Best of the week: The ad-driven media model is thriving — and so is the shadow CES

You made it. New year, same old you. If one of your resolutions was to read more Digiday, we’ve got your back. Here are the best stories from the first week of 2017. There’s some looking forward, some looking back and the view from Vegas, right now.

Reports of advertising’s death have been greatly exaggerated
Annoying ads, the rise of fake news, write-offs and layoffs have driven a drumbeat against ad-driven media that was amplified this week when Medium ditched its ad sales and called the ad-driven system broken. But for all its flaws, critics overlook that ad-driven business models still present many companies with their best monetization options. “If you have good audience, good content and rich targeting, it can work great,” said a marketing tech advisor. “If you don’t, you might fail.”

The Guardian’s new CRO lays out his plans
Our print quarterly, Digiday Pulse, is fresh off the presses — and so is our new membership model. (Please check it out and, of course, subscribe.) For the latest issue, which takes a look at the year to come, we spoke to The Guardian’s new CRO, Hamish Nicklin, about his plans for the publisher’s commercial mission. “We’re chasing the wrong things,” he says. “The idea of bombarding people with ads for the sake of scale, at cheap costs, is a bit rubbish. It doesn’t work for advertisers or consumers, or publishers. We’ve forgotten what really matters.” What matters, of course, is context over audience — and quality over quantity.

We predict what isn’t in media’s future
It’s predictions season in medialand, and there is no shortage of rose-colored takes at where the industry is going in 2017. We’re going the other way: Thanks to the rise of live video, VR, sponsored content, chatbots, commerce and ad-blocking, there’s a lot of unreasonable optimism fizzing around about 2017. To make sure everybody goes into the new year with a clear head, we invited a number of authorities to give us a sense of what’s not happening in the next 12 months. Some highlights:

“Twitter isn’t going to regain its position as a preeminent social platform,” said Charlie Fiordalis, Chief Digital Officer at Media Storm.

“Walled gardens will not drop their walls. You’re not going to see the duopoly change the way they’re thinking,” offered Tim Mahlman, president of AOL Platforms

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence is the future, but 2017 isn’t further enough in the future,” said Alex Wellen, Chief Product Officer at CNN

Inside the alt-CES
It’s that time of year again: The tech media world has descended on Las Vegas for the annual gadgetry bacchanal that is CES. But for media and marketing executives in attendance the convention has little to do with the futuristic tech being hyped on the show floor. Instead, they’re attending their own shadow convention. Many in the media and marketing businesses stick to the hotels. It’s here where companies like Turner and Publicis Media host private conferences, meetings and parties with clients and potential partners. Their argument? The show floor is chaotic, whereas a more private setting allows for more control and deeper conversations. Bonus: everyone’s in the same place for once.

The best and worst ads of 2016
Finally — and may this be the last word on 2016 — ad blogging protocol demanded that we “curate” a “best of…” list. So our Copyranter columnist, Mark Duffy, compiled six good 2016 ads you maybe haven’t seen yet (that don’t include Spike Jonze’s stupid Kenzo “film”): Secret deodorant amusingly reminds us that women smell too, and McDonald’s offers up a strong graphic to remind us that they serve coffee 24/7. Ageas Insurance delivers its message with simplicity and style. Babbel puts a new spin on learning a new language.

But listing good things isn’t nearly as pleasurable as howling at the bad. Copyranter also compiled his list of 10 worst ads of the year. Some low-lights: An indecipherable flow chart, the tired old “pregnant man” joke, pandering to millennial women and a weak pizza ad spoofing an erectile dysfunction spot all made the list of 2016’s 10 worst ads. But the actual worst was this most awful iteration of Chevy’s “real people, not actors” campaign.

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