Surfing vs Flying: What publishers can learn from airlines -

Surfing vs Flying: What publishers can learn from airlines

At this year’s Digiday Publishing Summit in Vail, there was a lot of talk about finding a solution to poor user experience and how it’s critical to tackle this initiative to help publishers increase direct traffic.  In fact, while 93% of in-conference survey respondents said that there’s a user experience crisis, there wasn’t much in the way of a roadmap to help our industry fix it.  Unless a subscription model is employed, all users pretty much have the same experience.  This is where monetization partners can help.

As I boarded yet another flight this week, I was struck by the similarities between airline travel and users’ ad experiences.  Hardly anyone enjoys flying, just like few people actually enjoy their online ad experiences.  We all want to get to our destination, or online content, but the journey isn’t always pleasant.

Much like publishers, airlines seek to completely fill their inventory (seats) and are always trying to squeeze a few more seats on the plane.  Yet unlike publishers, airlines have devised ways to empower their frequent travelers to enjoy a better travel experience to engender loyalty.

Upgraded Seats & Differentiating High-Value Visitors:  This is where we can learn a lot from the airlines.  Most of us who travel a lot have an established airline preference.  Via repeat business, we enjoy early boarding, some extra legroom, and free adult beverages.  Do your repeat visitors enjoy a different ad experience from the users who come to your site infrequently?  Does your monetization partner have a way to know who the high-value users are and serve them a different ad experience?

On-time Arrivals & Low Latency: Page load time, along with user ad experience are the top two causes of bounce rates.  Do your monetization partners do all of the heavy lifting on the server side, and after the page loads?  We know from Adobe research that 80% of adults will abandon a site if content takes too long to load.

Aisle/Window Seating Preference & User Empowerment:  Airlines let users create profiles that empower passengers to define their seating preferences.  With online content, unfortunately user preferences are all too often ignored.  We frustrate users by continuing to serve an ad heavy experience after they express their preferences by closing ads.  Do your monetization partners respect user preferences and enable a different ad experience to those users who have indicated that they are ad sensitive?  No one really wants a middle seat….

Dept. of Transportation’s Passenger Rights & Better Ads Standards:  As a result of horrible passenger experiences, the government stepped in and created regulations to protect passengers.  For example, the airlines can no longer keep passengers on the tarmac for hours on end.  And even for shorter delays on the tarmac, they must provide food, water and access to the restroom.  Our industry has preemptively created standards via our Coalition for Better Ads.  The Better Ads Standards outlines formats that are most disruptive to user experience and have an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers. As a result, ads that cover content, large sticky ads, videos with auto-play, etc. — are all discouraged.  Has your monetization partner fully complied with Better Ads Standards?

The user experience crisis is a problem that our industry can fix.  Tasking monetization partners to bring high-quality advertisers via pleasing placements, with custom configurations to maximize pages per session and/or time on site, is a big step in the right direction.

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