FOLIO: Communicating to Communities

In Folio's July/August issue, Jim Elliott writes about how digital strengthens print's community characteristics for ad sales:

Magazines always attracted people with common interests, but except for association publications whose members belonged to the same organization, most readers were not really a community, because they didn’t have any convenient way to identify one another. That is all different now, as there are many ways to find and communicate with like-minded people, especially through websites and groups within social networks.

One might think that digital technologies are disruptive, as they are often described, but from our point of view they are not. In fact, digital editions, social media, mobile and other new approaches are not hurting our business. On the contrary, they are good for sales because advertisers are looking for communities, and digital technologies are helping communities to form.

Many years ago advertisers talked about “surrounding the customer,” but there was a limited number of ways to attempt that. Today, magazines can help marketers surround the customer through integrated programs featuring elements that would have been impossible to implement just a few years ago.

As an example of how an integrated program can work, let’s look at a program we put together for a women’s special interest advertiser who ran ads in print magazines. In its final form, the program involved the following parts:

• Banners on the magazine’s e-newsletter

• Banners on the magazine’s website

• Advertising in the printed magazine

• Sponsorship of projects using the product that could be downloaded as PDFs

• Free monthly webinars for readers, produced by the advertiser, hosted by the magazine’s editor, featuring an interesting speaker

• Editorial mention of the webinars in e-newsletters as a resource for readers

• Advertiser follow-up to webinar participants

• Blogger involvement before every scheduled event, so they could cross-promote, prepare questions for the speaker, and generate enthusiasm in the market.

Creating, selling and executing a program like this is difficult, but it can give the advertiser a huge footprint and effective market presence. But what has to change before we see many more similar integrated programs focused on a community? Let’s take this piece by piece.

Sellers have to sell the brand and the various pieces cannot be sold by disparate sales groups. Our integrated program was sold by one individual. It is much harder to sell through several people if they have competing agendas. It also helped that the client ran the program through their marketing people with the help of one agency.

Programs like this give publishers a way to sell the advertiser’s brand that online networks cannot touch. There is no question that the advertiser could have bought network impressions much more cheaply, but most of the eyeballs they reached would not have belonged to enthusiastic women deeply engaged with their craft. Our program touched buyers who were ready to swipe their credit cards for products that enhanced their creative projects.

Another more global issue is whether advertisers will really pay more for good ideas or even better performance. Publishers have spent untold hours looking for alternative revenue streams so they can compete in the new environment. Integrated programs provide one source.

Assuming that our authority is intact as a medium, is it a reasonable and feasible proposition that advertisers will pay more for better advertising?

We don’t have the final answer, but we keep finding reasons to be optimistic. Over the next year, we want to expand our information on this subject and bring new ideas to you. We’ll be soliciting agency and industry experts to help us examine each of these pieces.

Link to article: