Consumers See the Advertising, but Where is the Connection?

December 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Our company, Burst Media, has just released a research study showing that consumers are very much aware of advertising that seems to follow them around online based on their media behaviors. Reporting on the research in its Online Media Daily newsletter, Media Post noted that over 78% of online users are conscious of advertising that appears “tailored to them based on previous visits to other sites”, and a large portion of those people – 34% – don’t like it. The rest are divided between don’t know/don’t care (38%) and, sure, seems like a good idea (27%).

The important number is the 78%. It confirms that online users get the fact that advertisers are tagging them for follow-up. It’s not a secret. They notice the ad messages protruding into their world and they step around them, as they are experienced at doing. It’s life. Everywhere you go, advertising seems to follow. What are you going to do? Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Most times, the survey says, who cares?

Welcome to another generation of consumers inured to commercial messaging. How could this happen in an age of extreme media engagement?

Kirk McDonald, President of Digital Time Inc., reportedly offered one answer to that question in remarks he made to attendees of the iMedia Agency Summit going on in Phoenix, Arizona. iMedia described it this way in their report:

Consumers use content to make connections. That fact, according to [Kirk] McDonald, is the most critical piece of the marketing industry today. In front of a slide depicting people whose faces had been replaced with a bull’s-eye, he stated, “We’ve been getting off track — we’ve been turning consumers’ hopes, dreams, and personalities into algorithms. It’s not about the equation — it’s about the experience of consuming it.”

In today’s media economy, which offers boundless opportunities to reach consumers when they are “consuming it,” the only rational reason for not leveraging the value of it – the content – is price. But, indeed, price is such a driver of advertising decision-making at every level today that the new media opportunity – the chance to reach your best customers when they are most pre-disposed to what you have to sell – has been shanghaied. It is cheaper to buy consumer connections as remainder stock – as factory outlet inventory.

(You can sense the irony of that as it relates to the brand marketing world.)

iMedia described the close to Kirk McDonalds address this way::

Substituting “marketer” for “journalist,” McDonald closed the keynote with a quote from Time Inc. founder Henry Luce: “I became a marketer to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”

Looking out at the audience, McDonald reminded us one last time that the most exciting thing about all of this is the people.

Actually, the only thing about all of this is the people. The most exciting thing should be about the connections. Instead, for a majority it’s simply “Oh look, more advertising.”

An iTunes for magazines?

November 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

Magazine publishers may now be looking at the iTunes model, which has been so successful at connecting with consumers on a paying basis, for help with the digital future. Thanks to the Daily Media News Feed, we are alerted to stories in the New York Observer and The Wrap (which has a nice summary of a few notable paid content initiatives out there right now) about the efforts of former Time Inc-er, John Squires, to rally magazine publishing companies to a new, sustainable, digital model.  iTunes is discussed in both places as the progenitor of what may result from such a collaboration. Whatever evolves, John Squires is quoted as saying in The New York Observer, “With magazines, the form has to change.” It appears he is out to re-design magazines for a digital world.

The iTunes model will not do that for him on its own. iTunes has been wonderfully liberating to consumers not because songs only cost 99 cents, but because once upon a time in order to own a song it cost $14.00 for the CD or album. It wasn’t that consumers were unwilling to pay $14.00 for the one song they craved on an album, it was that it came with so many other songs for which they had no craving at all. CDs took a convenient step forward vs. albums by introducing advanced programmability – specifically, the ability to search for and play a desired song, skipping over the rest without having to get up and move the needle forward or back on a spinning turntable.  iTunes took it to the next level, making it possible to buy songs one at a time, with even more programmability.

This is not a remedy offering much hope to magazines. Fortunately, John Squires may understand that, at least per The Observer piece where he says, “Unlike books and music, I think [for magazines] it involves designing a new product in order for it to be something that consumers really love.”

What do consumers really love about magazines? They love discovery. Magazines delight readers with the unexpected things, which may be why it is so hard to translate the business opportunity into a cost-per-pleasing-new-fact-or-insight. The very thing that makes magazines innately desirable is the thing that is hard to put a price on. It is, in fact, all the “other stuff”, in contrast to what users sought on albums and CDs.

What is the price of this sort of serendipity? How does one bottle it in a digital world where there is so little peripheral vision – where it is all sharp angles and edges, and pointless searches down one rabbit hole after another?

People don’t pay for content. Perhaps this is why: it is not content they are buying. It is experience. It is the pleasing discovery of things they did not know they wanted to know, connected usually to their interests at heart. We will pay for personal enrichment. No wonder it appears the interest-based magazines that come into our house are thriving, but the general-interest based magazines we see elsewhere are not. Where our interests lie, so does our desire to be led (and our willingness to pay).

This means a struggle for all those magazines and – especially – newspapers that would charge for content online. And for magazines, John Squires says, “the form has to change.”

That should be interesting.

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