Does NI’s print to digital ad conversion go far enough?

News Int's CEO Mockridge unveiled the 'groundbreaking' print to digital ad conversionNews International’s recent announcement of its plans to roll out a new advertising model – which it describes as “a pioneering approach … that breaks down traditional barriers between print and digital” – certainly shows that it is taking its mobile platforms seriously.

The “groundbreaking” system to which News International refers allegedly allows the company to automatically translate print creative to digital format allowing print advertisers access to its “full range of digital editions”.

In a letter to key advertisers, chief executive, Tom Mockridge is quoted as saying: “print bookings will automatically convert into static versions for the tablet editions. However, we also welcome you to provide aseparate static tablet version of your advertisement”.

Undeniably, this is an important move given current pressures in the market place both to monetise digital content and add value for advertisers, and it certainly offers opportunities to both parties. There are huge efficiencies and cost-saving opportunities if the publisher can indeedautomate this process, but, more importantly, for advertisers it gives significant opportunities to increase their reach as digital channels accelerate and grow in importance.

This is a fact that doesn’t escape Mockridge, who cites the ability to reach beyond the 7.7million Sun newspapers readers with this format and to also reach in excess of 1.5 million “highly engage” Times tablet readers.

However, this move seems to still be missing a further opportunity, one that stretches beyond simply taking an ad and automatically dropping it into a digital publication. That is for the advertisers to be able to do more with these ads. By making their ads interactive or linking them to other content or even directly to ecommerce channels, publishers finally have theopportunity to start to give advertisers answers to challenges that they have been setting since day one; namely proving a return on investment. Digital ads can drive this, but not if they’re simply cut down versions of print ads.

Most people in the industry realise that the advent of digital ads in mobile environments is a real game changer for the whole industry, and it’s great that News International is doing this as it will make the process faster and more efficient. However what they are doing is only the beginning of the story and the start of the opportunity in terms of what can be done with those digital ads.

My nervousness about an automated solution like News International’s is around whether it really makes those ads fit for purpose. So you can take print ads and change their size and shape to fit on a tablet page, but willthey still be as effective because of the different way people interact with a digital publication compared to a printed version?

The automation idea is great, but there are considerable risks for the advertiser. News International really needs to be able to ensure that any repurposing is applied with some degree of human intelligence to understand how those ads are laid out to make them as effective for advertisers as possible. Only by doing this will they really add value for the advertiser.

Mark InSkip is managing director Europe of Group FMG.