Posts about Ad

Newspapers’ new boss: Google

Saul Hansell reports in The Times on Google’s test of a new advertising sales marketplace for newspapers.

Is it a good idea? Of course, it is. It is an idea the newspaper industry should have taken on itself 10, no 20 ago. It’s not just about the internet. It’s about finding ways to serve small local advertisers with self-serve sales and new locally focused products. It’s also about finding ways to bring together newspapers into national networks that can sell demographically targeted ads to new marketers. Oh, the industry tried with the doomed New Century Network but it failed because newspaper people are used to working in monopolies; they are not used to thinking like their customers or working together. And that is a major reason they are now in free fall. It’s not the internet’s fault. It’s their fault.

And turning over ad sales to Google — strengthening Google over their own brands, as Hansell’s story points out — only reveals the bankruptcy of their own strategies and soon businesses. Oh, if I were running a newspaper (fat chance), I’d probably sign on, too, because there’s little time and less choice. But it is only an indication of what Google can do and newspapers can’t.

Your customers are ahead of you

The Newspaper Association of America reports a surge in online traffic and audience to newspaper online sites.

On average, over 56.9 million people visited newspaper sites each month in Q3 2006, up almost 24 percent since Q3 2005. . . . The group earlier this month reported unique visitors to newspaper sites rose 31 percent during the first half of 2006 over the same period in ’05. Unique visitors to paper sites averaged more than 55.5 million per month during the first six months of ’06, up almost a third from the 42.4 million during the first half of last year. Newspaper sites generated 2.7 billion pageviews in the third quarter, and visitors spent more than 41.5 minutes each month on the sites, according to the report. During that period last year, visitors viewed around 1.9 billion paper pages, spending 40.4 minutes on the sites on average monthly.

I think this further feeds the idea that newspapers are in “free fall,” as The Times said last week: The rush online is getting faster and faster and if media execs and ad execs don’t catch up, they will be left behind… sooner than they think.

: I call out ad execs for a reason: They are holding back the progress in media. Oh, it’s the fault of media execs as well. But get a load of these stats from today’s Times:

Indeed, the Internet draws only a sliver of the total spent on advertisements. Last year, Internet ads accounted for just 4.7 percent, or $12.5 billion, of the $267 billion spent on advertising, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade association of online publishers. And the top 50 advertisers spent just 3.8 percent of their budgets in the first half of this year on online ads, excluding search, TNS Media Intelligence data shows. For all other advertisers, the average spent online was 6.8 percent of the budget.

Procter & Gamble, the nation’s biggest advertiser last year, spent $33.5 million — less than 1 percent of its $4.6 billion ad budget — on online ads in 2005. General Motors, the second-biggest advertiser, spent $110.5 million online, or 2.5 percent of its $4.35 billion total, according to TNS, which does not include search ads in its figures.

The essential change in media is that we, the people, won’t go to where you are anymore. You have to come to us. And you’re not.

: LATER: The latest circulation stats for newspapers continue to back up the notion of free fall. Romenesko’s summary:

* Los Angeles Times daily circulation dropped 8%; down 6% on Sunday.
* San Francisco Chronicle dropped 5.3% daily; down 7.3% on Sunday.
* New York Times dropped 3.5% daily; down 3.5% on Sunday.
* Boston Globe dropped 6.7% daily; down 9.9% on Sunday.
* Washington Post dropped 3.3% daily; down 2.6% on Sunday.
* Wall Street Journal dropped 1.9% daily; WSJ Weekend Edition down 6.7%.
* Chicago Tribune dropped 1.7% daily; down 1.3% on Sunday.
* USA Today dropped 1.3%.

Well, duh

Sir Martin Sorrell, ad mogul, is finally figuring it out: “Google said we spend 20% of our time online, so in theory, and I stress in theory, that’s where the internet market should go. It shouldn’t just be 14%, it should be more than that.” And whose fault is that, Sir?

Bad news

Just piling up the bad news for newspapers this week:

* Newspaper circulation continues to clog: “Industry sources who have seen the numbers tell E&P they anticipate that for the six months ending September 2006, top-line daily circulation will fall roughly 2.5% while Sunday will drop approximately 3%.”

* Newspaper advertising is declining: “Earnings from three big newspaper companies — Tribune Co., New York Times Co. and Belo Corp. — provided more dramatic evidence that print-advertising revenues have gone into decline after a long period of low growth. All three posted lower newspaper-advertising revenue in the third quarter compared with the year-earlier period, echoing results from most of the companies in the industry that have reported earnings in recent days. . . . Results in recent days have reinforced gloomy predictions coming from some analysts. Last week, Merrill Lynch cut its newspaper-ad revenue forecast for this year to flat from 1.2% growth and revised its 2007 forecast to a drop of 1.5%.”

* Those who thought they were saved from conglomerates and profit margins when they were bought by local owners were fooling themselves. Those papers are laying off: “The new owners of three former Knight Ridder newspapers announced layoffs, expected layoffs and abrupt changes in management yesterday as they painted a bleak outlook for the newspaper industry. . . ‘Newspaper publishers and owners across the country are saying that this has been the worst 90-day stretch that they have ever seen in the business,’ Mr. Tierney wrote. ‘They also universally believe that this reduced revenue picture will be a permanent part of the future of newspapers.’ ”

* There’s upheaval all over: NBC News cuts back. The Chicago Sun-Times appears to be for sale. The Toronto Star ousted its editor and publisher. Liberation’s future in France is in question.

That’s just one week.

Corrupting blogs

The insidious effort to buy bloggers’ voice and credibility in the name of buzz just won’t stop. So I want to make my own blogger’s pledge to you:

1. No one can buy my editorial voice or opinion.
2. No one can buy my editorial space; if it’s an ad it will clearly be an ad.
3. No one should be confused about the source of anything on my pages.
4. I will disclose my business relationships whenever it is relevant and possible.

This is what I learned working in the newspapers and magazines. A wise editor at Time Inc. boiled down all the church-v-state company and industry rules and policies into those first three tenets above; the fourth, I added. This is how we assure our independence from advertisers and financial interests. This is how we earn our credibility.

It is fine for a blogger or newspaper or vlogger or TV show to take advertising, clearly labeled. It is wonderful for a blogger to get paid to write, editorially. But when you write what a commercial interest tells you and pays you to write, then you are no longer speaking as yourself but in the service of that marketer. That’s fine, too, but it isn’t content. It is advertising (or advertorial, same difference). See Rules 2 and 3.

This all seems simple and obvious to me. But it’s not obvious to others, who think they can buy bloggers’ opinions and with it that buzz. They don’t understand that buzz, too, is earned. And they don’t understand that once a blogger — or journalist or publication or friend, for that matter — is bought and paid for, the credibility and value of their voice is reduced or ruined.

Credibility is the cake you can’t have and eat, too.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t affect just one blogger. Bloggers’ detractors love to measure us by our lowest common denominator: if one snarks, all snark; if one sells out, all sell out. This is why Jason Calicanis calls it a cancer.

Calacanis has been tilting at this windmill, calling out PayPerPost very effectively. He is optimistic that they have seen the error of their ways but I’m not so sure. PayPerPost brags about this blogger earning $1,000. And so I read her blog and have no idea whether to trust that her opinions are her own or those of her paymaster: Does she really like these flip-flops, this security system, Disney, or FTD flowers, or Bath & Bodyworks? I have no way of knowing because she doesn’t say who’s paying her. Not that I’m in the market for a motorcycle, but I wouldn’t trust her opinion if I were.

And then there is the shameful lapse of Edelman, who said they were blog-savvy and transparent but turned out to be paying for a trip by a blogger and a Washington Post photographer, ferchrissakes, across America and extolling Wal-Mart’s big heart. Richard Edelman finally apologized. But now they make me wonder what else they’re quietly engineering. I find it cold comfort that the signed the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s ethics policy; I find it discomfiting that there is such an association. That’s word of our mouths they’re talking about.

And I have recently received at least two request from advertisers, via sales agents, to have me and other bloggers write things about their products. Each one came with a think layer of lipstick on the pig — for example, the writing may appear on another site. But they’re still trying to pay me to write about their product. I passed up $5,000 for the latest offer, which is a good deal more than what I’ve been getting lately for other ads you see here. But turning it down was easy. See Rule No. 1.

Now understand well that I end up doing business with marketers, directly and indirectly via ads and employers. Edelman paid me to come speak at a corporate meeting and that has been on my disclosures page. I got six months’ use of a Sprint phone; they didn’t ask me to write about it but I told you about the campaign and then gave the phone away. I’ve just advised an advertiser and its agency on buying ads on blogs and I made it clear to them that I will disclose that when they come out with it. I ended up accidentally giving another advertiser free advice — and passed up revenue again — when I told them they should not try to market by spamming Wikipedia; since I didn’t end up doing business with them, I’ll spare them embarrassment of saying who they were. None of these people will buy my opinions. See Rule No. 1. And I will be transparent about my dealings with them. See Rule No. 4.

But this isn’t about ethics pledges and industry policies. It’s about personal integrity, about honesty, about having a direct and open relationship of trust and credibility. You may disagree with my opinions — and, oh, you do — but you should at least be assured that they are mine.

: LATER: Via a link to this post, I just saw a data base allowing bloggers to get things free for review. I don’t object to that. Journalists get free books, screenings, food, and at least use of devices for review. And bloggers can’t afford to do what Consumer Reports does and buy everything it tests. The opportunity for corruption still exists: ‘If I give bad reviews, I won’t get the stuff anymore.’ But if you give nothing but good reviews as a result, your credibility and value with, again, suffer. So I believe in revealing the source review material.

: Meanwhile note that CBS just paid $2 million to settle accusations of pay-per-play.