Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

What you can learn from Microsoft’s advertising failure

Last week, Microsoft wrote off almost all of the $6.3bn that it paid for digital display advertisingDisplay AdvertisingA form of online advertising where an advertiser’s message is shown on a…

When Microsoft bought aQuantive, online display advertising was booming and the software maker was hoping to challenge the display king at the time, Yahoo, and the rapidly rising online advertising giant Google. It’s important to remember that while Google made its name as the search engineSearch engineA website that provides a searchable index of online content, whereby users…

In a few short years, Facebook has knocked Yahoo from its display ad throne, and the bigger challenge for the entire sector is that the returns for display advertising have been plummeting.

In looking at Microsoft’s multibillion dollar write down, Reuters looked at why the display advertising market has gone soft:

The main culprit is an explosion of advertising space offered by Facebook Inc and other websites that is outpacing steady demand. But automated online exchanges, smarter search advertising and a growing skepticism about the effectiveness of jamming ads in people’s faces have also conspired to slash prices and suck profits out of the business.

“The inventory or amount of ad spots grew so fast, it outgrew demand,” said Dave Morgan, an industry veteran and entrepreneur. “That brought pricing down massively. So a lot of display advertising really became a ghetto for bad direct-response advertising.”

It’s not just the simple law of supply (or in this case, over-supply) and demand. Studies find that sophisticated users are able to simply blank out advertising, no matter how intrusive; Reuters quoted one business saying that it had shifted from using display ads to paid search advertising, affiliate marketingAffiliate marketingAn agreement between two sites in which one site (the affiliate) agrees to…

For news organisations, Microsoft’s failure and the decline of the display advertising market hold some important lessons:

Digital media doesn’t simply change your editorial opportunities, it also changes your advertising opportunities – and challenges. To make the transition to a sustainable digital news organisation, you’ll want to innovate in your advertising and sales just as your newsroom makes the effort to innovate editorially.

Article by Kevin Anderson

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