The Polar Report

The Polar Report: Industry Insights #22

September 13, 2023

Welcome to The Polar Report, a curated view of what’s happening in the world of Digital Monetisation, Audience Development and Measurement. This week, we explore the evolving landscape of the U.S. Ad Industry, with predictions suggesting 5% growth in 2023. We also venture into the world of YouTube, where the platform is delving into bite-sized games. Discover how FAST viewing is reshaping the U.S. media landscape and how X Analytics is undergoing significant changes, leaving implications for its users.


U.S. Ad Industry Predicted to Grow 5% in 2023

According to a recent industry forecast by analyst Brian Wieser, the U.S. advertising industry is expected to see 5% growth in 2023. While this is a slight slowdown from the 6.5% growth seen the previous year, it represents a return to pre-pandemic economic conditions. The surge in e-commerce during the pandemic boosted retail media investments and online direct-to-consumer sales, benefiting the advertising industry. However, most experts believed that sustaining such high growth over the long term was unsustainable.

This growth projection is seen as positive news by marketers, indicating a stable industry. However, not all sectors will experience the same outlook. Traditional publishing and TV advertising are expected to face modest declines as channel proliferation slows down.

In this evolving advertising landscape, traditional media, particularly television, is encountering challenges due to cord cutting and the ascent of streaming platforms. Advertisers who traditionally relied on TV must pivot towards innovative strategies to adapt. Simultaneously, the sustained dominance of digital platforms, which constitute 64% of digital advertising investments, highlights the imperative for advertisers to embrace digital proficiency. Leveraging platforms like search, social media, and retail media is essential to maintaining competitiveness in this rapidly transforming environment.

Full Article on AdWeek

Audience Development

YouTube Explores Bite-Sized Games

YouTube is venturing into the world of gaming with the launch of an experimental in-app platform for bite-sized games. Unlike full-fledged cloud gaming, this feature is currently available only to selected participants or beta testers. Users can check for access by looking for a "Playables" tab on YouTube's home feed, and the games can be enjoyed on both desktop and mobile devices. Although specific game titles have not been listed, "Stack Bounce" is one known game on the platform. YouTube hints at the potential for more complex games in the future, with the added benefit of saving game progress. This move aligns with a broader trend in the streaming industry, as platforms like Netflix and TikTok also experiment with in-app games, while Google's Stadia recently ceased operations.

Although this feature is still in the experimental phase, there is no doubt that YouTube will be exploring ways to monetise it. Will this become an exclusive feature limited to premium subscribers, or will there be aspects that will no longer be accessible without a subscription? YouTube has another potential avenue for monetizing Playables, and that is by integrating advertisements into the gaming experience. This could take various forms, such as pre-game or mid-game ads, as well as strategically placed ad banners on the screen. This approach not only serves as a revenue source for YouTube but also offers a valuable platform for advertisers to reach their target audience within the gaming ecosystem.

As of 2023, Netflix games has an average of 1.7 million daily users, which is less than 1% of their subscribers. This raises the question of whether YouTube’s investment in gaming is justified. YouTube should closely evaluate the prospects of its gaming venture in light of this limited user base.

Full Article on Engadget


Why FAST Viewing Is Transforming the US Media Landscape

Inscape, a provider of ACR data from millions of VIZIO smart TVs, has revealed a significant shift in consumer behaviour that's reshaping the media industry. Streaming, along with the rise of free ad-supported TV (FAST) services, is now firmly established as the primary mode of media consumption. This transformation began in early 2022, when streaming overtook cable/satellite TV as the most-watched source in US households. Since then, streaming's dominance has continued to grow, with no signs of slowing down.

One key factor contributing to this shift is the ubiquity of smart TVs, which put streaming apps and FAST services at viewers' fingertips the moment they power on their televisions. FASTs, offering free, easily accessible, curated programming, are gaining immense popularity, with viewing time increasing by a substantial 70% from Q2 2022 to Q2 2023.

As the media landscape evolves, marketers, measurement providers, and media owners must adapt to this new reality. Understanding where and how consumers connect is crucial for devising effective strategies that resonate with audiences and drive successful business outcomes. This can be beneficial for advertisers, as it will allow them to connect with their target demographics by aligning their ads with specific TV shows, movies, or events. By harnessing the capabilities of these devices, brands can create more engaging, relevant, and effective advertising campaigns that resonate with viewers and drive desired actions, ultimately leading to increased ROI and brand loyalty.

Full Article on Advanced Television

X Analytics Undergoes Changes: Implications for Users

X Analytics, a valuable tool for tracking the performance of tweets and user engagement on the platform previously known as Twitter, has recently undergone changes that are raising questions among its users. The service, which used to provide detailed breakdowns of tweet reach and engagement, has seemingly been affected by the transition to X's premium subscription service, X Premium. Users have reported a lack of data collection for September and most of August on the X Analytics home page, with a message stating that improvements are in progress. This has left users, especially those managing accounts for businesses or brands, without access to crucial insights.

While X has introduced a new beta version of account analytics, some users have encountered issues accessing it. These changes align with X's recent shift towards monetization, where certain features that were previously free are now available only to X Premium subscribers. It remains uncertain whether X intends to reserve detailed analytics exclusively for Premium customers, but the removal of these insights will undoubtedly impact companies relying on social media monitoring. This development raises concerns about the evolving landscape of X's offerings and the accessibility of data for users, particularly businesses seeking to optimise their online presence.

It's concerning to see X Analytics, a valuable resource for social media managers, undergo changes that limit access to detailed analytics. Many professionals rely on these insights to make informed decisions and optimise their content strategies. With the shift towards X Premium, it's becoming increasingly challenging for social media managers to access the data they need to effectively manage their accounts.

This situation also highlights the ongoing tension between monetisation efforts and the user experience on social media platforms. While platforms like X are exploring premium subscription models, it's crucial to strike a balance that doesn't compromise the accessibility of vital tools for users. Data accessibility should remain a priority to ensure that content creators and businesses can thrive on the platform. Could we see X lose some of their users, or are they a big enough platform to keep them?

Full article on Forbes