What Digital Advertising Can Teach Us About Printed Magazines
In the first part of this series, I argued that there's a lot digital advertising professionals can learn from print magazines. But that's not to say digital advertisers don't get a few things right. As a print media dinosaur who occasionally hangs out with the digital advertising folks, I have a few uncomfortable questions for publishers about their print advertising:
Why does it take so long and so much freakin’ bureaucracy to buy a simple ad page?
With a few mouse clicks, an ad buyer can book a digital ad that will run on the websites of 100 magazines. But try placing an ad in the next issue of those same 100 magazines. By the time you’re done, the following month’s issues will already have been published.
Advertisers and agencies often want someone to hold their hand, offer “value adds,” and ask yet again whether we can wait until the day after the issue mails to submit the ad. And they often want similar treatment in the digital world. I get that.
But can’t we offer an automated option for print-ad buyers who want a friction-less process similar to programmatic ads (without the fraud)? And can’t we create networks and alliances that automate the process of booking an ad campaign with multiple publishers?
Advertisers are willing to pay lots of money to reach highly targeted audiences. Why aren’t we helping them (and helping ourselves to their money)?
For a direct-mail piece I received the other day from a financial-services company, the postage alone was $1.15. I didn’t even open the envelope. That kind of money could have paid for an excerpt from a leading magazine—or, heck, an entire issue—to be sent to me with the bank’s message enclosed. I would have opened that and probably would have paid some attention to the sponsor’s pitch.
Sure, our subscriber lists are targeted audiences: Boating magazines are read by boating enthusiasts, and trade magazines by people in the relevant industry. But there are boat owners who are making big decisions about their retirement funds, doctors who enjoy fashion magazines, and affluent millennials who are huge sports fans. Why aren’t we finding ways to package targeted advertising with our relevant content and deliver it to select audiences, regardless of whether they are our subscribers?
Why isn’t print benefitting from the branded-content bandwagon?
For premium web publishers, there’s been huge growth recently in what is variously called branded content, sponsored content, and (not quite accurately) native advertising. Advertisers who are trying to build their reputation or change minds have found it pays to provide or to be closely associated with content that people actually want to consume. So why aren’t we translating this to print?
Our industry’s tradition is to look down our noses at what in the print world is called advertorial and to publish it only if it’s ugly as hell. But why aren’t we finding more ways to help advertisers translate their branded content into attractive, engaging (and properly labeled) print packages? After all, if branded content works on distraction-filled digital devices, why won’t it work even better in a medium that’s ideal for actual reading?
Related story: What Digital Advertising Can Learn From Printed Magazines