Research for the Sake of Research

Call me old-fashioned, but when an industry group throws a spread to promote its latest research findings, shouldn’t one expect those findings to be insightful and revealing?

The Online Publisher’s Association (OPA) recently unveiled its “A Sense of Place: Why Environments Matter” study.  Some of the findings:

  • “A site’s content is strongly correlated with how its advertisers are perceived.”
  • “The more trusted, relevant, and timely the content, the greater the willingness to recommend the site to others.”
  • “The more reputable, relevant and respected are the advertised brands.” (Those brands that advertise on the site).

Not particularly surprising information, if I might opine.

Don’t environments matter in most everything we do? Doesn’t a restaurant with a pleasant ambience attract patrons to it? Don’t we want to live in a house that’s aesthetically pleasing? Or drive a car that looks nice?

Environments do matter…but, as trite as it may sound, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. If the food at the restaurant isn’t good, the patrons won’t return. If the house is a shambles inside, people won’t want to visit. And, although that car might be beautiful to look at, it may be uncomfortable to drive.

What I think the OPA was getting at was that online sites that offer both environment and content are the ones where its readers are more likely to have a higher regard for the site and for the advertisers who appear there. (Also inherent in all this is site navigability. A site with good content and an environment that a user finds difficult to navigate will affect the user’s perception of that site.)

But, isn’t that the way magazines have been positioning themselves for decades? Don’t advertisers put ads for certain products in editorial environments that will favorably reflect on them? Aren’t you known by the company you keep?  In an attempt to spur online ad sales, it seems like the OPA was stating the obvious.  But, environments and content have always mattered.

— Dave Capano, Director of Media Services

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