Web Sitings: How Fader Media Is Offsetting Print-Revenue Decline
Print ad revenue is still in an alarming free-fall, and journalists are getting laid off three times faster than the rest of the workforce, according to Unity’s 2009 Layoff Tracker Report. The onus is on publishers to find new revenue streams, and a profitable Web strategy is central to continued survival. And while many print publishers have tried to replicate their print profitability online, few have succeeded to date—at least in a large way.
But Fader Media Inc. Executive Vice President and Group Publisher Andy Cohn says that while print revenue is down so far this year at his company, growth from the Web and events is making up for it.
What’s more, according to Cohn, the Web profitability is coming from good, old Web advertising—clickable ad banners and branded content—the same material so many publishers are having a hard time selling at decent rates. Further, TheFader.com traffic more than doubled from September ’08 to September ’09, while its revenue more than quadrupled.
So how are they doing it? Cohn let Publishing Executive in on the secrets to Fader’s online success.
“Traditional ad pages, while diminishing, still garner higher [cost per thousand] and value” than online ads, in the eyes of advertisers, says Cohn, echoing the experiences of most publishers. “This is still based on the conditioning of marketers, but it is changing, just not overnight. We deal with this revenue gap by creating nontraditional campaigns that cross all of our various platforms.”
Nontraditional is a phrase Cohn uses often, and it essentially means that TheFader.com and its menagerie of affiliated products—including XLR8R.com and its magazine, other unique music sites, and social networks like alternative music community The Tripwire—go beyond what can be done in print. It’s not, for example, putting video screens in magazine pages, one of many supposedly innovative tactics that Cohn dismisses as “gimmickry,” but providing advertisers with tactile opportunities to make a connection with Fader Media readers.
Fader Media sites incorporate multimedia, community elements, events and more that connect with what Cohn terms a “very targeted and engaged audience.” In doing so, they allow Fader to sell campaigns that go beyond clicks. Firms large and small are buying, from indie record labels like Secretly Canadian and Saddle Creek Records to Super Bowl advertisers—Ford, Anheuser-Busch and Levi’s.
“Online provides a lot more flexibility in the types of innovative programs you can do, while print still sits in a more traditional place in the minds of advertisers,” explains Cohn. “We also have an understanding of how to really partner with brands and bring them into our space while respecting their DNA, merging it into The Fader’s aesthetic to connect credibly with our audience.”
One such nontraditional campaign being executed on TheFader.com is a 10-episode Fader TV series sponsored by Southern Comfort, “At the Bar With Southern Comfort” (TheFader.com/socoatthebar). The series follows 10 up-and-coming, “Fader-approved” bands in their hometown bars covering songs that inspired them. The production captures both The Fader’s brand and the laid-back image of Southern Comfort in an on-demand channel that only could be achieved on the Web. And, Southern Comfort’s brand appears on the video, the page it’s embedded in, the URL and elsewhere.
Delivering Web Experiences
“Print and online are two different mediums, and we can’t make the mistake of just throwing all our magazine content online and vice versa,” says Cohn, a philosophy that’s illustrated by the fact that Fader magazine and TheFader.com have different brands on the Web.
Users visiting the dedicated magazine site (TheFader.com/magazine) come to a page with the most recent cover images, an editor’s letter and links to articles. Cover stories, two to four features and select back-of-book pieces are posted here about four weeks after the magazine’s on-sale date.
Visiting TheFader.com brings users to a site screaming with images, multimedia and opportunities to engage with content under the banners Music, Style, Art+Culture, Fader TV and more. The site is updated eight to 12 times a day with breaking news, MP3s, streams, downloads, slide shows, videos, concert reviews, event previews and more—or, in Cohn’s words, “basically all the content you can’t cover in a long-lead print magazine,” much of it completing experiences the reader may have begun in Fader magazine.
Although Cohn says traffic is “very well-dispersed” across TheFader.com’s sections, it’s worth noting that the most popular segment, Music, is largely media clips that can’t be captured in print. The next most popular segments, Style and Blogs, are similarly suited to the Web with videos, live links or frequent updates that leverage the interactive experience.
Creating online content ranging from long-form text to intimate concert videos is daunting, but Fader Media is staffed expressly for this purpose. “Our editorial staffs have all been hand-selected as content creators, not print journalists,” explains Cohn. “They all have multiple levels of expertise in print/online/video—and then there is a lot of learning as we go, getting both positive and negative feedback, and making adjustments so we are delivering what our audience wants and how they want it.”
Sounds a little bit like starting a magazine.