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Shaping Editorial Content — Gasp! — to Aid Distribution, Ad Sales

In a Friday column at (The Medium), Virginia Heffernan makes a casual admission that I don’t see very often: That editorial decisions at traditional print publications and newspapers are shaped by ad sales and promotional considerations. It’s an obvious and true admission, but one that is more often directed at the crass and debased kind of journalism that occurs online, especially at, ahem, blogs.

“Take an example from a recent issue of Self magazine. It contains an article about volunteer work, one that could have been written in a million ways. But because it appears in a magazine with newsstand sales, a subscriber base of women and ads from cosmetics companies and pharmaceuticals, it is, perforce, a colloquial personal essay that expresses in its DNA deeply held beliefs about how women’s magazines work and sell and survive. Specifically, it’s produced to engender and justify a cover line, that good old device used by glossy magazines to stand out on newsstands. In this case, the cover line reads, ‘The #1 Happiness Secret You Might Be Missing,’ and the story touts volunteering as a wellspring of contentment. That volunteering story is worlds away from one you would find in a private journal, a hardcover anthology, a paid advertisement or a travel blog.”

In this light, all the scary and revolutionary stuff called “conversational marketing” isn’t so new. The subtle (and deeply important) part of the job is figuring out if you’re Self Magazine, a hardcover anthology or a paid advertisement.

(This article came to my attention by way of a tweet by TheJames.)

Wharton Professors Say Don't Cut Ad Budgets In a Recession

From Knowledge@Wharton:

“With corporate managers under enormous pressure to control costs and maintain liquidity in the current credit crisis, advertising budgets often appear to be a dispensable luxury in the struggle to survive. Executives who succumb to that temptation, however, put the long-term future of their companies at risk, according to Wharton faculty and advertising experts.”

“Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader, [adds] that as companies slash advertising in a downturn, they leave empty space in consumers’ minds for aggressive marketers to make strong inroads. Today’s economy ‘provides an unusual opportunity to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.’”

The Future of Advertising, According to Jack Myers

Jack Myers talks to eMarketer about the future of advertising. Some highlights:

–TV and newspapers are in trouble (with newspapers never recovering)
–The advertising recession will be worse than the economic recession
–Online will be a winner, short term and long term
–Industry (online incl) will experience downward price pressure on CPMs
–Online banner ads will be down year over year, but other pockets will do well
–Hot growth areas will be social media, blogs, widgets, video

For Leaders, Recession Is the “Mountain Stage”

From RexBlog (via David Churbuck):

“‘Athletes often choose times of stress to mount attacks: strong runners and bicycle racers may increase their pace on hills or under other challenging conditions,’ the authors write. ‘In a similar vein, proactive marketing includes both the sensing of the existence of the opportunity (a tough hill and fatigued opponents) and an aggressive response (possessing the necessary strength or nerve) to the opportunity.’”

Gaining share on the mountain stage, however, is not for everybody. It’s for the Lance Armstrongs, not the flabby weaklings. Companies with great products, lean operations and honed marketing skills have a chance to play this recession to a significant advantage. But if you’re heading into this hill flabby and weak, god help you.

More Talk of Tough Times for 2009 Online Advertising

From Silicon Alley Insider.

And more from Ad Age.

Jack Myers Ad Spending Forecast 2009

Full report is here.


Overall US ad spending in 2009 will be down 4%. A category he calls “online video, social networks, widgets and other” will be up 70%, plus another 113% in 2010; online overall — including search — will be up 13.5%. Other ad sectors he forecasts in positive territory are: mobile (40%), videogame advertising (40%), satellite radio (20%), branded entertainment (15%), cinema advertising (8%), cable networks (3%), and out of home (2%). Tough times ahead for the mature media sectors.

Uptown Girls release

How Will Financial Crisis Impact Online Advertising?

The pundits at OMMA are mostly upbeat (see the round up at PaidContent). TNS Media Intelligence’s Brian Wieser, SVP of industry analysis:

“contends that there will be no impact on the industry — at least in the short term. ‘The broader trend of ad dollars shifting into non-measured media marketing and new media will continue. Even given the current turmoil, there’s still room for growth, as more marketers have already begun a steady move to alternative media. So unless you get a scenario where you have a couple retail institutions combining or consumer facing effort, you won’t see an impact. If two retail banks combine, for example, we could still see an uptick in ad spend as the merged companies feel the need to execute a branding campaign. Outside of that, for the financial services firms and publications and agencies that rely on them, a bad year just got worse. But that’s not the whole market.’

I hope he’s right. But chaos across the financial markets is bound to cause nervousness among business people in every sector, and that nervousness will delay advertising start dates, shorten contract commitments, and may temporarily slow down the migration of funds to relatively new channels such as digital.

Online Display Ads Down 6%

From Adotas:

“Nielsen Online has just released a report noting a 27% decline in display advertising spending by financial companies (no shocker there) … which led to a 6% year-over-year decrease in display spend overall in the first two quarters of 2008.”

Bright spots are entertainment (up 47%) and auto (up 45%).

Lehman Brothes Remains Bullish on Online Ad-Spending Growth

Lehman Brothers forecasts year-over-year online ad spending to grow 23.4% in 2008 and and 19.4% in 2009, with video advertising growing at better than double those rates. By Lehman’s count, online will represent 6.6% of total US ad spending in 2010, more than double online’s share in 2007. Charts and graphs at TechCrunch.

eMarketer Lowers Forecast for Online Ads, Especially For Those That Aren't Effective

Hey, it’s my site and I’m allowed to write snarky headlines.

Officially the news is this, as reported by Bloomberg: eMarketer plans to cut its 2008 and 2009 year-over-year growth forecasts for online advertising by a few more points, which currently stand at 23% and 16%, respectively.

“Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said for the first time last month that the company, the biggest seller of online ads, faces a more challenging economic environment. Google’s ads tied to Internet search results are still faring better than much of the graphical banner ads sold by companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft.”

I have no doubt that the online advertising market, across the board, will feel the pain of the broader recession. I also agree that Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL will feel greater pain than Google. But it’s not because Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL — which sell mostly graphical banners instead of text ads — are used by advertisers for online brand-building, and brand advertising suffers more on economic downturns.

While the second part of that sentence is true, the first part isn’t. Most marketers buy low cost graphical banners on Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL for the same reason they buy text ads from Google, to drive clicks and other DR activities. Because they are less efficient DR vehicles than Google, they’ll be cut from plans first. The online publishers that have spent recent years working with advertisers on relevant, high-value, integrated sponsorships (rather than chasing Google) are going to fare better — in relative terms — than those three portals.