Whilst a consumate entrepreneur, I am a salesman at heart and so I find myself looking at this whole debate through the presumed eyes of existing sales teams at the organizations we are all referring to and in my opinion, that's where the clarity starts. Liberated from the foggy and disparate opinions of the boardroom and intellectualised opinions from bankers, marketeers and hugely expensive consultants, things actually start to look quite obvious; at least to me! Perhaps if anyone had asked them, the sales guys might agree with me?
Firstly, just go to the homepage of the WSJ, NYT, LA Times, etc.etc. and just look at it. I've done that a minute ago and here's the upshot:
- 1 x 377 x 50 JPEG top image advertising subscriptions for WSJ
- 1 x mid page large rhs flash ad for Fisher Investments (Doubleclick)
- 2 x Top 184 x 90 JPEG ads for Holland America Cruise Ships
- 1 x mid page large flash ad for nytimes.com/conversations
- 1 x 120 x 60 Static Gif for Verizon Wireless
- 1 x mid page RHS large flash ad for Zetabid foreclosure sales (Doubleclick)
Then check out on the same basis all the major sections like sport, business etc. in the same context and now compare that with www.telegraph.co.uk one of the UK's leading newspapers alongside the FT:
2 x Highly visible combined flash banners for major UK bank with continued web brand on click through. No apparent intermediary.
1 x Top Banner for Sky and One large Mid Page Flash for HSBC Bank
Golf Page has large top banner for singles Golfing Holidays and a sponsors logo from RBS.
Cricket Page has Orange Mobile and HSBC
Horse Racing has HSBC and Virgin Atlantic
Tennis has Orange, Rolex (Rich Media Sponsor of TV) and HSBC
2 x highly visible combined flash banners for Virgin Atlantic with continued web brand on click through. No apparent intermediary. (On reloads ads for financially relevant Companies appear)
Link to great article by Amanda Andrews http://tinyurl.com/dkl6gx
The glaringly obvious difference here is that The Daily Telegraph has started to provide their sales teams the platform to sell top slice advertising on a relevance basis to brands concomitant with their long established cache and gravitas which is of course further preserved in that process. I don't know whether they are running the actual delivery mechanisms or monitoring in-house, but assume they are. In any event, unlike the WSJ and NYT there isn't a flat JPEG ad in sight and I am certain that the difference in net billing is in a different league.
Most importantly, the top news feed on my iGoogle homepage is guess what... and to borrow and bend a line from The American President movie with the totally edible Annette Bening; if the WSJ et al insist on going for a pay-for-content model, they won't just have lost my affection, they will have lost my custom! To avoid this, these are my top five tips to newspapers for mending themselves before they are irrevocably broken:
Ignore anyone who tells you that online advertising prices are wholly fixed by volume. This is a myth perpetuated by third party providers who are feeding off your belief in, and consequent support of, that fallacy. If you provide great content and can qualify that certain demographic audiences are loyal to you, then you can decide on what that is worth by your direct relationship with your advertisers. (It is, after all, in the interest of big brands to have sophisticated and elegant environments to promote themselves to appropriate audiences and not see them evaporate.)
2) OWN IT ALL
DON’T OUTSOURCE – It is not rocket science to create and deliver rich media in websites and in terms of monitoring, surely that is 100% part of your relationship with your advertisers and dependent on what they are looking to achieve. This is nobody’s business but yours and your Clients and is again not hard to automate based on your own specialist USP’s.
3) LOCK THE DOORS ON TROJAN HORSES
Don’t let anyone else benefit from advertising within your brand. If you want to include a third party search function, that’s great, but any advertising within YOUR platform should be owned by you. The moment you let an advert for 'get rich schemes' into your highly regarded business sections you have destroyed your own credibility. If you have to, then create your own search algorithm to work within your website.
4) DON'T CHARGE FOR CONTENT - IT WILL KILL YOU
Don’t Charge for content – It will NOT work. Not enough people will pay for what is already available for free and it will just further isolate you from the ability to prove you have a loyal following. A modest charge for ‘membership’ however with certain privileges like the ability to comment, a physical monthly magazine by post full of rich content and a special treat like the monthly ‘How To Spend It’ magazine in the FT, downloadable ‘mobility’ content to your Laptops or Kindle’s maybe even via your own branded Readers… (So that people can choose content individually and amass it in one place for reading in the bath, on a plane or even in audio as a further paid for service?) – That list is potentially endless and people will pay for creativity and value in that area; just look at people’s fascination for private clubs etc. (I know myself it is my one biggest irritation with content even before the internet. Most times in my hectic life I would like to be able to tick a box next to an article, blog entry etc. I wish to save for enjoying later and would very much pay for that. In terms of the future, that is what your R&D effort should focus on most. How to package and deliver great content on a totally portable basis and in a way tailored to the individual tastes of the reader.)
5) ASK THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO MATTER!
Lastly, why not ask your audience! I have yet to see a newspaper brand or indeed their leader come out publically in their journals and ask their audience what they want. You still have access to millions of opinions; why not show you care about them by asking. I think you’ll be surprised what the reality is. That is not a license to go spend even more money with an external marketing consultancy, it is a suggestion that a small online survey or cut-out coupon proposing some membership advantages for print, online and combined and see what people tell you. Maybe hold some seminars with your advertisers and ask them what they think. Maybe you are already…but if you aren’t, then…
In summary, like all owners of an opinion, it is just that until someone else makes it a revelation or simply a case of stating the obvious. Either way, I am a CUSTOMER and a SALESMAN so I believe my opinion is better than anyone’s… Naturally!