Media Biz

Stop breaking promises to your audience

If you are going to send a 3rd-party blast to your list on behalf of a non-endemic advertiser, you’d better have some pretty good behavioral or demographic data to justify why that list is likely to welcome that email. Even strongly loyal subscribers are likely to re-think their email preferences if you spam them.

Case in point: I’ve subscribed to Hearst’s Car and Driver in print on and off for more than 20 years. I use their website, read most of their emails, follow them on Facebook, have participated as a member of their survey panels and have 2 of their IOS apps. In other words, they should know a hell of a lot about me by now. Certainly they should know enough about me to exclude me from any e-blast with a subject line that begins with the phrase “Update your spring look”. 50-year-old guys in the suburbs with a wife and 2 kids do not generally think in terms of their spring or even their fall looks. New Stihl chainsaw? I’m listening.

Update your spring look with AG Denim, Calvin Klein & Ted Baker at 50-75% off on HauteLook. Shop Now. - - Gmail

So why did I even click through? The “from” address was Car and Driver, a brand I trust and have a long relationship with. I love their products and eagerly consume just about any content they produce. The promise inherent in an email from this magazine is that it is going to be in some way related to their product. As soon as I open the email, the promise is broken, trust is damaged, and here I am calling them out. Is that really worth a $20,000 eblast order? And for you B2B publishers who do this sort of thing, is it really worth a $1,500 eblast order? The correct answer is an emphatic “no”.

In a world of readily available enterprise data management platforms that make it easy to segment on the fly, there is no excuse for this kind of “spray and pray” email marketing, especially from a publishing powerhouse like Hearst. It actively damages your relationship with both brand loyalists like me and casual users as well.


Gatekeepers: Your days are numbered

Amazon, for all that it seems to be riddled with inefficiencies and discontented employees from the inside, is turning industries upside down. Book publishers are terrified of the online retailer, and with good reason. Amazon already makes it easy for authors to self-publish Kindle editions of their books and sell them through Amazon, while earning a bigger share of any revenue generated. Now Amazon is acting like a traditional publisher, giving advances and handling editing, production and marketing for authors. (more…)

The ultimate data product: Awards programs

Awards programs are a great money-maker that can drive significant revenues for trade shows or trade magazines. In B2B, awards for large scale projects have the potential to pull in revenue from both the designer/architect/builder/engineer and the companies they bought components from.

So why aren’t more of these awards programs investing in the next logical step of turning award entries into a data product? It’s a supplier catalog with drama. It’s a look book with pathos. It’s a way to get people to allocate a lot more of their marketing budget to you than they are now. It’s a great path to monetizing a segment of your audience.

Awards programs minus the data product are already pretty compelling. For the 5, 10 or 20 winners and runners-up, there is a great deal of marketing benefit. For the segment of prospects looking to purchase the products or services being recognized, there are useful benchmarks and new ideas. For the awards program organizers, there are entry fees, award ceremony fees, a bump in advertising from some of the winners, and a jump in attendee/reader interest. (more…)

iPad nirvana for B2B media: Get serious

Last year I read an assertion by a well-regarded digital media thinker that the iPad and its eventual competitors represent a “huge opportunity for B2B media“.  The article then goes on to give a series of unremarkable examples of how B2B media is leveraging the iPad, which pretty much prove my contention: A successful B2B iPad app solves a significant reader need, period.


Website requirements document best practices

Building a website or selecting a content management system (CMS) requires a clear idea of what features and functionality the site will need. How you define and implement those features will go a long way in determining the success of the site. That’s why a comprehensive requirements document, which gives your site developers a clear description of site functionality and workflow and the objectives behind that functionality is critical.

What should a requirements document include?   Alas, there is no magic fill-in-the-blanks template you can finish in an hour.  You need to do some research and thinking.  However, carefully answering these 6 questions will serve as a pretty good website requirements template:


Preparing journalists for irrelevance

Classes in magazine production?  Really?  It seems the top j-schools are  doing a decent job of preparing students for a very different media landscape.  Columbia, Stanford, Harvard are all tackling the future of the media in exciting ways. But what about the remaining 95% of schools?  A completely unscientific survey of curricula from 10 or so schools of journalism in the U.S.  makes me feel sorry for thousands of students innocently believing they are preparing themselves for a rewarding journalism career by spending hours learning utterly irrelevant skills.

Best advice to those who to aspire to a glamorous career in print media?  Don’t put yourself (or your parents) deep into debt based on a hazy concept of an industry mainly gleaned from TV and movies.  Actually talk to some people who are doing it for real, or even aggressively pursue an internship to see it from the inside.

For those of you who have already gone through J-school and possess media skills of use in the 21st century, you might want to read a little about how (not) to get a journalism job.

Is finding the right platform the key to success?

It’s relatively easy to come up with a great idea for a new online product, service or business.  You see the unmet need, you know the market, you have a good idea how you can make some money by removing friction between buyers and sellers.  You flesh it out some, talk to some people, and pretty soon you’re excited about this opportunity just sitting there waiting for you.  If this works, you might be able to pay off debt, send your kids to college, quit your day job, whatever.  The point is, this could be huge.

Now, since your idea is a web business, you start looking for a platform, or a software package that can be readily adapted to your new idea.  If you’re lucky, that platform will have been architected by someone with real expertise in the kind of thing you want to do, so it will save you lots of trial and error.  If you can just find the right platform/software/cms/coder you’ll be profitable in no time.

And that’s when you fail. (more…)

Let your designers do their job

If you are lucky enough to have actual professional web designers on the payroll, please let them do their job.

Web design is one of those thankless professions that everyone feels innately qualified to participate in.  Most editors would never consider making a suggestion about code to their tech team.  These same editors don’t think twice about handing down detailed direction about colors, fonts and layout to a designer.

Design is something we consume and react to every day, so it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback.  I’ve been guilty of this myself, but I learned some things which (mostly) keep me from attempting to micromanage design.


Are ad networks evil?

Jim Spanfeller’s article on Paid Content about online pricing discipline, advertising vs. direct response, and the evils of ad networks is a good read, but I think it misses the mark.  Here’s a telling quote:

“These metrics drive the conversation and the core objectives of online advertising away from demand creation (which is basically the definition of advertising) to demand fulfillment or, put another way, direct response.”

The flaw in this reasoning is that it assumes that demand creation = display advertising.  In fact, I believe that demand creation on the web is happening mainly through social media and content marketing.  To think that an online display ad is creating demand for a product, no matter how brilliant the creative, is dangerously dated thinking. Online display ads can create awareness or even interest, but demand?  Not so much.

Ed Dunn left a great comment on Jim’s article:

“…Mommy bloggers writing narratives on a product/service is more potent than a banner ad.  Discussions on a social network about an upcoming movie is more potent than a banner ad. The ability to scan content and return contextual referrals is more powerful than a banner ad. The ability to tie a product into a twitter #subject tag at the moment is more powerful than a banner ad”

So, is it a mistake to allow an ad network to pollute your site with low-quality ads and pay you a $0.27 CPM for something you’d sell direct for $27.00 CPM?  Yes, it’s a huge mistake.

However, the bigger mistake is for marketers and agencies to believe this bulk buy strategy actually advances their marketing goals.  It certainly is easier for a media buyer to be the hero when they can deliver massive impressions for little money.  It’s up to us as publishers (especially niche publishers) to offer marketers a smarter solution.

This post was first published on eMedia Vitals.