Thursday, May 09, 2013

Current State of Play in Publishing

I was lucky enough to be invited to New York last week by one of my clients, BrandPerfect, to help with the launch event for their latest research report ‘Adventures in Publishing: The New Dynamics of Advertising’. [It’s a free download, registration on BrandPerfect required].
The report takes a look at the current state of online consumer publishing and the opportunities that are or could be available for brand advertisers. 100 leading consumer titles from the US, UK and Germany were audited to see what their current digital offerings were for readers and advertisers. And it’s an interesting read.

It probably comes as no surprise that almost all magazines lacked a full cross-platform experience. The few titles audited who were doing a good job here include Vogue UK, Maxim UK and US, CountryLiving and a good selection of Hearst’s US titles.The picture gets a little more complicated when it comes to ad formats as there was little consistency in what publishers offered advertisers, despite standards already existing for desktop and mobile. And of course, we don’t know the ROI here – the report is just looking at what’s on offer. Insight into the audience, how they spend their money as well as knowing the types of advertisers, their spend and what’s working may change the picture and explain the rationale behind the strategic decisions made by the publishers. Still, it’s plain to see from the tables in the report that it’s not easy for an advertiser to plan, buy or measure their advertising across channels and across a range of titles.

We know that eyeballs have already migrated en masse to mobile channels and we can see that the advertising dollar will follow that – albeit at a slower pace than consumers to change but publishers don’t appear to be keeping up as well as they might.

The report suggests that HTML5 may be the answer which brings us back to the old web vs apps debate. I don’t think that one size necessarily fits all and much as I’m a strong supporter of web on mobile devices rather than apps, it doesn’t always suit the business or its customers to do that. Consumer insight is key to making those decisions as well as balancing resources and finance to do that.

We still have a long way to go when it comes to working out the future of digital advertising. It’s an emotive subject. At the Heroes of Mobile Session a couple of weeks ago (read about it and listen to the podcast here), Amanda Singleton from Qustodian was passionate about her hatred for Facebook advertising yet I find the sponsored pages interesting in many cases and seem to fit my profile pretty well. These have led me to discover things I would never have found out about otherwise. And this stuff has to be paid for somehow.

I also lament the fact that I can’t save an ad. In a magazine, I will often flick back to see an advert or something I may have missed once I’ve finished the article I’m on. I cannot do that in a digital environment. And if I’ve clicked forwards to read something and then go back, the ad that was there is long gone with no way of retrieving it.I think we’re missing a trick here by not fully understanding what worked in print advertising to work out how that behaviour might be translated to the digital environment. Instead, we’ve become reliant on the quick hit – the banner ad, the immediate call to action, the buy now, call now, direct response scenario. But as any brand marketer will tell you, that’s only one type of advertising with the primary goal of sales. not all brands are looking for that all of the time. Of course ROI is important, but I know from my own clicking habits, that it takes more than one click for me to take action and that it’s just part of the journey to finding out about new brands or services and eventually buying from them.

Interestingly, Hearst reports just now that they've appointed a President of Digital.

Have a read of the report and see what you think. It’s one of a series of useful quarterly reports available free to BrandPerfect members.