimes believe to be facts.

We pick through a handful of the biggest myths that PR pros have to confront:

1. There is such a thing as guaranteed coverage

Axed stories are a reality of the newsroom, and if a pitch isn’t newsworthy, then an editor won’t run it.

Just because a PR pro has a good relationship with an particular journalist doesn’t mean they can influence their editorial decisions.

PR requires extensive networking, but the relationships that are built are strictly professional, and PR pros must always respect a journalist’s integrity.

It is counter-productive to bombard journalists with pitches that are self-promotional and that don’t stand up as good stories on their own. Quality content will always trump connections.

2.  It’s all about the press release

Press releases are a tool for PR pros to use to help deliver their client’s message to the media. They are helpful for summarising company announcements, but they are just one piece of the machine.

Share your story on as many platforms as possible: Post it to the company blog, share it via social media and think about the best approach to communicating your message through each medium.

Press releases are much more effective if PR pros tailor their strategy to target influential journalists that are relevant to a particular story.

MediaHQ.com has built a tool that allows you to identify and target the right people in our database of over 7,500 journalists.

Read more: 5 simple rules to ensure your press release is successful

3. PR drives sales

PR is about reputation management, and helps develop a call-to-action that can lead to a sale, but a PR strategy cannot replace a sales strategy.

The two work in tandem: PR creates brand awareness, which a sales team can draw on when they approach potential leads.

4. PR pros don’t understand the news

One of the great skills required to become a PR pro master is the ability to think like a journalist – to develop a nose for news and know what makes a good story.

In fact, many working in PR are former hacks and have jumped the journalism ship themselves. They have a deep understanding of the culture of a newsroom, which they share with their colleagues.

5. All news is good news

A cliché as well as a myth: No PR pro wants to find themselves caught up in the depths of a PR crisis. Unfortunately, it does happen. Instead of taking a backseat and being satisfied that at least your client is getting some coverage, learn how to solve a PR crisis under pressure.

What is the biggest PR myth you would like to see busted? Tweet us @mediahqnews.

This article first appeared on MediaHQ.com.