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Bob Cohn

The Mystery of Dark Social

Bob Cohn emedia and Technology - 06/04/2013-13:41 PM

 

That rainbow of lines you get from your analytics team in those monthly reports aims to give you a quick snapshot of the different sources of traffic to your websites.

Here's what that graph looked like for TheAtlantic.com in a recent month. At Atlantic sites, the blue line tracks users who type in our Web address or bookmark our site directly; the purple line follows those who arrived via search; the red line reports links from other sites; the green line monitors referrals from social media.

Click to Enlarge

 
That seems clear enough. But it turns out we (and probably you) are only getting part of the picture. What’s missing in this data—or, to be more accurate, what’s captured in this data but not broken out in any useful way—is traffic that comes from sharing but is not generated by the familiar pillars of the so-called sharing economy: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon.

The stories that fall between the cracks are those that are passed around in casual ways, outside the social media super-structure, millions of times a day. “Most of the time,” writes Alexis Madrigal, “someone Gchatted someone a link, or it came in on a big email distribution list, or your dad sent it to you.”

Alexis, who is the tech editor at TheAtlantic.com, gave a name to this black hole of traffic: dark social. These sorts of referrals are not broken out in the chart above. But they represent a large part of the audiences we all receive. At The Atlantic, our director of analytics, Adam Felder, estimates that dark social accounts for about one-quarter of all referrals to our sites.

So where’s it coming from? Since those four lines in the graph add up to all of our traffic, readers arriving under cover of dark social are stealing market share from one of the other categories. Specifically, dark social is coming out of typed/bookmarked category, which is the catch-all bucket for sources of traffic that can’t really be traced. Adjusting for that fact suggests the true power of user sharing: nearly half of The Atlantic’s traffic, as an example, is coming through the combination of traditional and dark social.

None of this surprised Alexis. Growing up in rural Washington, he spent a lot of time in the pre-Twitter social world: bulletin boards, ICQ, and other virtual hangouts of tech-minded mid-90s adolescents. So more than a decade later, he wasn’t buying the idea that social networks had somehow birthed a new social Web. Sharing was sharing; the tools were just getting better.

Then Alexis saw how Chartbeat was dividing visitors who showed up without referrer data into two categories. The first group was people who were going to a home page or landing page. The second was people going to any other page. This second set, Chartbeat figured, were users following a link, because nobody actually types in http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/05/what-the-man-who-first-summited-everest-thought-of-the-first-american-to-orbit-earth/276305/, for example. Chartbeat called them direct social. Madrigal was ecstatic. “They'd found a way to quantify dark social, even if they'd given it a lamer name!”

So why should we care about dark social? As editors and publishers, we need a clear understanding of where our audiences are coming from. There’s a false sense of security in believing a greater portion of our audience is coming in through typed/bookmarked than is really the case. Our audience, it turns out, may not be loyal repeat visitors after all.

On the other hand, if there are more visitors coming in through the social side door—the Facebook/Twitter axis plus everyday dark social—well, that tells us something about the content we are creating: It works! People are sharing it. People want others to see it. In the sharing economy, quality wins. And if that sharing economy is bigger than we realized, quality matters more than ever.

Our new understanding of dark social comes just as analytics gurus are coming to realize there’s something quirky going on with search referrals. BuzzFeed, in a post titled “Where Did All the Search Traffic Go,” notes that traffic from search engines to digital publishers has dropped 30 percent from September 2012 to April 2013. Some of that is an actual decline in the power of search as the sharing economy takes off. But some, alas, is the result of incomplete data.

As Digiday’s Jack Marshall explains, Safari and Firefox – in certain circumstances—are not passing along accurate referral information when users click through from search. That means search is undercounted, and no one knows quite how much. Danny Sullivan, the search engine expert and consultant, has dubbed this delta, of course, Dark Google.

The challenge now is to find a way out of all this darkness. If we can’t see where we are, we can’t know where we’re going.

 

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Jeffrey S. Litvack

So Your CEO Says You Need to Be A “Digital First” Publisher? | Part 1

Jeffrey S. Litvack B2B - 05/29/2013-16:36 PM

 

Being a “digital first” publisher is quickly becoming the new standard. Readership is shifting from print to digital devices and the number of devices that your readers are using is growing at a phenomenal rate. According to a recent study by the NPD Group, U.S. homes have more than half a billion devices connected to the Internet.

Even more shocking is that the number of connected devices per house (currently at 5.7) is more than double the average number of people per household. In only a few years publishers have gone from serving an exclusively print and online audience, to now having to reach readers who don’t even own a computer and certainly don’t tote around printed magazines and newspapers.

So what should you do when your CEO challenges you to get a digital strategy quickly, and turn into a “digital first” publisher? Where do you begin? How do you determine what will have the highest return and the quickest impact? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, but before you hit the panic button, let me give you a framework that can help.

To ensure you are not missing anything, consider these five key areas:

Five Key Channels to a Successful Digital Strategy

  • Online Presence
  • Mobile & Tablet Optimized Websites
  • Mobile & Tablet Native Apps
  • Digital Editions
  • Newsletters

This month, I’d like to provide a high-level explanation of the first two channels, and next month I’ll walk through the remaining three.

Online Presence

By far your largest reach and largest audience will be your online audience. You’ve probably been building up this audience over the last decade and with almost 80 percent of the U.S. population online; this should be the foundation for any strategy.

Ensuring that your online sites are best in class—from load times to layouts and user experiences, to social and SEO elements—is a critical place to start. It came as a surprise to me that many b-to-b publishers haven’t overhauled their online presence in many years, even as their online readership has grown, and their readers have become more sophisticated users and have come to rely on this medium as primary way of interacting with your brand.

Mobile & Tablet Optimized Websites

It’s been just six years since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, and in that short time mobile Web traffic has grown exponentially. Today, one out of every six Web pages is viewed on a mobile device (Adobe Study 2013).  In the last year alone, mobile traffic as a percentage of total website traffic nearly doubled from 10 percent to 18 percent from Q4 2011 to Q4 2012. This trend is only going to accelerate with today’s smartphones having the same computing power as the top-of-the line desktops in 2005, and smartphone shipments eclipsing that of desktops and laptops.

It seems like everywhere you look someone is pulling out a smartphone, but the one thing they are not doing a lot of anymore is talking on the phones.  The vast majority of the estimated 130 million smartphones roaming U.S. streets are spending their time accessing content and information—the Online Publishers Association found that 93 percent of smartphone users are accessing content/information. Ignoring the smartphone user is no longer an option.  Publishers need to get on the mobile bandwagon quickly and ensure that they have an optimized viewing experience for these smaller screens.

It’s not just smartphones, it’s also increasingly becoming a tablet or touchscreen world. Adobe analyzed more than 1 billion visits to more than 1,000 websites and found that 9 percent of the traffic came from tablets. That ranks ahead of the 7 percent of visits that came from smartphones, and tablet penetration is a fraction of smartphone penetration. In the coming years mobile Web traffic will eclipse online traffic, and publishers need to move quickly to form a deep relationship with this growing audience.
 

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Nick Cavnar

The Myth of the 360-Degree Customer View

Nick Cavnar Audience Development - 05/28/2013-13:57 PM

 

One of the promises always made by consultants and system providers offering integrated audience solutions is “the single view of the customer.” 

“You’ll tie together all of the ways you reach your audience—publications, newsletters, web traffic, webinars and events—and be able to see how each unique member of the audience engages with you.”

It’s a promise that puts stars in the eyes of b-to-b media executives. But beyond a few mysterious references to “complex algorithms,” very little gets said about the nuts and bolts involved in creating that single view. Namely, how do you match up all those engagement records from dozens of files and registration systems to make sure you correctly identify each unique individual?  

Identifying the single customer used to have a much less glamorous name—de-duping. One of the most basic steps in the controlled circulation audit process was to check for duplication, and catching duplicate subscribers was (and still is) an obsession for managers and fulfillment companies. We even had inside jokes about it: One Halloween, the circulation staff at a big bto-b publisher dressed the same, wore name tags with their director’s name slightly misspelled, and called themselves collectively the "Dupes of Earl."

We would de-dupe lists for new subscriber promotion against our existing database, and de-dupe the responses again as we added them to the file. Then we would run a suspect dupe match and do a clerical check to identify duplicates the computer hadn’t caught. After all that, the auditor would find yet more duplicates—although we hoped few enough to keep within BPA’s (supposedly top secret) auditing tolerance.  

What makes de-duping such a challenge? Well, to start with, we have all the normal variations in names and addresses that slip past a computer match. But in the b-to-b audience, it isn’t enough to pin down the same name at the same address. What about individuals who had offices at more than one of their company’s plants? Those who switched jobs mid-year and showed up at two different companies? People who got magazines at their home address as well as the office? 

Knowing how much work it takes to identify duplicates in a controlled circulation list of 50,000 or so, I’m always floored when database companies brush by the question of how they will match up unique individuals across several million records drawn from multiple sources. And I’m even more dismayed when some admit that they simply rely on the new “unique identifier”—an email address.

At first it makes perfect sense: While everyone at the same business location shares one mailing address, each has a separate and unique email address. You cannot even create identical email addresses that point to two separate, unrelated inboxes. If you have one email, you have one individual. Right?

Well, half right. Yes, one email address equals one inbox. But a surprising number of businesses still have inboxes shared by multiple individuals. And a much larger number of individuals use multiple addresses. In my last company, I did an analysis of the 1.5 million records in our corporate database, and discovered that nearly 20 percent of our audience members had more than one email address on file with us. And 4 percent of our email addresses were connected to more than one individual at the same company.  

If we had assumed each email represented a unique individual, we would have been hugely misled about the true size of our audience.

For the purpose of sending out an email blast, it may be enough to de-dupe by address only. But to accurately identify one individual across many points of engagement, and deliver a single view of each customer, we can’t avoid the tough, old-fashioned work we learned with controlled circulation. Accurate identification takes multiple levels of matching, multiple points of contact information, and usually some clerical clean-up after those “complex algorithms” have done their best. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a challenge we have to face to make our databases accurate and reliable.

Who knows? Maybe someday, at a Halloween party, we’ll see an integrated audience database team dressed up as the Dupes of Earl.

 

 

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Stephanie Paige Miller

Why Your Brand Should Consider LinkedIn

Stephanie Paige Miller B2B - 05/23/2013-14:10 PM

 

This month, LinkedIn celebrated its 10th birthday (that’s two more years than YouTube) and within the past decade, the social media network for professionals has really grown up. What was once viewed as solely a job-hunting destination has now evolved into a multi-faceted media channel, a place to consume thought-provoking content, digest POVs and commentary from industry leaders, share articles and access updates on-the-go via the beautifully designed LinkedIn app.

But you may be asking yourself: Why publish content on LinkedIn when your brand already shares on Facebook?

First, it’s another platform for your content, which is always a good thing. But second, remember that social media channels have unique offerings: What works on Twitter doesn’t work on Instagram. Your followers (likely) vary per channel, so naturally you’ll want to share content that resonates with the specific audience you’re targeting. LinkedIn users are engaged and hungry for smart content, and unlike Facebook followers, are less worried about being entertained and more interested in learning something.  

What’s more, as Dan Roth, Executive Editor of LinkedIn, shared in his keynote at FOLIO:’s MediaNext conference, “the vast majority of readers leverage media as a means to put forth a view, interests, and opinions to their network to generate interaction and help develop their social and professional connections and standing.” The role of the media is to be a conversation starter, and LinkedIn is an ideal forum.

Here are five reasons to stay up-to-date with LinkedIn:

1. A new audience is waiting to consume your content—the platform has 225 million unique global users.

2. You can mine for leads and industry news on the site, in a number of ways: LinkedIn Today is a hub for custom content sharing. Channels allow users to receive tailored news and sift through stories. There’s the option to “follow” Influencers who opine on trends and share actionable business tips.  Global leaders, from Jack Welch to Sir Richard Branson (who has 1.8 million followers as a LinkedIn influencer vs. 402K followers on Facebook) have amassed loyal followings.

3. There’s an opportunity for increased brand awareness. Starting a company page is a relatively low lift and puts your content right in front of readers. Are you a lifestyle brand? Consider sharing your career-related content or “big think” pieces at key moments in time (i.e. graduation). Real estate b-to-b publication? LinkedIn is an excellent vehicle for sharing insight on REITs and mortgage interest rates, as well as educating potential customers on your products and services. Long story short: Position yourself as a thought-leader.

4. LinkedIn can “drive enough traffic to crash your servers.” Add LinkedIn share buttons on your website and share your own content at least once a day. Roth says that the more content is shared, the more LinkedIn's algorithms view it as "important to the business community” and it will surface on the homepage.

5. You can connect with your readers. Start a group and host monthly discussions with those who join. The logistics and quality of comments is more fluid on LinkedIn than on Facebook, for example.

Check out these brands for thought-starters on how you can leverage LinkedIn for your publication:

Who do you follow on LinkedIn? What Influencers do you find insightful? Tweet me @StephaniePaige.

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Hugh Byrne

Three Lessons Learned from Implementing Marketing Automation

Hugh Byrne Sales and Marketing - 05/20/2013-12:39 PM

 

Move over social media. Something new has come along for publishers that’s making audience development (nearly) sexy: Marketing automation.

Seemingly overnight, media blogs, webinars and conference sessions are hailing marketing automation, behavioral targeting and lead nurturing as the new panacea, offering publishers opportunities to deepen their relationships with audiences and sponsors. And within all the hype is more than a kernel of truth. Marketing automation can give publishers tools to engage with their readers more intelligently, and add value to their customer relationships by providing richer, more nuanced views of what prospective buyers are doing.

For my organization, GreenBiz Group, we’ve found marketing automation to be a valuable means of quickly identifying, segmenting, nurturing and converting the best prospects for our paid conferences. It’s helped us quickly convert newsletter subscribers browsing our events pages into paid conference registrants, and also proven to be a more effective tool than traditional methods in supporting sponsored lead gen programs, not only increasing response, but also providing sponsors with richer data about user behavior that better identifies where they land in the sales funnel.

So you’ve got the marketing automation bug? Here are three things you should consider when planning and evaluating the myriad of technology choices in this rapidly growing sector.

1. Software may be the least of your expenses. While marketing automation software isn’t cheap, the costs of setup and integration with existing systems can grow quickly. To really gain the full benefit of the behavioral targeting opportunities, publishers need a complete picture of how users are interacting with their marketing and content. It’s to your advantage to go all in, integrating site pages, Web forms, email, e-commerce apps, CRM, etc. Whether you migrate current functions (e.g. newsletter management) away from dedicated email services, or build integrations to share information between systems, you’ll need to evaluate the time and cost of training staff on new processes, as well as the development costs for custom integration.

2. What users say is interesting. What they do is more interesting. Most marketing automation packages come equipped with an array of features. These include progressive profiling, which lets you ask a few questions with each web form. Fewer questions increases conversion rates, but still lets you build a comprehensive user profile over the course of several interactions. While self-reported information can provide valuable qualification information, erroneous or flat out deceitful answers are not uncommon, making it only one part of the equation.

Marketing automation software lets you see what users are doing on your site, and this can be valuable for identifying purchasing interest. By flagging key sections or pages on your site (e.g. comparative specs or pricing data on products), you can identify and focus on users who not only have the authority to purchase, but who also behave with intent to purchase. Developing lead scoring methodologies based on self-reported and behavioral data lets publishers offer sponsors a richer lead profile, which can be provided at a premium over traditional qual form data.

3. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. As valuable as marketing automation is for enhancing sponsor programs, it’s even better for your own product/service sales activities. Identifying and flagging prospective advertisers to sales staff is a natural. Perhaps even better are programs that convert to sales directly, such as premium content or conference passes. In this case, prospective buyers who respond to email or ad campaigns, pay repeated visits to event pages, or who visit pricing and registration pages can be flagged and added to automated nurture campaigns. These can be highly effective at speeding conversions.

These are just a few of the considerations when planning for marketing automation. And while the planning and investment in marketing automation software requires a significant commitment of time and resources, the upside is that you provide greater value to sponsors for lead gen programs, improved performance of event and premium content efforts, and overall greater insight into which content investments provide higher ROI. And all of that is more than worth the effort.

Hugh Byrne is Senior Vice President at GreenBiz Group. You can find him on Twitter at @greenbiztweets.

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Al DiGuido

Time Inc.'s Opportunity for Change

Al DiGuido Consumer - 05/20/2013-09:58 AM

 

[Editor's Note: Al DiGuido is a publishing vet and a savvy direct-marketing and digital innovator with a track record of success that spans executive positions in a host of companies. Like many other industry watchers, he sees the spin-off of Time Inc. from Time Warner as an opportunity for whoever becomes the company's new CEO to make some significant changes. Here, in his second post on the matter, Al offers his take on what a new strategic plan might look like. Digital, of course, features heavily in his plans.]

I’m not sure why there is so much confusion and mystery around charting a strategy that transforms the Time Inc. magazine brands into an even bigger powerhouse digital publishing empire. Everything that is being said in analyst reports and the media is old news.

For years, we have witnessed the ongoing shift in media consumption patterns from legacy print media to the digital venue. Only the ignorant, arrogant or asleep could have missed this freight train. Let’s not over-complicate the components of the solution to Time Inc.’s problems. I refuse to believe that my thinking is “missing something” in terms of the challenges that Time Inc. and many other publishers face inside their businesses.

So here’s my plan on rebuilding Time Inc. as it spins off into its own company. If you disagree with it, let’s argue. I am sure that investors are getting tired of this asset posting operating losses and are already in a feverish discussion about how to change the course of the company.

Welcome to Time Inc. Digital

The new company must create a new pivot point from the start. It should not abandon its print legacy—which, according to PIB numbers, still retains market dominance. But it should signal to the market that Time Inc. believes in building the widest network of new digital platforms in the media industry. The new company will be focused on offering marketers the deepest suite of integrated digital solutions available. Meredith and Hearst have already provided the test case for several of these components. Time Inc. can and will do better. It is going to staff this business unit with top minds and thought leaders across the entire suite of digital offerings in the market. Its focus will be to continue to maximize its understanding of customer content and commerce needs with digital intersections.

Time Inc. Magazine Database

Time Inc. has a huge reader/visitor aggregate profile database. This database has been built by collecting email addresses from print titles as well as consumers who have subscribed to all of the newsletters and other e-alert programs. I estimate that there are 60-70 million profile records with email addresses inside this DB. Time Inc.’s brands have done a great job building engagement between the reader/visitor and their content for years. Somewhere during that time, I think it lost track of the fact that its readers were finding incremental content at venues that did a better job satisfying their information and/or community needs. The analytic teams should develop a profile of the customers and where they spend time (when they aren’t consuming the content). They should build the most exhaustive view of customer profiles and preferences ever collected in the company’s history. If they listen to their customers, they will tell them how to service them better. With this information and an understanding of the models that are working in the industry today, the company can commit to introducing a suite of new digital products. It will earn a reputation for the pace of innovation and creativity that it delivers to the marketplace.

Tablet Magazine Extensions

Within the next 12 months, each property will be responsible for publishing 10 new digital magazine titles. You heard that right. For example, at Sports Illustrated, there should be 10 new digital titles that are delivered via the tablet platform and sent on a controlled circulation basis to interested segments of its print and email subscribers. Time Inc. can and will become the industry’s leading digital/tablet publishing company. With each passing month, more of its readers and consumers are embracing this platform. It’s mission critical that it is out front in providing engaging content to its readers and innovative advertising opportunities for its marketer customers. The new company will create a business unit responsible for creating new cross-title digital publications. Here again, a comprehensive study of market sectors outside of the company’s walls for audience and advertiser density will provide it with the direction that it needs for new product development.

New Reader Acquisition Initiatives

It’s clear that Time Inc. must craft a strategy to grow the size of its consumer database. Like other print publications, it has seen significant declines in both new subscriber growth, renewal rates and newsstand sales. While it may believe that it is capturing new readers via online and social portals, the evidence proves that it is being beaten to the punch by others in this effort.

For example, I googled “NY Rangers Hockey” (after the team’s great seventh game victory) only to find that a link to Sports Illustrated’s coverage was on the second page of search results. A similar search on the Benghazi attack has no mention of Time magazine coverage on the first page of results. People’s link to Angelina Jolie’s incredible announcement is at the bottom of the results page. Consumers are finding other content connections that rank higher from a preference standpoint.

Time Inc.’s full array of content offerings (print, digital and online) must appeal to the widest group of consumers in the marketplace. It can drive incremental growth both organically and through strategic acquisitions. A team should be assembled to work with other Time-Warner business units to create programs where it can leverage these assets to cross-promote and sell offerings to its audiences.

In my household we have subscribed to People and Time, I can’t ever remember any type of upsell offer being sent to us to subscribe to other Time Inc. publications. Seems like low hanging fruit to me. In my opinion, incentives are needed for enhanced cooperation between units.

Another unit will be created to identify strategic assets for acquisition for their ability to expand the company’s penetration into incremental, marketable consumer categories. Time Inc. should abandon what seems to be a “not built here” mentality. It needs to be in land-grab mode. Time Inc. has lots of smart people in the building and some of what I  recommend here may already be going on in stealth. Nevertheless, as an “interested consumer,” I haven’t seen any evidence.

Time Inc. Digital Marketing Solutions


The company needs a new focus on providing its marketing customers with a range of solutions to help them to a better job of connecting with their customers. This business unit will operate as an integrated digital marketing agency within the organization. It already has a Content Marketing Solutions group that seems to be doing a good job of helping advertisers with “content marketing solutions.” My sense is that it needs to do much more. It can and will provide its customers with tools, technology and solutions that will position it as the leader in the industry. It may have to use some of the capital that it will save from other areas to purchase the platforms (email, search, social media monitoring, creative services etc.) in order offer a credible digital marketing services offering to its customers. It is playing catch up to the Meredith and Hearst in this regard. In addition, it should put a stake in the ground regarding its “digital content marketing solutions.” There is a huge opportunity to lead the industry in building digital publications for clients that truly engage their respective audience with engaging design and relevant content. It must become the industry’s leading special interest digital publishing (tablet and smart phone) service provider.

All that has been recommended here may be viewed by Time Inc. insiders as misinformed. They may argue that much of what has been provided is “already going on” inside the walls on Sixth Avenue. If that is the case, something is clearly broken. It’s not pleasant seeing the quarterly reports and increasing losses within Time Inc.’s business.

As an interested observer, I worry that the company’s culture lacks the urgency to take bold steps in the direction of this new vision. Time is definitely not on the company’s side. With each passing month, the competition only grows stronger in their ability to pick off readers and advertisers. Transformation is needed now. Will it happen? Only Time will tell.

 

 

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Chris Wilson

Four Considerations for Your New Marketing Services Operation

Chris Wilson Sales and Marketing - 05/16/2013-10:37 AM

 

In an attempt to recapture marketing dollars lost to customer content marketing initiatives, many publishers have pulled the trigger on launching their own internal marketing services operations. This “go where the money is” mentality is both strategic and logical, but once up and running most soon witness the plethora of challenges occupying this arena. To run a successful marketing services business, publishers require more than personnel and publishing know-how; several other factors play a critical role in this business.

1. Learn Your Areas of Proven Capability
The term “marketing services” is almost comically broad in that it encompasses nearly anything related to client communications and sales facilitation. This requires publishers to take the obvious-yet-critical step of establishing a lineup of offerings before going to market. Young marketing service operations must realize, however, that this is a more comprehensive process than merely duplicating an organization’s traditional publishing capabilities.

Publishers must first jettison the preconceived notion that workflow processes for publishing owned media are comparable to those for producing client media. Without this mindset, publishers may fall victim to under-pricing projects, over-working staff, missing critical deadlines and producing mediocre products; each subsequently leading to defeated profit margins and client dissatisfaction.  

To establish unique areas of proven capability, publishers may consider the following three core services that, whether independently or combined, comprise nearly all marketing services arrangements:

• Content Development 
• Media Production
• Printing/Deployment/Delivery

All potential service offerings within each of these three categories should be explored with the production/project management teams responsible for executing them. This discussion will help identify the specific services an operation is currently capable of producing, services that may be offered in the future (and identifying the enabling steps that need to be taken before this happens,) and services that are completely off the table. These conversations will also aid publishers in developing production processes, pricing and timeframes for each specific service.

What to recognize: The breadth of your marketing services resources and capabilities differs from the breadth of your traditional publishing resources and capabilities.


2. Use a Customer-Centric Viewpoint
Running a marketing services operation is a much different practice than running a publication, especially with regard to the selling cycle. Publication sales representatives tend to be accustomed to consulting with marketers and presenting brand-centric advertising solutions. Presenting marketing services solutions to customers, however, requires a truly customer-centric approach accompanied by a high level of marketing knowledge.

The ability to present unbiased, customer-centric strategies and solutions is what differentiates a marketing strategist from a media sales representative. Marketing strategists will earn the trust of clients by outlining entire content marketing campaigns that often include ideas and solutions that they themselves might not be able to service. While this approach may be perceived as counterintuitive from a business standpoint, it succeeds in establishing trusting relationship in this ripe market, ultimately enabling the opportunity for renewable, sustainable business.

What to recognize: Your organization’s top-producing media sales representative might not be equipped to effectively sell marketing services to customers.

3. Build Communications Boundaries to Protect Your Project Management Team

A proven and trusted project management team should be treated by publishers as a highly protected asset within the organization. These teams are able to convert project scope-of-work documentation into well-polished deliverables on time and to customer satisfaction. However, due to the chaotic nature of the marketing services business, once in-production even the smallest disruption in communication between project management teams and customers can drastically alter the schedule or outcome of a project.

To prevent project mishaps, publishers can enforce in-production communications guidelines for non-marketing services staff, such as sales representatives, that prohibits discussing project details with customers without including project management teams. Such guidelines would not be set to restrict all communications between sales staff and their clients (after all, it’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain an ongoing dialogue) but prevent reps from unknowingly changing a project’s entire scope-of-work by making a subtle suggestion or comment to the customer regarding their project.

What to recognize: Even subtle changes to an in-production project’s scope-of-work can create hours of additional work for project management teams.

4. Establish (and Use) an Interdepartmental Communications Network
One of the most unique aspects of a publisher’s marketing services operation is its ability to leverage the growth of other divisions within the organization. As capabilities are broadened across traditional publishing departments, marketing services operations should identify if and how those can be implemented into their own processes or offerings.

Establishing an interdepartmental communications network allows representatives from marketing services teams to routinely connect with various department heads. This crucial exposure enables idea sharing, brainstorming, and eventually the development of new, proprietary marketing service offerings. Branding these proprietary offerings allows publishers to develop new revenue streams while also achieving a more critical milestone: giving its marketing services operation an identity.

What to recognize: Your marketing services operation is defined by the capabilities of your entire organization.

 

 

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Tony Silber

Goodbye, American Business Media

Tony Silber B2B - 05/08/2013-10:31 AM

 

The American Business Media Annual Conference last week in Jacksonville, Florida, was a really interesting one, for a whole lot of reasons. This year's conference was certainly the last of a breed.

With the ABM membership voting last week to approve a merger with the Software & Information Industry Association, the ABM is no more, at least as the 107-year-old independent entity it once was. Now, really, all is up in the air. Whether CEO Clark Pettit stays on board beyond the fall is an open question. Probably not. Same for CFO Todd Hittle. I'll be following up in the days ahead with the SIIA chief, Ken Wasch, for answers on these and other questions.

In the meantime, some observations:

• I had a brief conversation with Wasch at the Saturday night dinner hosted by Glenn Hansen and the folks at BPAWW. There were perhaps 30 people at that dinner, which was a terrific networking event. But I was there in prior years when that BPA dinner was three times as large as it was in 2013. That dwindled group was somehow symbolic of the state of the ABM itself.

• Back in the day, in the 1990s, the ABM event—then called the Spring Meeting—was a true annual gathering of anyone who mattered in the business-information space. It included all the big players of the big companies—mostly middle-aged men whose surnames were also their companies’ names. Everyone wore tuxes and gowns to a formal event on the Tuesday night. (One of those meetings, at the Greenbriar Resort in 2001, especially stands out.) Those executives were the core of the ABM, and there were enough of them to support a robust association. Some are still around, but not enough. It was left this year to Roger Friedman, whose father founded Lebhar-Friedman in 1925, to offer a final tribute to that old American Business Press.

• Later, into the final years of the 1990s and the early 2000s, the ABM meetings were where operating executives and their private-equity backers converged to do deals. The brokerage firms would be there in force, hosting invitation-only dinners and sponsoring lavish cocktail parties and golf. This year, I saw one person from JEGI, and he might have been the only investment banker I saw, other than John Wickersham of Atwood Capital Partners, who noted from the stage that there were no private-equity firms there this year. Again, a barometer of the health of the association.

• The ABM board members and senior staff were remarkably frank about the financial state of the association—one of the reasons for the merger with SIIA was a small cash reserve and a burn rate that might have jeopardized the association's existence by the end of the year. It was striking.

• I think what happened to the ABM was several things:

1. The disintermediation of marketing communications caused a flood of dollars into search, into lead-generation, and into marketers' own Web efforts, and out of b-to-b media companies.

2. Spending on digital advertising doesn't generate the same amount of revenue as print did.

3. Data providers and information companies became much more important, and they didn't join ABM.

4. Digital-only startups proliferated and began achieving scale, and they also didn't join ABM.

5. Technology media companies like Ziff Davis, IDG or UBM either stopped being involved in the association or they downsized themselves into oblivion.

6. Traditional b-to-b media companies struggled through the recession and vast secular changes, and some opted not to be members of ABM—which as a staff-dependent organization charged relatively high dues.

7. As ABM revenue declined, so did its level of services, causing an acceleration of the pattern.

• At any rate, here we were at ABM 2013, watching the last of the independent ABM conferences. Many sessions were strong, and told of the great amounts of innovation among ABM companies. Wickersham in particular offered one of the most insightful looks I've seen of what the traditional model of b-to-b media looked like, and what the advanced model needs to look like (see accompanying slides). The merger with the SIIA seemed promising to most people, and the larger association gives ABM members access to rich resources from like-minded companies.

• One session perhaps summarized the conflict that the ABM of the last 10 years has faced. Rafat Ali, founder of Paidcontent.org and more recently of the b-to-b travel-industry site Skift, called out Northstar Travel Media by name, even as Northstar CEO Tom Kemp sat in the front of the room. Ali lit Northstar up, claiming that the company (and other traditional players in the space) are basically resting on their laurels, have an old-school approach to media, don’t link to other sources in stories, are not innovative, are afraid to take on major advertisers, and don't have a cohesive view of the travel industry that includes air travel, hotels and destinations under a single umbrella.

Ali described his own startup company as one that doesn't sleep, that works on weekends, and doesn't need to own the "story," just the "conversation." In response, Kemp sarcastically noted that it’s true Northstar has an "old-school" problem: It’s called revenue. In response to that, Ali tweeted that, “a 60mn company, with tiny margins, isn’t exactly a revenue behemoth in travel, for being decades old.”

Goodbye, American Business Media.

______________________________________________________________________

Tony Silber is General Manager of FOLIO:. Follow him on Twitter: @TonySilber.

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Nick Cavnar

Advertisers Don't Sell to People Who Check Boxes

Nick Cavnar B2B - 05/02/2013-09:45 AM

 

“This was supposed to be a list of engineers at the car manufacturers. Why have you got so many people in here at supplier companies, like Bosch and Goodyear?”

It was a  reasonable question. The BPA statement for our automotive industry magazine showed the circulation neatly categorized by vehicle manufacturers and automotive parts suppliers, and then by job. I should have had no problem delivering a list made up only of design engineers at companies like Ford, GM, and Honda.

Or so you would think.

As I explained to the sales rep fuming over the list he’d requested, all those BPA numbers really represented was how many people checked a particular box on our subscription form and had one of twelve words in their job title. Yes, we had suppliers who checked the car manufacturer box, just as we had design engineers at Ford who checked “other” because (as they would explain in precisely lettered corrections) “there is no manufacturing at this location.”

My ten year old son accidentally put it best, when he said something about Dad needing “more describers for his magazine.” 
 
“That’s right, Matt,” I told him. “I don’t just need more subscribers. I need subscribers who describe themselves the right way.”

Twenty-five years later, that remains an issue with b-to-b audience databases. We pride ourselves on how much we know about our audiences. We can target by industry, by job function, by annual revenue, by products bought or specified. Yet almost all our information still comes from a controlled circulation process with inherent weaknesses—not the least of which is relying on individual customers to categorize themselves.

Who knows if some respondents are genuinely confused by our questionnaire, or just not paying attention, or trying to make sure they get a free subscription?  The end result is people at big companies saying they have less than $100,000 annual revenue, while mom-and-pops  show up among giant multinationals. Auto glass repair shops mysteriously become window and door manufacturers; a Denny’s restaurant gets classified as a fine dining establishment.

Or, as happened to me with a publication called Big Builder, hundreds of subscribers who worked  for the single biggest homebuilding company in the country, at the height of the housing boom, claimed their firm sold fewer than 100 homes a year.

Maybe this wasn’t such a big deal back when our primary focus was the BPA statement. After all, everyone dealt with pretty much the same errors, so our overall numbers were still valid for comparing one magazine to another. But today, our clients want to target the audience database in new ways, to find contacts in very specific companies and markets.

“I want to reach the owners of the top 25 kitchen and bath remodeling companies in 32 metropolitan areas.”  That’s a typical request. A list of whoever checked the K&B  box on our qual form doesn’t quite cut it.

We need a new structure for the b-to-b audience database, one built around companies as well as individual audience members—a structure that can function as a business directory and contact management system just as much as a list for sending magazines and newsletters.

For the Big Builder magazine I mentioned above, we stopped reporting subscribers by the answers they gave individually. Instead, we linked subscribers back to their companies, and then used published data to identify how many homes those companies built annually, how much revenue they had, and so on. Not only did this give us a more impressive BPA statement (and yes, the whole process was audited), but the information was far more accurate than what we were getting from individuals puzzling over a subscription form.

Linking audience by company is not a simple matter. You have to struggle with endless variations and misspellings of company names, keep track of mergers and takeovers, figure out who is the parent or subsidiary of what. We need to push our fulfillment and database companies for tools to make that process easier and more accurate, and move away from the focus on the sacred qualification form.

Our clients don’t sell to people who check boxes. They want to reach specific companies, and the right people in those companies. They’re looking to us to identify our audience in the same way.

 

 

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Stephanie Paige Miller

Managing Social Media in a Crisis

Stephanie Paige Miller emedia and Technology - 04/30/2013-09:54 AM

 

In the midst of a national crisis—a senseless shooting in Newtown, CT, a natural disaster in Joplin, MO, or a terrorist attack in Boston—social media becomes a source for instant information.

And the recent events surrounding the Boston Marathon underscore just how complex managing these social channels has become. Misinformation spreads on Twitter, the front pages of major newspapers identify innocent men as suspects and witch-hunts begin in forums like Reddit.

As an industry, publishing is in a unique position: Even if we’re not all go-to breaking news sources, we are media outlets whose core mission is to inform. 

So, how should we handle these sensitive situations? Isn’t it our duty to dissipate information? Well, yes, but in order to maintain brand integrity, the info has to be factually correct. And in times of tragedy, early details are often foggy.

Here are my recommendations for what you should do the next time a crisis strikes. Take note: These are intended for lifestyle, trade and small b-to-b publications.  Outlets such as the NYT, WSJ, AP and Reuters are in a class of their own for breaking news.

Halt Social Media Posts

Until you can assess the severity of the situation and connect with your team (which could take time), pause content sharing so you avoid an awkwardly timed post. And that goes for retweets and shares from other sources. 

Communicate With Your Team

Start an email chain, gather in an office and get on the same page with your editors with everything you’re producing that day. Should the newsletter distribution be halted? Who’s calling tech to put a hold on the sweepstakes launching on the homepage?

Tip: Work with ad sales to include verbiage in advertiser contracts stating that any social support for brand promotions will be on tentative dates only. In the event you need to cancel or reschedule a tweet or Facebook promotion in the face of a tragedy, you won’t be legally bound to certain dates.

Be Cautious of What You RT and Share

Boston was a prime example of how things can go wrong in the race to be first. Inaccuracies were everywhere. Wired’s Matt Honan even called for Twitter to offer an “edit” button. So be judicious with your decisions: Remember that a RT is an endorsement of the content, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that what you are putting in your readers’ newsfeeds isn’t bogus. 

Have a Crisis Plan in Place

If you don’t have a basic protocol, make an outline now and ask yourself: Does at least one other person have access to the publishing tool to edit outgoing posts (or halt them altogether?) If the social media manager is unavailable at the time of a crisis, the keys to the kingdom should be accessible to a senior-level editor or publisher. Also worth keeping in mind: Do you need a POV on the subject? In most cases you’ll want to offer up very neutral information. If you’re compelled to acknowledge the event, a short and succinct post like Coca Cola or Ebay did for Boston will suffice. 

In The Aftermath, Consider a Reduced Posting Schedule

In the days that follow a tragic event, edit seemingly frivolous social copy. This is mostly applicable to lifestyle and consumer magazines. I’d suggest holding any “OMG, can you believe that actress got bangs?” tweets until the media climate has cooled. If you’re a b-to-b or trade pub, perhaps you could hold promotional posts or calls for conference sign-ups.  

Here are three posts and discussions I found helpful below:

Agree? Disagree? Tweet me your POV @StephaniePaige

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Bill Mickey

ABM Merger with SIIA Officially Approved 83-3

Bill Mickey B2B - 04/29/2013-10:03 AM

 

At ABM's 2013 Annual Conference here in Amelia Island, FL today, membership cast their vote as the final step to approve the merger between ABM and SIIA. The vote came in at 83 for, 3 against, but not without a bit of drama.

During the vote count, Lebhar-Friedman's Roger Friedman stood to pay a heartfelt tribute to the ABM of the past, recognizing his own mentors and previous leaders of the b-to-b media association.

While acknowledging both the inevitability of the member vote in favor of the merger as well as the momentum of change in the b-to-b media industry, Friedman called this year's annual conference "bittersweet" as he took the opportunity to officially cast his vote against the merger.

"I know the merger is going to pass," he said, "but because of my conscience I am casting a negative vote. It's just my way to express my feeling over the whole process."

The objection came across as more of sentimental one, rather than a practical one—with Friedman taking the opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of some of the "old guard" b-to-b leaders who put so much effort into the organization and how it, in turn, educated its membership over its more than 100 years in existence.

His speech, which he admitted to writing at 3 am that morning, drew a standing ovation.

It also succinctly drew attention to the reason for the merger in the first—that the b-to-b media industry has changed so quickly that it's almost unrecognizable from what it was only a decade ago.

 

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Bill Mickey

How Cool Is Boston Magazine's May Issue Cover?

Bill Mickey Design and Production - 04/25/2013-15:43 PM

 

 

This is the cover for the May issue of Boston magazine. The story behind its creation is equally as awesome (the May issue was just days away from shipping when the bombs went off on that Monday; tweets and Facebook posts were employed to collect the actual shoes from runners.). Editor-in-chief John Wolfson provides the details here.

 

 

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