Print and digital union triggers many questions

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Glenn Hansen, president-CEO of BPA Worldwide, easily racks up more than 150,000 frequent-flier miles each year as he travels the globe to discuss circulation and auditing. Media Business caught up with him to ask him about industry trends.

Media Business: What do you think about the convergence of digital and print?

Hansen: Well there's no denying—it's happening. Some forms of the digital world are being sold on supply and demand, such as e-newsletters.

From a measurement standpoint, there are few publishers who want this kind of thing audited now since advertisers are jumping on. But that won't always be true.

With the introduction of the Internet, publishing companies became media companies, and now they're becoming audience-access companies. They're going to charge companies to have access to audiences and audience information. So the value proposition now is what kind of information you can get about an audience and how you can package that information for different advertisers.

MB: What's the biggest challenge in attaining this?

Hansen: I was at a conference a few years ago, and there was a panel of four or five CEOs and I asked them why they didn't require people to register online in order to access content. And the first three said it was because they didn't want to set up an extra barrier and the fourth said the truth: It wasn't about traffic at all.

"It's because we don't have a technology infrastructure to do anything with that information if we even had it. The print data-base isn't talking to the events database isn't talking to the e-newsletter database."

The challenge that we see in the b-to-b space is that companies need to start integrating all of these content conduits. Everybody is always going out and getting the next thing. "Podcasts! We've got to do it!" But there has to be an idea of how that information will be used in the larger sense at a company. You want to know how the podcast audience is related to your brand. You need one common platform to share all of this information and then, once it is shared, you need to find a way to use it effectively with media buyers and marketers.

MB: Is this what you're hearing on the streets?

Hansen: This is the issue that's being put on radar screens because people have to sell access to that audience. The media buyer wants to know what's unique about this area: What's the difference between the podcast audience and the print audience? Or can you show that exposure to all 12 or 15 content conduits is somehow more beneficial to the media buyer's brand?

The second aspect is that I'm not even convinced that there's much integrated buying going on yet. On the sales side, people become subject matter experts, and so you can't have a one-on-one conversation between a salesperson and a media buyer. It's more like a dialogue between two committees. When it gets to a point where a marketer knows everything about integrated media and a media buyer knows everything about integrated media, and it is just a conversation between two people, it will greatly help. The larger issue is how are we going to monetize the value of our audience if we don't fully know what's in there?

MB: Any prediction on when that kind of conversation will finally take place?

Hansen: At least by 2010. With some markets, it'll be faster. After the dot-com bubble burst, we thought the investment would be made in integrated media; but it's taken some time to finally start happening.

MB: So what's next?

Hansen: The challenge with the digital world is that there are known users and there are unknown users. With the latter, the media owner might not know of the potential user, but also the end user might not know the media owner exists either. How many users get to you by search and just go in and out of your universe without knowing who is actually providing the content? The next challenge is dealing with that aspect of the business. Not only do you have to capture the unknown user but you also have the challenge of getting them to know your brand.

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