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Baird Davis

Publishers Fiddle While the Newsstand Channel Burns

Baird Davis Audience Development - 08/16/2012-08:40 AM

 

To paraphrase Senator John McCain—let’s have some straight talk. The newsstand as we know it is nearing endangered species status. How much further do newsstand sales have to decline before publishers take corrective action?  

It’s well known that newsstand sales are in the dumper, but the depth of the audited publication sales slide in the first half of this year is even greater than has recently been reported by the media. A 9.6 percent sales decline (reported by the media) is huge, but the extent of the actual slide is more than 20 percent greater.

The reason for the difference is that the numbers reported by the media only represent the sales status of titles that were audited in both the first half of this year and the first half of last year. It doesn’t, however, include titles audited a year go, but have either ceased being audited and/or have discontinued being published. Examples include; Soap Opera Weekly, Soap Opera ABC, Soap Opera CBS, Cooking with Paula Deen and Spin. If sales data from discontinued/no longer audited titles are included in the calculation, the overall unit sales decline is estimated (based on preliminary ABC reports) to be a breath-taking 12.8 percent and a corresponding 12.2 percent fall in revenue.

The Newsstand Channel Is Being Hollowed Out

The devastating first-half sales are, as we’re all aware, not an anomaly. The steep decline began in the first half of 2008 and has essentially continued unabated since then. A brief recap illustrates the accumulative depth of the sales slide:

 

The unit sales of audited publications have declined nearly 45 percent in the last four and a half years. Since 2007 it’s estimated that by the end of 2012 the annual unit sales of audited publications will have fallen from about 930 million to 510 million—a staggering annual sales loss of 420 million copies. The revenue will have declined from $3.2 billion to approximately $2.4 billion.

What’s Gone Wrong?

There are many explanations for this decline—the great recession, fewer store visits and a more cost conscious consumer. But the most significant has been the impact of technological change that has increased the proclivity of consumers to acquire news and information on a range of mobile devices that are offering better and better user experiences. Together all of these things have contributed to the decline.

Should the Decline Have Been So Steep?

In this 4-year period of unprecedented change a substantial sales decline would certainly have been expected. But should it have been so severe? I would argue the decline has been exacerbated by a timid publishing community and the restraints of an antiquated newsstand channel distribution system. The channel has, in effect, been held hostage by a costly, inefficient system loaded with duplication of effort. This is largely a product of its two-middlemen (wholesalers and national distributors) configuration.

Years ago the channel probably required a two-middlemen check and balance approach in order to meet the needs of accommodating a vast distribution network with over 500 independent wholesalers. Today just three wholesalers control the majority of all magazine newsstand distributions and the two-middlemen configuration seems seriously out of date. However, the corrosive often adversarial nature of this configuration continues to persist, which has seriously thwarted the prospect for channel reform.

As I indicated in a February story (after the audit bureaus reported last year’s second-half sales) the magazine newsstand had reached viral conditions and it was clear that the desperately persistent decline was now feeding on itself. Six months later the first half results (the steepest sales decline in recent history) only confirms the viral nature of channel conditions.

Publishers and Wholesalers: Coping in the Age of Newsstand Austerity

Publishers
For years publisher’s newsstand actions were dictated primarily by competitive self-interest. They largely ignored the health of the supply chain and the financial sustainability of its wholesaling “partners.” These actions, although seemingly counter productive, were precipitated by the huge diversity of the publishing community (like herding cats) and by the knowledge that they had a range of other alternatives (not just newsstand circ) for delivering readers to meet their circ level requirements.

The trend to less single copy circ has been continuing for many decades, but the recent 4-year newsstand sales decline, coupled by the advent of digital (replica) circ, has intensified the effect of the newsstand sales decline.

Let me give you a current example of how this works. People Magazine, the undisputed newsstand sales leader, experienced a nearly 19 percent decline in newsstand sales in the first half of this year. This translated to a 214,000 drop in newsstand circ. But People’s total paid circulation (nearly 3.6 million) remained virtually the same as it was in the year previous period (actually it was up about 6,000). To compensate for the “lost” newsstand circ, the subscription circ was increased by 220,000—this included a 77,000 increase in verified circ. Additionally People reported (for the first time) 37,000 replica circ.

The point here is publishers have alternatives for compensating for “lost” newsstand circ. But it comes with some serious tradeoffs. Adding subscribers to meet circ level requirements generally increases reader acquisition costs and, of course, the added subscribers remove potential newsstand buyers from the market, which has a subtle, but real, impact on future newsstand sales.

Wholesalers
On the other hand wholesalers have far fewer alternatives for compensating for declining newsstand sales. Essentially those alternatives come down to reducing costs and increasing scale (growing market share). That’s exactly what’s happened. Wholesalers have lowered costs by reducing staff, consolidating distribution management at central locations and curtailing much needed system improvement investments.

Although it’s difficult to measure the sales effect of these cost-saving initiatives, by all accounts the cost containment strategy of wholesalers has definitely contributed to the sales slide. In the process the three remaining wholesaler groups continue to battle for market share. The News Group, one of three major wholesaling groups, has recently taken the Kroger account (a major seller of magazines) from another super-wholesaler, The Source. The News Group and Hudson News teamed to buy CMG, a large national distributor, from Hearst and Condé Nast. It’s still too early to read the results of this precedent-setting move, but I suspect it’s quietly resonating in the market. All of this appears to be setting up the inevitable battle for wholesaler survival among the three remaining wholesaling giants. This battle may come to nothing, but in the interim it’s helping keep the fragile newsstand channel in an unsettled condition.

In a declining newsstand market publishers have options, albeit they’re often costly. Wholesalers have a lesser number of viable options for coping in a down market. They are desperately trying to keep their financial ships afloat, while fighting a market share battle, which could eventually reshape the newsstand channel.

It’s Up to Publishers to Save the Newsstand Channel

Publishers have alternatives for replacing “lost” newsstand circ. This, however, has provided a false sense of security that has partially blinded them to the perils of a newsstand channel with greatly diminished capabilities. Yes, the prospect of more digital circ is in publisher’s future, but let’s be clear about the realities of consumer magazine publishing—for many years to come publishing survival will continue to be based on producing quality print products, attracting a cadre of advertisers, cost effectively acquiring print readers and protecting prime sources of circ (reader) acquisition.

None of the many circulation sources is more important than the newsstand. Without a viable newsstand sales market the prospect for the survival of consumer magazines will be seriously diminished.

Wholesalers and publishers, whether they like it or not, are bound at the hip. Publishers desperately need a viable newsstand channel and wholesalers need publishers that are fully committed to producing product with retail sales appeal.

What Can Be Done to Slow the Sales Slide?

At this juncture it’s not a matter of growing sales, but slowing the devastating 10 percent rate of annual decline. It’s no secret that channel efficiencies can be improved, duplicate effort eliminated and costs reduced. If that happened it could go a long ways towards stemming the severity of the sales fall.

If publishers and wholesalers needs are mutually dependent why aren’t these things being done?

Resolve the Scan-Based Trading Issue

There is no simple answer. But if I were to pick the major sticking point it involves the publisher/national distributor/wholesaler battle over how to adjust to the effects of scan based trading. Scan based trading now dominates wholesaler relationships with their major retailing clients. However, publishers/national distributors have not fully accepted this reality. It’s too complicated an issue to fully discuss in this note, but the gist is it revolves around publishers accepting scanned sales data, shifting inventory control to publishers and coming to grips with the so called “shrink” factor (the difference that may occur between scanned data and actual counts). There are also some audit bureau issues involved.

Scanned-based trading is a thorny issue, but resolving it may hold the key to unleashing the prospect for improving efficiencies and reducing channel costs. Publishers and wholesalers should be encouraged to resolve the scanned-based trading differences, which, in turn, will enable them to get on with the task of working more cooperatively to address the more important issue of stemming the sales slide.

I believe the ball is in the publisher’s court. They must step up to bat and get this done. If not the future for the newsstand looks very gloomy.

 

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Bill Mickey

Foliomag.com Changes to Metered Paid Access Model

Bill Mickey B2B - 08/14/2012-12:37 PM

 

An announcement went out today, but if you haven't seen it, we've decided to put Foliomag.com on a metered paid-access model. Here's why:

Our mission has always been to provide you with the most up-to-date and in-depth resources to help media companies succeed. Our news and analysis lead the industry. Our blogs, columns and more offer the context and perspective you need to optimize your business.

At the core of our decision was this: We felt that it's very important to place a clear value on our content, and to recognize the value that our best customers see in what we do. Also, as a brand that covers the digital-media transformation, we seek to not just reflect what the industry is doing, but to lead it as well.

This paid-access initiative will also allow us to invest in Foliomag.com—to significantly improve it over time. We'll be adding regular multimedia features, more voices, more connectivity and more content.

Our paid-access model begins immediately. Here's the way it will work: Each month, you'll get to read eight stories on a complimentary basis. You'll be reminded as you get closer to the eighth report. After that, you'll be given the option of buying an annual subscription to Foliomag.com for $69.95. Alternatively, you can gain full access to the site on a monthly basis for $14.95.

As a leader of the digital-content marketplace, we to need to adapt to the changing times. Our new format allows you, our most loyal customers, to choose the level of information you need.

Feel free to comment below; you can also email me at bmickey at red7media.com.
 

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Linda Ruth

REMAG Pilot Program to Launch in December

Linda Ruth Audience Development - 08/09/2012-13:41 PM

 

REMAG’s sprawling and multi-faceted kiosk program would not be easy to announce in two to three words on a newsstand magazine cover. In fact, it would be hard to explain in 25 words or less. It’s new, fresh, innovative and, from a blogger’s point of view, a little complicated. But the program is, in fact, all about the newsstand sales of magazines, so it deserves our attention and comprehension.

REMAG’s Blake Patterson called me to give me an update on the program. Since I blogged about this last year, REMAG has added a step. The program works like this:

1) Remag sets up a magazine recycling kiosk in participating retail stores.
2) A store customer brings a magazine back to the kiosk for recycling.
3) When the magazine is entered into the kiosk a screen comes up listing some local charities and schools from which to choose.
4) After the charity is chosen a coupon screen comes up. The customer may select four coupons from the categories of choice.
5) The coupons are printed from the kiosk with the code for the donation embedded in the coupon.
6) After each coupon is redeemed, a nickel goes to the charity that the customer has chosen.

Since a customer can redeem up to four coupons per magazine recycled, that means that a potential donation of 20 cents will go to charity for each recycled copy. That charitable donation is currently paid directly by REMAG, who believes in this model enough to subsidize it.

When I first blogged about REMAG’s idea, the response from my readers was enthusiastic. They called it a fantastic idea, bringing sustainability into the realm of print publishing, not only by recycling the product but by incentivizing the further sale of magazines.

SEE ALSO: Can Magazine Recycling Boost Retail Sales?

I liked the idea because we badly needed then, as we do now, something new in our world, something positive and forward-looking. The REMAG model seemed promising. It still looks promising, combining, as it does, magazine sales, sustainability and charitable donations—or, as Patterson puts it, three great stories to tell.

“We’ve always spoken about a magazine purchase as a value proposition extending beyond the purchase itself,” said Patterson. “This adds massive value to the transaction, value that a customer can discover directly, by walking over to the kiosk and finding the coupons and charitable donations available.”

Given how ambitious the program is, it’s no surprise that it has taken a full year to launch the pilot.  But launched it finally will be, in eight News-Group-serviced Save Mart/Lucky stores starting in December. There will be two kiosks per location, one per entrance. And the EPA itself has reached out to REMAG to start a program in Puerto Rico, where landfill space is running out. As a result, REMAG is setting up a pilot in three Super Max locations in Puerto Rico starting in February 2013.

What REMAG is looking for from the publishing community now, as they were a year ago, is visibility, participation, and support.  How can we as an industry build magazine sales through this? How much can we boost newsstand sales from the entire category by, for example, having a generic coupon for all magazines? Or for all the magazines published by a single multi-title publisher? And a final great question: What more can the rest of us do to help?

SEE ALSO: Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project 

 

 

 

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Bill Mickey

Time Inc. Book Value and Fair Values Getting Closer

Bill Mickey Consumer - 08/07/2012-09:21 AM

 

While there are pockets of good news on the ad revenue side of the publishing business these days, overall publishers are still duking it out on the front lines. This is illustrated for better or worse in Time Inc.'s 10-Q report released last week. The publishing giant's revenues dropped nine percent in the second quarter to $858 million and six percent for the half to $1.6 billion. Every segment within the publishing division recorded a loss in revenues. And the losses prompted the company to warn that because "soft market" conditions are expected to continue through the third quarter, the fair value and book value of the company's brands are getting uncomfortably close.
 
This ratio is pointed out by anonymous blogger Dead Tree edition, who also notes operating income for the half is down 60 percent compared to same period 2011. As of the end of last year, Time Warner says the fair value of Time Inc. is 19 percent higher than its book value, and that it didn't actually have to do an impairment analysis during the second quarter, but if that 19 percent gets erased due to continued declines this year, the company may have to take a non-cash charge out of earnings that are already significantly pinched.

"During 2012, the Publishing segment has experienced soft market conditions that have negatively impacted its operating results," says the report. "If those market conditions worsen, it is possible that the book values of the Time Inc. reporting unit and certain of its tradenames will exceed their respective fair values, which may result in the Company recognizing a noncash impairment that could be material."

This may never happen, the 19 percent separation in value is a decent cushion but with the market condition the way it is, the company felt compelled to issue a warning nevertheless. If book values (the value of the company straight off the balance sheet) do end up exceeding fair value (the value of the company determined by a hypothetical sale, or market value), then there will be a non-cash charge to the bottom line.

In the meantime, the report also highlights just how expensive digital investments have become for companies that are making heavy commitments to web, mobile and tablet development. As print production scales back, savings are immediately eaten up by digital. TW says that in the second quarter costs dropped about 4 percent, or $13 million due to less production associated with lower print volumes, but were entirely offset by investments in websites and tablet magazines.

As for the publishing group's segments, subscription revenues were down 11 percent for the second quarter to $292 million and 7 percent for the half to $623 million. Advertising was down 7 percent for the quarter and 6 percent for the half to $472 million and $855 million respectively. Content sales were down 20 percent in the quarter to $20 million, but that gap narrowed by the end of the half to a loss of 5 percent, ending at $39 million.

In the second quarter, Time Inc. took back the management of SI.com and Golf.com from Turner, who had been paying Time Inc. licensing fees to manage the sites. With the two site back in the fold, advertising losses were partially offset by about $7 million, but that was nulled by the loss of $9 million Time Inc. would have had from licensing fees.

 

 

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Bill Mickey

Huffington Post's Huffington App Now Free

Bill Mickey Consumer - 08/02/2012-14:16 PM

 

Joe Pompeo at Capital New York reports that Huffington Post has made its Huffington app, launched in June, free. The app's single copy price was 99 cents, $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year and, at the time, reflected the you-don't-get something-for-nothing mentality now so prevalent in digital content publishing—especially when producing a magazine app like this one is still far from efficient or low-cost.

But, in hindsight, Huffington had clearly wrestled with whether to charge for the app or not. When Folio: first reported on the app's coming launch, executive editor Tim O'Brien said the business model had yet to be determined—and this was only weeks out from its debut.

SEE ALSO: Inside Huffington Post's Weekly Magazine App

Pompeo says the change in strategy was revealed during a company meeting yesterday, and the app is already listed as free in the App Store.

All of this was underscored earlier this week when News Corp.'s The Daily axed 29 percent of its workforce, or 50 employees, and streamlined its content production.

The changes at Huffington and The Daily highlight the difficulty publishers are having with nailing down a consistent business model for magazine apps. The technology is new and the products and the experience they offer are still new for consumers and that mix can bloom into a confusing array of strategies as publishers balance customer preferences with business realities.

This can be especially frustrating as publishers also try to figure out how apps relate with and exist next to their traditional products. A Huffington spokesperson tells Pompeo that the decision to go free was triggered by the fact that The Huffington Post itself is free and the app's paid model clashed with that. Perception goes a long way.

In an earlier blog post, Penton Media senior vice president of strategy and business development Warren Bimblick sniffed out a pricing scheme that might have been a bit too perfunctory.   

 

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Warren Bimblick

The Web Should Make Subscription Management Easier

Warren Bimblick Audience Development - 07/31/2012-16:34 PM

 

My grandfather passed away many years ago at the ripe old age of 88. He left a legacy that included perpetual fruitcakes (not referring to my brother, but to a multi-year post-death pre-paid Christmas delivery of doorstop cakes to everyone in the family).  

This happening in the 1980s gave the family an annual holiday giggle and we wondered why grandpa did this (was it a six-year special or a legacy joke?). Since this was pre-Internet and, most likely, pre-credit card renewal, grandpa, likely wrote a check, mailed it and ultimately balanced his checkbook (a real book).

Which gets me to 2012 and other types of legacies. How about the legacy subscription? I spent an hour Saturday morning trying to cancel my Wall Street Journal subscription on its website. It isn’t because I no longer want the Journal, it’s because they have offered me (by mail) a far superior offer than my perpetual subscription that renews with my credit card.

As an aside, you would think that they had audience development and list managers who would de-dupe and catch this stuff.

But my catching it on Saturday didn’t much matter. And that is because unless I want to telephone the Journal’s subscription department, there is no way to cancel my subscription on their website (or at least none that I could find). While I am not suggesting anything sinister in Murdoch-land, I am suggesting that there may be some folks trying to think of me as one of those perpetual fruitcakes.

I am not picking on the Journal—this is true for many publishers. I think it is time to own up to some not-so-great practices and adopt better ones. Auto-renewal is fine, but there does need to be an easier “out” and an easier way to understand when you can get out without having to wait on a phone call or read endless Qs and As, particularly when you are given better offers. I do like the way some of the titles are set up in the iTunes Store. Esquire has nailed a very civilized way of getting in or out of a subscription online. So has the new Huffington. But then there is the always-elegant The Atlantic, which politely thanks me for my support for 10 issues but I can’t figure out when my support began or ends.

The Web should up the game for publishers and subscription management. Right?

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Bill Mickey

Newsweek Taking Steps Closer to Online-Only

Bill Mickey Consumer - 07/25/2012-11:19 AM

 

During IAC's second quarter earnings call today, chairman Barry Diller provided some feedback on the future of Newsweek as a print magazine. While the print version's survivability has been endlessly speculated on, Diller took an opportunity in the call to put the issue in better, if not entirely clear, focus.

In answering a question from an analyst on the outlook for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and whether there were plans to make it a "lighter asset," Diller noted that the brand is doing better overall. "The brand is now much better and stronger than when we acquired it," he said. "There has been a true improvement in the book and Tina Brown and her staff have done a superb job."

However, the recent decision by the Harman family to stop investing in Newsweek has shifted the majority stake onto IAC, as well as more of the burden of managing what is still a money-losing operation. "The consolidation does put it squarely on our heads," said Diller who added that investments from IAC will also be scaling back. "Our investment next year will be considerably less than it is this year."

And while Diller said the brand is stronger, its print operation is still a wrench in the gears. "So what is the problem? The problem is in manufacturing and producing a weekly news magazine and that has to be solved. Advertising in this category is entirely elective. The transition to online from hard print will take place. We're examining all of our options."

From there, Diller tapered off on providing any specifics on when and how the transition might happen, but noted that things will begin to look "different" starting next year.

Currently, Newsweek's web presence is relegated to a channel via the main nav bar on The Daily Beast's home page.

For the first half, ad pages were up about 8 percent for the magazine, per PIB numbers, and as of the December 2011 ABC publisher's statement, single copy sales were up about 3 percent for the six-month period.

Update: Jim Romenesko has a staff memo from Tina Brown that douses some of the more aggressive reporting that Newsweek is going online only. She says: "Barry Diller would like to make it clear that he did not say on the earnings call as reported that Newsweek is going digital in September. He made the uncontroversial, industry-wide observation that print is moving in the direction of digital."

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TJ Raphael

FOLIO: Show Rebranded as MediaNext, Returns to New York in October

TJ Raphael - 07/19/2012-14:33 PM

 

For more than 35 years, magazine media professionals have come together to at the FOLIO: Show, the largest magazine industry event—three times larger than the next-closest event, and the only one that attracts the best and brightest from all sectors of the industry, whether consumer, b-to-b, association, city and regional, enthusiast and more. The FOLIO: Show is also the only event designed to provide industry education to all the disciplines, including editors, salespeople, audience developers, marketers, Web strategists and more.

In an effort to evolve with the changing media landscape and deliver more insights, innovative research and cutting-edge solutions to the magazine industry’s biggest challenges, FOLIO: is producing a completely rethought event this year: MediaNext.

The reinvented conference focuses on the transformation of digital media and the introduction of new platforms—mobile, tablets, social media, marketing services, events, e-commerce and more. But it’s about more than that: It’s about magazines, and where they fit in this emerging mix. It’s about running a successful magazine-media business in 2012 and beyond, whether your business is primarily print-dependent or whether your revenue is from a variety of sources. In fact, MediaNext was programmed with the understanding that new and emerging media forms already have much in common with traditional forms, and there is a new definition of the media industry that encompasses both. That’s what MediaNext is all about.

Leading industry experts will show you how to keep a finger on the pulse of this media revolution, helping you to master it all at MediaNext.

This event will still enable you to gain the critical intelligence and insight you need to succeed in the years ahead. With over 50 sessions, four industry-leader keynotes, four extended-length workshops, master classes featuring best-selling authors, microsessions, and peer-to-peer unsessions, you will get the education you need to thrive in this dynamic environment.  Not only do you choose the subject matter—but also the learning format that works best for you.
 
With 2,000+ expected attendees, speakers and exhibitors, MediaNext is the must-attend event for learning and seeking partnerships.  Join your peers and experience MediaNext, the top industry conference. MediaNext is the best place to learn exactly that—what’s next in media.

Check out the 2012 brochure here. To register, click here.

T.J. Raphael is the associate editor of FOLIO:'s sister publication and supplement, Audience Development magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @TJRaphael1.

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Bob Cohn

The Partnership Puzzle

Bob Cohn emedia and Technology - 07/16/2012-14:48 PM

 

It’s an article of faith among digital publishers that content partnerships are one of the key levers for success. If you’re operating a small site and you want to grow, you need to partner up with big distributors that can serve as megaphones, amplifying your content and, the theory goes, bringing a new audience back to you. If you’re running a big site, you need partners to provide fresh content, and lots of it, to satisfy the millions of eyeballs arriving each day.
 
And so we live in a partnership ecosystem. As a medium-sized player, we at The Atlantic have partnerships going in both directions. We send some of our best stories to sites that have huge traffic. We take smart stories from smaller sites that are happy to share their goods with our strong brand and relatively large audience.
 
All of these partnerships raise the obvious question: Is it really a good idea for publishers to give away their content for free? The arguments cut both ways.
 
The chief argument in favor of sharing content is that you can get direct traffic in return. If the partner site is displaying your logo and linking to other stories on your site, it’s a fine idea to give away a story or two in return. This is a plausible theory that bears out on occasion. If, for example, Yahoo! runs a story from The Atlantic or one of our sister sites, especially on its home page, there can be a surge of traffic from Yahoo! back to our pages. Not always, and often the surge is more like a trickle, but it can be something.
 
But what if The Atlantic’s partner has a particularly strong presence in social media? If it rips an Atlantic article and then uses its social infrastructure to push that piece to the world, the inbound traffic from Facebook or Twitter goes to the partner site, not to us. (This assumes that the partner is linking to our article on its site, not our article on our site.)

We don’t worry much that when Yahoo! posts our story, they’re grabbing readers who would otherwise have read that piece on TheAtlantic.com. Those might be separate audiences. But if our partner was dominating Facebook, Twitter and Reddit with links back to our story on its site, our own social efforts might be drowned out. With social media now generating the plurality of our unique visitors, this could hurt.
 
Now let’s consider branding. This, some say, ought to be the tiebreaker. If you accept that there are gains to be made from direct links but losses to be suffered in social media (and maybe don’t be too quick to accept either of those theories), then the branding benefit could be persuasive. The theory, of course, is that just having your logo on another site, even if there are no clicks back, is good exposure for your brand. Certainly there’s logic in that: A highway road sign provides branding, even if customers are cruising past at 60 mph. Maybe you’ll stop at that pancake house not now, but in the next state over.
 
OK, but there’s a case to be made that people have been trained to tune out the noise when they’re on websites—to avoid the blinking ads and the right-rail modules and the partner logos.  If they’re reading defensively, if they’re tuning out the noise, then you’re not getting exposure after all. And, if you were happily trading exposure for some losses in social media, well, maybe that trade isn’t worth it anymore.
 
I still believe in content partnerships. But we should be honest about the possible tradeoffs, and humble in our certainty about how exactly these arrangements work.

Bob Cohn is editor of Atlantic Digital. In this role, he oversees all editorial components of The Atlantic’s digital and mobile properties, including TheAtlantic.com, TheAtlanticWire.com, and TheAtlanticCities.com, as well as the print publication’s integration on digital platforms.

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Andrew Gaffney

The Demand Generation Disconnect

Andrew Gaffney B2B - 07/11/2012-16:47 PM

 

Only 20 percent of sales and marketing executives are confident that their current demand generation campaigns are effective, according to recently released research from Corporate Visions, Inc., a leading sales and marketing messaging company.
 
Based on a poll of more than 440 b-to-b sales and marketing professionals around the globe, the survey results aren’t really surprising and highlight both a challenge and opportunity for publishers and their clients.

While there is a lot of great data, which is detailed in Corporate Visions' Q2 2012 Sales and Marketing Messaging Report, I suggest publishing executives focus on three key takeaways:

• The Content Gap: When asked to name the biggest barrier to successful demand generation campaigns, 37 percent of respondents said their content isn't engaging enough. This represents a prime opportunity for publishers to help their clients upgrade their content campaigns with offers that are relevant to their prospects.

• Off-Base Offers: 60 percent of respondents said their organizations’ demand generation campaigns focus too heavily on their own products, features and services, rather than focusing on their customers' pain points.

With many of our clients in the high tech sector, we refer to this as “speeds and feeds” disease. The natural inclination for sales and marketing is to talk about how much better their solution is, but prospects are more interested in talking about their own business challenges and how to solve them.

According to the results of our recent 2012 Content Preferences Survey, 75 percent of the respondents want companies to curb the sales messaging in their content. Another 60 percent said they’re placing a greater emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source when they assess the value of a piece of content.

Because publishers are dialed in to the issues that are top of mind within their communities and have experts on the topics, this represents another perfect opportunity to step in and bridge the gap from publishing one-way narratives to establishing a real dialogue with prospects.

• The Disconnect Between Sales And Marketing: 65 percent of respondents said their sales teams use less than half of the demand generation content their marketing department produces.

Over the years, I’ve worked on a lot of business publications where our sales reps were only talking to marketing executives. When publishers get closer to the sales team at their clients they can identify the pain points and gaps where the sales team feels like they need new and improved messaging.

With many of our current clients, we’ve been able to create e-books that are wildly popular with sales teams, in addition to being used as bait for lead generation campaigns. This should be the goal for publishers: Become a partner in driving the messaging that will help drive revenue.

I’d recommend checking out the full survey from Corporate Visions, as well as some of the content work the company is doing. There are ideas publishers will want to adopt and bring to their customers.

 

Andrew Gaffney is the President of G3 Communications, Inc., a firm specializing in digital media and custom contnent. G3 Communications publishes DemandGen Report, Retail TouchPoints and Channel Marketer Report. In addition to its digital publications, G3’s Content4Demand marketing services division creates custom content optimized for lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns for more than 100 different clients ranging from Fortune 100 firms to venture-backed startups.

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Bill Mickey

Hanley and Wood Reunite Via CSP Information Group Acquisition

Bill Mickey M and A and Finance - 07/09/2012-15:55 PM

 

Do the names Hanley and Wood mean anything to you? They should. Mike Hanley and Michael Wood are the founders of one of the biggest b-to-b media companies in the U.S. And the two were reunited recently in a deal through Mr. Wood's investment firm, Redwood Investments.

The firm bought CSP Information Group last week, a b-to-b media company that targets the convenience store and restaurant markets. The portfolio includes four magazines and associated newsletters, websites and events. The deal was brokered by Berkery Noyes, which represented Redwood.

Wood's son, Mike Wood, Jr., who is president of Redwood, will become CEO of CSP, which he says has tripled its revenue in the last six years.

According to Wood Jr., CSP will become a platform for further acquisitions in the convenience store and restaurant media space. "We expect to invest in and grow CSP's existing businesses particularly in the digital, mobile and information realms, and to become an active acquirer of c-store, restaurant and foodservice industry media, trade shows and businesses," he says in a statement.

Michael Wood will become chairman of the new company and Mike Hanley, an investor in the company, will also join the board.

Pair this deal with the recent acquisition of Northstar Travel Media by the Wicks Group and you get the sense that b-to-b media companies that effectively spread their revenue across print, digital and live events still have appeal. Marketing services may be where the action is, and banks definitely still have some troubled assets on their hands which has pinched financing and can wreak havoc with structuring a deal, but these types of transactions are still getting done.

 

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Josh Gordon

To Sell More Print Ads, Pitch Digital First

Josh Gordon Sales and Marketing - 06/28/2012-15:23 PM

 

Many media reps who sell both print and on-line media lead their client conversations talking about print. Since it can take as much time to sell a $7,000 print ad as a $1,000 banner ad, this can look like the fastest way to meet quota...or is it?

I have found the opposite is true. Starting with print can lead to lower print sales. Sound crazy? Here are three reasons why:

1.
Advertisers would rather talk about digital options than talk about print. Digital media is new and more interesting for them. Honestly, what is there to say that is new and exciting about print advertising that can compare?

2. When calling on smaller and mid-sized accounts there is a very real opportunity to be a hero by helping them understand the chaos that is digital media today. Many of the organizations you call on don't have on-staff expertise who keep up with the changing digital marketplace. If you keep up, you can be of real service to them.

3. Finally, digital media is more strategic than print because of the metrics that show up after a campaign. When you can look at the results together, a great detailed conversation can result.

If focus your client time first on where their interests are, you will simply have a better conversation and make a better connection which will be more rewarding for both of you.

I find that by talking about digital options first I become far more valuable to my clients, find out more about their needs, and uncover far more opportunities.

When more client understanding, trust, and opportunities are developed far more productive ways to work print into the media budget present themselves.  

The best way to sell more print advertising is to have client conversations directed by what is most interesting and useful for your customers, not commissions. Most often, this means starting your conversation about digital.

 

This post originally appears on Josh Gordon's Ad Sales blog. 

 

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