Here are some ruminations on trends, courtesy of my annual trip to the U.S. Open with three good friends, Ted Bahr, CEO of BZ Media, Steve Davis, president of SRDS, and Michael Forgash, an account executive at SRDS.
We’ve been doing this outing for years, the four of us, and over that span, as a result of my exposure to the accumulated wisdom of my three industry colleagues, I’ve come up with countless terrific stories for FOLIO: and our other brands. And I’ve often changed the way I look at the business as a result of the conversations we have.
This year, we discussed some especially timely things. One was an observation that annual booked business, in b-to-b media, at least, is increasing in recent years.
On the surface, that’s a good thing. You want to be able to go into a new year counting on a base of committed business. If your budget is $1 million, it’s nice to have $500,000 locked up in January, knowing that you’re going to get the rest as the year unfolds.
But in recent years, if the magic number was traditionally 50 percent up front, for some brands it has reached 80 percent or more. Good thing, right? No. Because few advertisers have slush funds anymore. Which means opportunistic, spot buying is declining.
Last-minute "remnant" buying is disappearing. So to use my hypothetical example, that $500,000 of booked business is on a declining annual total-maybe $800,000 instead of $1 million. That’s reality for many brands, and it’s not good.
Social media is an area of opportunity, or so says Ted Bahr, who describes a program of doing lucrative marketing through sponsored tweets, Linked-In and other social networks.
Get into these kinds of marketing techniques early, says Steve Davis, because publishers that are utilizing social media now to grab audience are doing the right thing: The acquisition costs are reasonable and will likely escalate soon.
Perhaps the most troubling thing, even more so than what’s happening with annual spends, is business ethics. It’s true that we’ve always had ethical issues in b-to-b media, but as the industry matures, and print declines, many brands hear from advertisers that they "don’t care" about audits. Do WE care? And if we don’t do we nevertheless tell the truth and maintain pristine files?
That’s a question worth asking of ourselves. We talked about the slippery slope of declining editorial ethics (I saw a magazine recently that featured on its cover a person it described as a mover and shaker in foreign markets. Then I flipped a few pages and saw that same cover subject listed on the masthead as a business-development director for the magazine, mining those same foreign markets for business. And then I flipped a few more pages and saw that the tourism bureau for that same region was the "sponsor" of the cover story).
Are we still a noble profession?