Financial Times Takes A Stand Against CPM

September 10, 2014

The Financial Times (FT) has long held the title as a publisher to watch: they understand digital to a deeper degree, which means consistently changing their approach to match their digital audience. Years ago that meant a savvy mobile browser app that played HTML5 animations on your iPad as you read. Today, that means understanding advertising for a digital reader isn’t about whether or not they click, it’s about whether or not they view the ad long enough to remember it. From this, the concept of “attention minutes” are born.
In the digital publishing space, advertisers are currently worried about surface metrics, such as clicks-throughs or impressions. An ad with a high click-through is considered valuable, and digital content providers bend over backwards to make sure ads are positioned so they are seen. This means the focus shifts from what is a reader’s first experience with the content to how best to position an ad at the top so it’s sure to be seen by a reader. FT, a British-based news site – argues using a metric that measures “attention minutes” keeps a balance between focusing on reader and advertiser experience.
In short, FT will be offering advertisers a chance to capitalize on the attention of readers already clicking to get into the content – already giving their attention to the page – and even capitalize on the specific target groups attracted to the content. They offer chunks of time in which an advertiser’s ad is viewed alongside or below relevant content, and guarantee the ad remains visible for a minimum of five seconds for it to “count” as being viewed. FT global director for digital advertising and insight Jon Slade reports “tests comparing various brand measures such as recall and intent to purchase found that those people exposed to the ads for more than five seconds delivered double the levels of favourable responses to the brands as those who saw the ads for less.” (Read the full MediaBriefing article about FT attention minutes here.)
The concept stems from the idea that there isn’t a lack of space or advertising that causes ineffective ad response. It’s a lack of time. Lack of reader attention. So by positioning your brand’s ad next to content already proven to be of value to the reader, your brand is positively associated with topics that the reader is interested in. That might be a bit of stretch from an advertiser’s desire for an immediate buy, but it’s a step in the right direction. Slade goes on to say, “One of the cardinal sins in digital publishing is the invention of the click-through rate as the predominant measure. It’s a fact of life that ultimately there will be a measurement around click. We would rather not negate that entirely because we are realistic, but we would rather say there are other measuresĀ and the measure of how much attention your advertising has had is actually far more compelling.”
FT is a step or two ahead of the market in testing “attention minutes” and the value this brings for both readers and advertisers. However, other publishers can start capitalizing on the benefits of shifting the focus of advertising from “clicks” to “attention minutes” or positive brand associations by reconsidering who they target for advertisements in their publications. Rather than scrambling for any advertiser, consider inviting a relevant advertiser to sponsor the full edition. This works best with advertisers with similar target audiences as the content’s audience, and would mean the sponsor’s brand and advertisements would appear directly next to relevant content. Similar tactics can be applied on an article-by-article basis: as one article covers one topic, have a relevant advertiser positioned directly next to or after the article. A new article targeting another audience might feature an advertisement from a related advertiser. And so on.
Click-through rates have a place in measuring ad success, but it’s too narrow a view to assume that an ad is only effective if a reader clicks. Start educating advertisers on the value of brand impressions and associations, or have one of our Success Team members meet with your sales team directly to talk through the impact of attention minutes on your advertisers’ brands.


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