To Grow Print Revenue, Give Advertisers What They Want: Data-Driven Targeting
There’s an old saying that, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
I goofed. I’ve been advocating the use of a “hammer” to help magazines reverse a decade-long advertising slump. I should have been talking about what we need to build.
What the magazine industry needs to focus on is data-driven print -- using data analysis to help advertisers deliver highly targeted, high-impact print ads. “Magazine media” companies are missing opportunities because the data sophistication typical of our digital ventures has not seeped over to the print side of the house, where we’re still doing data like it’s 1999.
Yet instead of explaining how we can harness the power of data and describing the many tools available, I’ve been trying to pound everything with a hammer called digital printing. Under the right circumstances, digital printing is a wonderful member of the data-driven print toolbox.
But looking for ways to use digital printing in magazines without first creating a data-driven print strategy is like trying to build a roof before the foundation has been laid. Besides, there are only seven of us dinosaurs left in the publishing industry who know enough about how magazines are usually printed to grasp how different digital printing is. (Editor’s note: This is a slight exaggeration.)
A major reason U.S. magazine advertising has slumped -- dropping about 66% in just 10 years on an inflation-adjusted, per-capita basis -- is that magazines are not providing the audiences most advertisers want to reach.
Advertisers used to select magazines to reach such audiences as car buffs, fashion-conscious women, or residents of Denver. But that segment targeting seems pretty lame in comparison with the audiences digital media can deliver by harnessing data -- such as people currently shopping for a luxury car, affluent women interested in plastic surgery, or business owners seeking financing to expand.
The good news is that people still like magazines. And study after study shows that print advertising has far more impact on consumer decisions than does its digital counterparts. Magazines are unmatched for targeted advertising: A custom version can be delivered to specific addresses (unlike newspapers), with far higher readership rates than direct mail and none of the ad blocking and “banner blindness” that plagues digital advertising.
The trick is getting the right ad paired with the right magazine and delivered to the right person. When that happens, the results are magic.
As I noted in a recent blog post, one publisher charges as much for a cover-wrapped magazine mailed to only 5,000 people as it does for a full-page ad delivered to 500,000 subscribers. The key is the publisher’s exclusive access to a mailing list of hard-to-reach people who are extremely valuable to certain types of advertisers
Cover wraps are an old-school magazine tactic. But the availability of data that can be mined to create precisely targeted mailing lists has breathed new life into sponsored wraps, causing apparently growing sales while run-of-book advertising continues to slump.
At least half of U.S. visitors to a consumer-oriented website can be matched to a postal address with the right database, a direct-mail executive told me. I haven’t heard of any publishers using the same technology to enhance their subscriber data -- for example, to identify who is in the market for a luxury car or an overseas trip -- or to build custom mailing lists.
Publishers often customize their newsletters based on data about the links a subscriber has clicked in the past. And though the same people often subscribe to a newsletter and a magazine from the same publisher, I don’t think it’s common practice to append that data to the magazine subscriber file in a way that creates meaningful lists for advertisers.
Imagine a publisher pitching a car company not only ROP ads for its SUV but also some data-driven extras -- such as sponsorship of a special section sent only to parents with young children. Or perhaps a cover wrap promoting the SUV and placed only on copies mailed to people who have recently researched SUVs online.
A print-advertising expert told me that the Adwanted platform’s entry into the U.S., with the help of the BPA, will open the door to such customized campaigns. It will be easier for publishers to show the options they offer and for advertisers and ad agencies to buy such offerings, the expert predicted. (And that was before the publisher of the Standard Rate and Data Service announced a deal to promote Adwanted to SRDS subscribers and to allow its data on 6,700 magazines to be displayed on the Adwanted platform.)
B2B publishers could tout their ability to craft a subscriber edition specifically for CEOs, purchasing managers, or other VIPs. B2B publishers could even create a consortium that would enable an advertiser to scale up such a campaign across multiple titles.
But don’t make the typical mistake of focusing only on subscribers. Most cover-wrap campaigns, after all, target readers not based on what magazines they buy but rather based on their being part of a target group -- whether cardiology patients, recent home buyers, millionaires, or tech executives -- and on what magazines they are likely to read if given the chance.
Publishers don’t always have to do the data analysis needed to create a targeted list. Many clients already have a mailing list of people they are trying to reach, and they’re willing to pay big bucks for a means of getting their white paper or native ad in front of those people in a form that’s likely to be noticed.