Laid-off ad execs inspire in “Lemonade” movie

1 12 2009

I hope this film comes to St. Louis soon. Premiered in Boston last night.

The takeaway: “Inspire. Hope. Dream big. Love what you do.”

On an irreverent note, I can’t ever think of the lemonade aphorism without thinking of Jimmy Kimmel’s joke: “If God gives you AIDS, make lemonades!”

The end of advertising as we know it?

1 10 2009

The IBM Institute for Business Value has a new study out suggesting that the traditional intrusive, one-to-many advertising model is dying, to be replaced by interactive, one-to-one ad formats. Executive summary here.ibmlogo-21

The next 5 years will hold more change for the advertising industry than
the previous 50 did. Increasingly empowered consumers, more self-reliant
advertisers and ever-evolving technologies are redefining how advertising is
sold, created, consumed and tracked. Our research points to four evolving
future scenarios – and the catalysts that will be driving them. Traditional
advertising players – broadcasters, distributors and advertising agencies
– may get squeezed unless they can successfully implement consumer,
business model and business design innovation.

As the pithy Lisa Hickey says, “Today, brands are judged by the quality of their conversation. Brands are people, and people are brands.”

Newspapers’ free fall may be slowing

21 09 2009

Ad revenue declines are slowing, according to the Newspaper Association of America, as reported in today’s New York Times:

“In what passes for good news these days, the free fall in newspaper advertising may be slowing, and specialists predict it will ease through 2009 and into 2010. …0921-biz-PAPERweb

Ordinarily, such numbers would be seen as catastrophic, but these times are not ordinary. The drop in combined print and digital ad revenue last year, 16.6 percent, according to the Newspaper Association of America, was the worst since the Depression. But it looks rosy next to 2009, when revenue fell 28.3 percent in the first quarter and 29 percent in the second.”

It’s natural to look for a silver lining, and there are signs of recovery in the retail sector on which newspapers depend for revenue. But forecasts of ad spending are mixed.

But newspapers need to see the revenue bottom soon. Most have cut expenses so deeply that the corresponding decline in quality threatens their ability to bounce back even when the economy revives. When advertisers decide to start spending again, they’ll have to question whether the long-suffering newspapers will bring them the return they so desperately need.

What if newspaper publishers combined their best minds toward cooperatively strengthening their news product, say, with hard-hitting issue-oriented journalism that can shape the important debates on foreign policy, health care, the financial sector and other critical areas just in time for advertisers to notice newspapers when they allotted their dollars? Couldn’t hurt.

UPDATE: I see that some on the Internet are taking Obama’s kind words for newspapers as a slam at blogs:

Mr. Obama said he noted the trend. “I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” the President said.

Hey, if the shoe fits …

Washington Post gives up hyperlocal effort

19 08 2009

New York Times:

The Washington Post is shutting down one of the earliest and most promising experiments in hyperlocal news,, which covered news in Loudoun County, Va.

Loudon ExtraNews organizations everywhere have been promoting hyperlocal Web sites, which give readers detailed updates on what is happening in their neighborhood or on their block.

The idea behind these sites is that while readers are abandoning major metro newspapers, they still care deeply about news that is happening down the street. Meanwhile, local businesses theoretically want to advertise to local readers, potentially offering a business model to pay for the local news.

The challenge, though, is that hiring reporters to cover car thefts, school board meetings and new store openings is expensive. So is hiring salespeople to visit local businesses and sell ad space.

The model works only if a bunch of salespeople pound the pavement, or if a company like AOL with a network of large advertisers offers them geo-targeted ads as part of a bigger package, said Greg Sterling, an analyst who blogs about these issues at Screenwerk. “I suspect The Washington Post maybe made assumptions about acquiring advertisers that didn’t turn out to be true,” he said.

It could be a case of bad timing. Because of the economy, local businesses could still be too skittish to take advantage of the opportunity. They never seem to buy into the idea that in a slowdown, you should step up marketing.

But I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s a problem of advertising ROI more than a journalistic model. For years, the Holy Grail of advertising was highly targeted demographics. Hyperlocal offers it, at least on a geographic breakdown. But it may be that the entire model of one-way interruption advertising is dead, and businesses know it.

If so, the question becomes how can newspapers and their Web sites tie into the newer model of marketing as value-adding dialog with prospective buyers.

FT editor says come on in, water’s fine

4 08 2009

This is rich. The editor of that venerable peach journal of capitalism, The Financial Times, urges other newspapers to hurry up and join the FT in charging for content. The editor, Lionel Barber, says:

“What I would say to the competition and to the rest of the world is that it’s getting late. If we move now we can assure ourselves of a prosperous future.”

Translation: “Don’t leave us hangin’ here, fellas.”

Further, he warns other newspaper editors not to compete on price, because that would be wrong. Some capitalism, there!

But I do think he’s right to focus on brand and business model, and the FT is ahead of the pack there. He doesn’t see ad revenue as the answer, although it ought to supplement paying readers.

Competing with the BBC is a prickly issue for private news gatherers in the UK, and the interviewer badly wants the FT to pick that fight, but Barber won’t go there. Nor will he attack blogs that cut and paste news content. He doesn’t see that as competition. He sees the players as those with big brands built on credibility and value. Lot of sense in that.

Ad revenue dips for social networking sites

9 07 2009

The research firm eMarketer projects that advertising on social networks will drop 3% to $1.1 billion this year after a period of hot growth, amid spending cuts by marketers and problems at MySpace. The projection is a sharp reversal. In December, eMarketer projected growth of 10.2% for 2009 to $1.3 billion.eMarketer graph

However, the dip is only temporary, the firm says. It predicts that spending will hit the $1.3 billion mark next year.

“The expected rebound in spending will come as more companies focus on creating and implementing an overall social marketing strategy,” says Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report, Social Network Ad Spending: A Brighter Outlook Next Year. “And it is a clear indication that the experimental phase of social network marketing is finally drawing to an end.”

… Social network users create a gigantic amount of data about themselves—their friend networks, likes and dislikes, content-sharing activities and more.

“Harnessing this information to deliver advertising not only within social networks, but on other sites a consumer may visit, is a marketer’s dream come true,” says Ms. Williamson.

American Press Institute: Paid Content Is the Future for News Web Sites

3 06 2009

The 31-page white paper, summarized here by Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, concludes:

“Newspapers can make the leap from an advertising-centered to an audience-centered enterprise” and should get on with it immediately.

The report, titled Newspaper Economic Action Plan, recommends that industry leaders follow five new “doctrines.”
  • True Value. Establish that news content online has value by charging for it. Begin “massive experimentation with several of the most promising options.”
  • Fair Use. Maintain the value of professionally produced and edited content by “aggressively enforcing copyright, fair use and the right to profit from original work.”
  • Fair Share. Negotiate a higher price for content produced by the news industry that is aggregated and redistributed by others.
  • Digital Deliverance. “Invest in technologies, platforms and systems that provide content-based e-commerce, data-sharing and other revenue generating solutions.”
  • Consumer Centric. Refocus on consumers and users. Shift revenue strategies from those focused on advertisers.
  • Full text of the report is available here.

    Post-Dispatch: Newspapers are too essential to fail

    11 05 2009

    In its lead editorial today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rejects the call for federal aid to newspapers. I agree with this conclusion, but for reasons of pragmatism, not journalistic integrity.

    The editorial makes an important point that the very term “newspaper” is becoming antiquated.

    The Internet has changed every dynamic and challenged the dominance of daily newspapers, although they still command the largest audience and largest news-gathering teams. The rubric “newspaper” masks the breadth of online content that refreshes around the clock and provides in-depth local/regional news unlike any other medium. Online readership is growing in most newspaper markets.

    But newspaper companies must find ways to pay for that news coverage in a digital world where information is free and a click away. News monopolies have vanished.

    Right, but I fear the newspaper remains in denial about the impact of the dying business model on journalism itself.

    But the newspaper industry doesn’t face a crisis of journalism. It is a crisis of advertising that affects all commercial media — including local television, magazines, radio and cable news. Like newspapers, other media companies have been enforcing layoffs, unpaid furloughs, and pay cuts to reduce expenses as revenue shrinks as advertisers pull back. … Newspapers will begin to heal when the nation’s economy rises from its knees and people begin to spend money again.

    This optimism borders on delusion. Economic recovery may slow but will not reverse the decline of newspapers. Advertisers started deserting newspapers not because people weren’t spending money but because the ads were less effective. The cost of ads supporting an antiquated news delivery system was too high compared to the multiple alternative channels available. Also, some species of major advertisers, such as department stores, were marching toward extinction more than a decade ago.  They won’t return. For these and a host of other reasons, I think it’s highly wishful thinking to expect newspaper advertising to return to pre-9/11 levels.

    The fact is,  newspaper journalism started suffering long before the current slowdown. Newspapers lost their way two decades ago trying to imitate USA Today and the infotainment model of broadcasters . Distilling “hard” news to one or two paragraphs in summary columns while dedicating front-page space to fluffy features turned off the base readership. Diverting resources away from coverage of local government and issues — and away from enterprising investigative projects —  gave away newspapers’ “essential” nature.

    These wrong-headed news-gathering decisions are easy to reverse, and newspapers can get smarter quickly about providing more essential fare. But it’s much more difficult to change the cultural trends that led to declines in readership and the appetite for real news, as well as the commercial forces that negated the returns for newspaper advertising.

    Ads in all media down 9%, newspapers 30%

    15 04 2009

    New York Times:

    NEWSPAPER advertising, already in its worst slump since the Depression, suffered by far the sharpest drop in generations during the first quarter of 2009, down 30 percent for some papers, industry executives and analysts say.

    LAT disguises front-page ad as story

    10 04 2009

    Talk about the convergence of journalism, entertainment and marketing! The Los Angeles Times goes for a three-fer — on its front page. Desperate times.