Weekly Digital Update 2016 Highlights

Thanks, 2016.

Sorry, did you miss us? Last time we spoke we showed off the outdoor ads that Spotify launched after crunching their user data. We used it again this week, because we think it sums up 2016 quite well.

Yes, 2016 had its lows (Trump), but it also had its highs (ahem, Hamilton Mixtape).

Speaking of highlights, isn't it always hard to remember those? Well, before 2016 leaves the building, let's recognize the progress we have made this year. Let's take a stroll down memory lane, and reflect on the work (hard work) that happened within these walls - which are different than the ones where we started - over the past 12 months.

So, here are 5 instances of when we played bigger in digital in 2016. No particular order, and there are links embedded so you can read more.

1. Hint: It started with an "R"

Redesign. Remember when thestar.com looked like this?

Early in 2016 the product team shared some exciting news: thestar.com was getting a fresh new look. The focus of the redesign was to shift our web presence to be...

  1. Audience first
  2. Mobile First
  3. Article First
  4. Advertiser Focused

So? What's the verdict?

Well, our mobile numbers are killing it, we won a few awards at COPA, and we attracted some new digital clients. So, we'd 2016 has been a pretty great year for thestar.com.

Any highlights to call out?

Of course. Let's start with mobile. Our mobile traffic has surpassed our desktop traffic since Dec 2015, and UVs on mobile are growing at a higher pace than other traditional publishers in Canada (+75% YOY). Looks like our attempt to be mobile-first is working.

Now, on to the awards. We pulled a Phelps at the COPAs (Canadian Online Publishers Awards) this year and took home 5 awards, including Gold for Best News Website

Aside from Time Magazine, some may not agree that Trump is a highlight of 2016. But there is no denying people love reading about him (remember Daniel Dale?). The day following the election, when everyone woke up to find out who the States had elected as the new POTUS, we saw the highest traffic day on thestar.com since the browser redesign, surpassing 3 million page views. That's a lot of people.

2. Next, comes V...

Viewability. In case you didn't know, viewability was still very important in 2016. Why? Because as Google puts it, "an ad served, doesn't necessarily equal an ad viewed", and even some major agencies (ie. GroupM) have initiated viewability standards with their digital publishers. They mean business.

What did we do about it?

We started using MOAT. You know, the program with the heat maps? The one that tells you way more than CTR and delivered impressions?

What's so great about MOAT again?

Quick refresher: MOAT is great because not only does it show whether or not the advertiser's ad was viewable, it also shows how users engaged with it. We focus on in-view %, in-view time, Universal Interaction %, Universal Interaction time, total exposure time, and total ad dwell time to build a story for our client on how well their ad performed.

Want one? Get your report from the research team!

3. The L word

Yay Learning!

What was 14 hours, 6 sessions, over 11 weeks? Digital Learning! This summer, SMM (from sales, to ops, to research) took part in a full-fledged digital bootcamp - which even included presenting an RFP at the end.

Wait, what was covered again?

It was a long road, with a lot of great information. From an overview of the ad units we offer and their benefits, to programmatic, to search and audience extension, and social, video, and native, there was a lot to learn. You earned that t-shirt.

4. Now comes the A-Team..

Hello, Audience Solutions.

Wait, What?

It's true. In the fall, we officially moved all of our off-platform digital products under one group, and the Audience Solutions team was born.

The products? AdWords (search), audience extension, social media marketing, and email marketing.

The perks? There are a few:

  • Access to more Canadian inventory.
  • It's all in the family. Eyereturn is not only sophisticated and well-established, they are also related to us as part of Torstar.
  • Having a competitive full-service solution in-house is a B freakin' D.

Success Stories?

Heard of Black Friday? What about Cyber Monday? (hint: read this and this). Well, with the help of our Audience Solutions team, one of our retail clients had the the highest total conversion value of sales on Cyber Monday by using our SEM and display products.

This is a team to look out for in 2017. As we ramp up our capabilities and offerings, they will be sharing more info, and more success stories, more often.

5. Increasing our "C"...

Creative Capabilities. Specifically within the digital space.

We did?

Yes. In the fall we officially launched our "Digital Creative Services". We hosted a few info sessions and let you know that moving forward our in-house creative team (that you know and love) can now produce digital ads that can live on our sites and beyond.

Give me the 411.

We can now create HTML 5 ads that fit all screen sizes. This is very important because audiences are everywhere. All online ads - whether on desktop, mobile, or tablet - need to make an impact on every screen size they are viewed. Even the IAB is changing their ad formats to reflect this (read about that here and here).

Producing creative that is compelling and responsive, so the right message can be delivered no matter the viewpoint (desktop, mobile, or tablet), is very important and something all advertisers are realizing. And now, we can do this for your clients.

What ad units can we do?

We have leaderboards, wallpaper, mobile interstitials, masthead disruptions...we have a lot. Best check out the resources on the sales tools so I can move onto other things.

How does it work?

Well, if you have an idea (or need one) pre-sale, reach out to creative services. Once you sell it, you need to include it on your IO, complete the creative brief, and get ready to be amazed.

What's next?

Keep your eyes peeled for updates, success stories, and inspiration. The team will be keeping you guys in the loop if any new ad units become available, and they will be sharing some of their most creative work so you can get some inspiration for your clients.

See, There Were Some High Points in 2016

That was a whirlwind. Hope you enjoyed the 2016 recap. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Don't worry, more highlights to come next week.

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