Pitching advertisers is never easy, particularly now. But as digital edition providers ramp up their offerings and advertisers see brand extension potential through online assets, publishers may find that digital editions can be sold as part of an integrated package or as a standalone. The trick, of course, is getting advertisers to take the digital edition plunge—and see results.

As one of FOLIO:’s mediaPRO members aptly commented: “The
compelling sales point [for digital editions] is usually ‘it has a
global reach’ and in this transitional period, it’s best to have both.
Print sales have more to worry about at present than the possibility of
being cannibalized by digital.”

“We really try to integrate both our print opportunities and digital together,” said Heather Osborne, manager of Turnstile Publishing’s Golfweek Digital. “For a lot of our partners, branding on both media platforms is important—and with digital elements, the metrics of a marketing campaign is quite literally at their fingertips,” she added.

Item Publication, which uses the Nxtbook digital magazine platform for its Interference Technology magazine, charges U.S. digital edition advertisers 12 percent of what it would cost to run an equivalent ad in the print edition, said vice president Graham Kilshaw.

“The key is to package digital ads with print and price them in a simple way for your customers to buy,” says Kilshaw. “This has worked for us and we currently have 66 percent penetration of our print customers also buying the digital edition.” As of late 2008, Item’s revenues from its digital editions were about $150,000—around 10 percent—of overall revenue. This year, Kilshaw hopes to increase revenues by another 10 percent.

Larger b-to-b titles publisher Penton Media cites the “green” pitch as an effective one, and still the main incentive for advertisers to go digital. Senior vice president of industrial media, new equipment digest and design engineering groups, Bob MacArthur, said the company offers its print subscribers the option to receive a digital edition in place of print. When the sales team reports to advertising clients, they can say, “‘X number of subscribers have opted to convert and receive digital editions instead of print,’ which no one can really argue with,” he said. The digital editions acts as more of a piece of the integrated package than a conscious advertiser buy, but the company has yet to receive any pushback, while it offers them savings in production costs, albeit not significant.

Managing Expectations

In addition to merely getting advertisers to buy space in a digital edition, Golfweek also stresses the importance of managing client expectations, which, said Osborne, is “always a tough subject.” While agencies and clients expect direct response results, specifically in click-through rates, Golfweek tries to push branding efforts with direct response, too.

“Ultimately, it’s a combination of both efforts that Golfweek’s campaigns are generally effective,” she said. “But it’s equally important for creative agencies and marketers to swap out banners often to avoid ‘banner burn out.’” Golfweek Digital has noticed an emerging trend in digital selling to be an increased interest in clients looking for more direct email opportunities.
Penton has yet to receive aggressive client demands for digital edition metrics, said MacArthur, but he anticipates an escalating pressure for this over the next six months.

“It’s inevitable that digital media is the future of advertising, but it’s impossible to push it on someone who just isn’t there yet,” said Osborne. She suggests publishers make sure that the digital product they create is a good fit for a prospective—or current—advertiser. “There’s so much flexibility, interactivity and creativity—and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg,” she added.