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iWorld by Sharad Agarwal

2013 - ONLINE, IT IS

Newsweek, one of the most internationally recognized magazine brands in the world, has ceased publishing the print edition after nearly 80 years

Newsweek's decision to go all-digital underscores the problems faced by news publications, as more consumers favor tablets and mobile devices over print in an increasingly commoditized, 24-hour news cycle.

The move was not totally unexpected given the macro changes affecting the print industry. Decrease in the circulation figures of print publications and the advertising revenues thereof, coupled with the explosion of mobile devices is going to see several newspapers abandon print media and magazines jump 'lock stock and barrel' to the online world. Gartner has predicted that mobile app downloads will top 81 billion in 2013, an increase of about 45% over 2012!

One of the great things about the Internet has been that so far you can access all your favorite content at the touch of a button and all for free. Not for much longer, though. In 2013, we will see an increase in the amount of content shifting away from ad-supported business models to 'pay-per-view' or 'subscription-based' models.

Driving the change is the rapid decline in audiences for the big players of traditional media. Newspaper and magazine circulation is in sharp decline and TV audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented, due to the growth of alternative television services as well as online and mobile video consumption.

What does this mean for brands and e-marketers?

More fragmentation - with consumers now having to pay, you can expect audience sizes for premium content sites to fall as consumers look for alternative free content or go without.

Less clutter, tighter targeting but higher CPMs - with a subscription audience, the reliance on ad revenue by content providers will decline. They will instead focus more on quality and an improved user experience to drive subscribers. The result will be less advertising space, but greater audience targeting will drive-up demand and also prices.

Brands will need to decide if the 'premium context' is worth the price of the premium CPM. There may be an opportunity for fast-moving brands to subsidize content to keep parts of it free.

While New York Times and Wall Street Journal enjoy a large number of paid subscribers, it is going to be an uphill task for regional publications to build their 'paid-for' subscribers database.

This scenario is likely to become a reality during 2013 and it is up to owners and managers of online properties to build their content with a strong USP, 'Sticky-ness' that builds online loyalty.

Online content presentation will also have to adapt to varying screen resolutions of the various handheld devices. For brand owners, especially those sponsoring a series or intending to regularly place ads around it, this creates both opportunity and challenge. Getting it right will mean adapting to this narrative approach and interweaving your brand's story across screens, tailoring it appropriately to those most involved in the content. Brands that fail to 'join-the-dots' between screens will fail to capitalize on a more engaged audience.

For those agencies in the business of maximizing the return on their clients' online ad spend, 2013 promises to be a year of exciting collaboration.

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