Sometimes the bad news contains some positive patterns worth digging for.
Advertising Age magazine (subscription required) reported earlier this month that U.S. magazine ad pages were down 3.1 percent for the first half of 2008. The usual culprits hitting all media were blamed: declines in ad spending by auto companies, financial, real estate, etc.
You have to read through the list of losers to get the gainers. But check out these titles showing double-digit increases over 2007: Cooking with Paula Deen, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Relish, Cookie, Parents, Fast Company, Body & Soul, In Touch Weekly, OK Weekly, Southern Accents, Veranda, Spin, Technology Review, and Working Mother.
(Pop quiz. Which title had nearly 50% growth from 2007? Answer at the end)
See any patterns? Let’s toss out Fast Company and Technology Review for this exercise. What I see are some clear patterns of publications targeting hard-to-reach audiences, and drawing advertisers who are finding it harder and harder to reach them. The audiences:
Young moms: Cookie, Parents, Working Mother.
Food-conscious women: Cooking with Paula Deen, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Body&Soul, Relish.
High-end home design fanciers: Southern Accents, Veranda.
Young people obsessed with celebrities: OK Weekly, Spin, In Touch Weekly
The point is, there is advertising money out there for those who can draw the right audiences.
How many publishers, both online and in print, continue to make incremental changes in their products, rather than identifying a valuable unserved audience and going after it?
It’s like what Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.”
(Answer: Cookie – targeting hip, stylish moms — up 49.5 percent this year vs 07)
Update from my last post. The Baltimore Sun is doing some very interesting work in video advertising. It’s not really about advertising per se — as in getting a message in front of a consumer who’s not necessarily looking for it — but about enabling local businesses to establish a video presence, which can then lead to video advertising.
Check out the demos here.
It’s a good example of a local media company going after a line of business that nobody’s in right now. Essentially, the folks at BaltimoreSun.com create custom video microsites for clients, hook the microsite into the baltimoresun.com URL for SEO purposes, and then obviously try to get the client to advertise the microsite on their site. It’s profitable. Is this something a TV station would get into? No, it’s too downmarket. Is it something a video production company would get into. No, for the same reason. Might a wedding videographer get into this? OK, maybe. But the folks at the Sun are there first, and they have the ad programs and SEO muscle to make their clients successful online.
The Sun’s program reminds me of the concept outlined in the book Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgneit. Basically the subhead tells it all:
“How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant.” In other words, you can be like a shark trying to outdo the other sharks in a feeding frenzy, turning the ocean red. Or you can swim to some blue ocean water and dine in peace.
Of course, you’ll swim around in the big blue ocean for a while before you find dinner, so conserve some resources for the hunt.
But it’s a concept worth thinking about for troubled media companies: what are the assets you have that can be used to “create uncontested market space” and make it yours? In the case of the Sun, their assets included some basic video skills and equipment, some excellent web design skills, lots of customer contacts and excellent search-engine rankings. They’ve used those assets to develop a blue-ocean kind of business.
As they say in those video ads on the telly: “What’s in your wallet?”