What publishers are doing to satisfy the needs of advertisers

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The customers are increasingly in control—tuning out of traditional advertising and talking back through blogs and online videos. CEOs, in search for new profitable growth, are putting pressure on advertising effectiveness and contribution to business results. Advertisers are under pressure to transform and adapt to these new technologies. How can publishers help in this time of disruption?

Leading publishers are:

  • Increasingly customercentric. Facing ever-evolving customer behaviors, publishers are becoming more customercentric?gaining reader insights as to how they want to receive news, information and entertainment. They understand that advertisers want associations and relevancy with these communities because these readers are choosing to invest their time there. A dramatic example is the recent shutdown of Elle Girl by Hachette Filipacchi after five years of publication. Elle Girl was doing well in its category, but its target audience was best reached by digital media via wireless properties.
  • Placing more emphasis on accountability. Publishers are evaluating more realistic media-buying and pricing models. Time , for example, took a risk in moving to readership guarantees rather than tying itself to a circulation base. Publishers are also improving advertisers' access to quantitative readership data and reporting timeliness that can aid advertisers with their investment choices.

However, many publishers are still not:

  • Placing sufficient value on their brands. The most important single asset a publisher has is its brand. With an ever increasing array of choices vying for consumers' time and attention, the strongest brands will prosper. Publishers and editors need to be aligned on what their brands are and aren't. While there are a number of shining examples of great media brands, many magazines lack a focused and clear promise to their readers. As such, their communities are not bonded to these brands in the ways that their competitors' communities are. Advertisers want associations with desired brands and loyal readers.
  • Adapting fast enough to new online content consumption. Consumers have dramatically shifted their consumption habits over the last year to Web 2.0 properties, from online videos (YouTube) to blogs and social communities. Traditional publishers are now facing competition from the likes of Boing Boing, Digg and 50 million other bloggers that cater to the interests of microcommunities. Advertisers follow consumers to the media platforms they value. Few publishers have reacted well to these radical shifts. It will be interesting to watch how Conde Nast will leverage its acquisition of Reddit to take advantage of social recommendations.
  • Moving fast enough on integration. Advertisers want to extend their campaigns from print to online, to television, to events, to mobile devices?and to do so seamlessly and simultaneously. It remains difficult to plan and execute integrated campaigns within a brand property. Infighting and pricing problems persist in many companies. However, Meredith Corp. has demonstrated its expertise in understanding its readers by investing smartly in direct marketing to offer advertisers one-to-one engagement opportunities. The risk for publishers is that this integration will be provided by other players, such as AT&T with its three-screen strategy (TV, mobile, PC), thereby reducing the publishers' value-added opportunities.
  • Adding value on the sales side. As content and viewers shift digitally, publishers must leverage the assets they have, including their brand, customer relationships and sales teams, to reinvent the connections between advertisers and the communities they want to reach. Time Warner, for instance, has redirected the salespeople at each of its individual business publications—Business 2.0, Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Money —to focus on selling advertisers on the unique profile of the aggregated business audiences they reach.

Digitization of creation, content and distribution has changed and will continue to change publishing, enabling it to invent new ways to shape reader experiences. Successful publishers and advertisers will be the ones that pioneer how they can leverage technology to create those unique experiences that are most valued by their communities. At Hewlett-Packard Co., we will continue to shift our advertising dollars online in fiscal year 2007, explore new media opportunities (such as online video and mobile advertising) as well as partner to provide integrated branded experiences to our target communities.

Gary Elliott ([email protected]) is VP-global brand marketing at Hewlett-Packard Co.; Eric Kintz ([email protected]) is VP-global marketing strategy.

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