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Sales and Marketing: Trends in Media

Originally published July 6, 2009

Recently I attended the Audience Development Conference in Chicago, which focuses on the media space with an emphasis on magazines, but I met attendees from cable, newspaper and purely online content providers. As an industry with obvious challenges (here in Chicago both newspapers are in bankruptcy), it is always interesting to get a sense of the attitudes and initiatives within the vertical.

The conference booked some great keynote speakers for Monday and Tuesday. Brian Wolf, Executive Vice President of Consumer Marketing and Sales from Time, Inc., spoke on Monday. He addressed the massive reorganization marketing underwent to increase skills and effectiveness in online acquisition and engagement. On Tuesday, Gordon McLeod, President of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, presented to address the tactics they used to double their online activity to 40 million visitors and how they are progressing with social media.

Counterintuitively, the conference felt very upbeat. Marketing and sales stakeholders continually commented that despite the global economic issues and media’s own challenges (ad sales dropped another 20% in the first quarter), they felt that strategic plans were finally starting to align with the digital age, that they were deploying tactics that were showing promise and that clarity regarding subscriber behavior was emerging.

Though there were many different concepts and trends that were pervasive at the conference, a few trends struck me as interesting: personalized and targeted content, following your content and leveraging the big social platforms. In general, all organizations were wrestling with the fact that online content and delivery seems to be the obvious future (or present), but the bulk of their readers, users and browsers still leveraged off-line content where advertising and subscription rates are higher and more profitable.

Personalized and Targeted Content

I visited a session delivered by Questex and Diversified Business Communications regarding building integrated, multichannel marketing databases. Both organizations told the story of long internal sales cycles (2-3 years) in order to get their marketing systems approved – which is an all too familiar story in media. And though the technical content was very basic – using old methodologies and technologies that were still taking 6-8 months to implement at very high costs (especially for mid-marketing organizations) – their uses of the information had a standing-room-only crowd riveted.

The story that was told involved mining information regarding responses to offers and content. Gone was the simple metric of print subscriptions as a benchmark of success. New was the idea of customer engagement and that interacting with the customer on any level – online articles, newsletters, events, print subscriptions – was a good thing and should not be ignored. The data was reporting and identifying individuals who may not be interested in a long-term print subscription, but who were interested in niche newsletters, specific articles and specific advertising offers.

By leveraging this type of detailed multichannel analytics, these organizations are able to present a story to advertisers about audience quality and engagement rather than just volume. Basically, do you want to hear “I can offer you lots of eyeballs” or “I can offer you an audience who is very interested in what you have to say and is likely to click on your email or interact with your offer”?

Per my other articles in my BeyeNETWORK expert channel, these initiatives also evolved into lead management capabilities. Users showing interest in a particular category through clicking on an ad, reading an email or even subtlety reading articles were transferred to ad sales who could relate the opportunities to their advertising clients. In general, advertisers seem to be receptive to the new engagement metrics as quality, engagement and conversion are increasing on their side.

Questex mentioned that they had exposed their customer intelligence system to their advertisers, allowing them to slice and dice their user/subscriber base (no identifying information) and mark a selection for a campaign that would be executed through Questex.

Overall, this is an excellent use of customer information assets to combat a changing environment as well as an acknowledgement of how to engage users that have fragmented the way they receive information across a multitude of sites.

Leveraging Social Platforms

Playboy provided an introduction to social media tactics. Relaying an interesting story that their own social network focused on students attracted 20,000 members while their Facebook presence attracted 1.2 million fans. While it seems that diehard customers are willing to join another social network, mild fans who are already on Facebook found it easy to review new content when they wanted to and were proactively alerted. These tactics drove increased traffic to Playboy’s main online presence where products, subscriptions and advertising can be sold.

There was no secret that the resources needed to build a successful MySpace, Facebook or Twitter presence were non-trivial. So how do you measure the effectiveness of these programs? The analysis of how well these programs perform is difficult – not to mention a user and data integration nightmare.

Variety Magazine provided a presentation on interesting tools to help monitor content, influence and viralness on the Web. The business intelligence practitioner in me started to get nauseous when the presenter explained that he used up to 15 different technologies and services with little integration between them. The Excel gymnastics was mind boggling, but a good case in how fast and cost-effective freeware is and how it fails at any type of large scale complexity.

Using an article they wrote on Scorsese’s Sinatra documentary, Variety showed how they followed the effectiveness of their social media program as the article started to permeate the Web. Functionality they had at their fingertips included:
  • Click-throughs on Twitter including re-tweets.

  • Popularity indexes for different content on Twitter and Digg and how you can differentiate between your popularity and your competitors. Basically, who did a better job of breaking the story or covering the event?

  • Search results for people looking for your content.

  • Overall Twitter analysis including competitive analysis like followers.

  • Facebook analysis including click-throughs, fans and popularity.

  • Video results including who played a full video, paused or started it.
And my favorite one was access to a site called Younoodle, which helps you track competitive startups. I thought that it was very telling and thoughtful to track new companies that may be knocking on your back door.

All of this functionality came from different tools and services. Due to the need and pervasiveness of these services, I’ll review free BI in a following article. But I thought the audience appreciated that the web is starting to provide the in-depth analytics to track the wildness and unpredictability of content, especially now that companies need to post their content outside of their own online properties.

Summary

In the end, I think I saw an optimistic, upbeat crowd (given the current circumstances), that is starting to become confident of new business models, how to use online assets (the ones they own and don’t own) effectively, and how to sell the value of their subscribers and users to their advertising partners. Innovative uses of customer information are starting to impress advertisers, and the ability to leverage Web 2.0 and benchmark your content against your competitors is a reality. There is some catch up on the technology side and the cookies at the conference were only mediocre, but most attendees seemed to be finding quite a bit of value from the event.
  • Larry GoldmanLarry Goldman
    Larry has more than 15 years experience in database marketing, customer relationship management, business intelligence and analytics. A well-known speaker and author, he has been a regular contributor to industry publications for almost 10 years. With experience across multiple industries, Larry helps his clients create new business processes, sales and marketing strategies, analytical plans, contact strategies and customer experiences. And with his extensive technology background, he helps operationalize these strategies by ensuring they can be practically implemented. Larry can reached at 773-456-3996 or larry@amberleaf.net.

    Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Larry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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