Frustrated with poor mobile sales, publishers blame ad agencies

Publishers are seeing mobile audiences growing fast – but revenue is yet to catch up, and it’s the ad industry taking the blame.

Mobile makes up a fifth of reader traffic for 87 percent of publishers, but only 29 percent of them are seeing the same proportion of revenue come from mobile, according to respondents to a census issued by the UK’s Association of Online Publishers (AOP).

Asked to name the main inhibitors to mobile revenue generation, a majority blamed “agencies’ attitude toward mobile” (55 percent) and dependency on low-yield ad networks (52 percent).

Clearly, the two groups have much work to do if they are to realise the platform’s full potential. This can’t go on forever – many publishers are becoming worried about migrating their audience from web to mobile in lieu of the latter offering an equivalent business model.

AOP director Lee Baker says:

“We are going to see some fundamental changes to the mobile ad market over the coming year as ad agency attitudes catch up with publisher investment and mobile audience size.

“Ad revenues will experience massive growth, doubling within 12 months of agencies recognising the opportunity in the mobile market.”

For many readers, mobile news consumption means disaggregated consumption through apps like Flipboard and Pulse. Some publishers are concerned about effectively giving away their ad sales to those apps in this way. The New York Times, for example, has struck a partnership with Flipboard.

The fear isn’t stopping publishers from ploughing ahead with mobile content developments. Of AOP census respondents, 91 percent and 85 percent of them said tablets and mobiles, respectively, represent their greatest opportunities for revenue growth in the year ahead, with 62 percent saying they would make the majority of their sites optimised for mobile.

The census was completed by 90 percent of the AOP’s membership, comprising publishers of over 1,500 digital brands.