Four mega-trends emerged from the ballrooms and hallways of the Key Executives Mega-conference last week. And all of them underscored the decline in marketing importance - or at least growth of the banner ad as a business model.
While previous conferences focused on how to get a 60% sell-through, the most interesting speakers this year were more likely to refer to banner ads as interruptive, while pressing on to more interesting opportunities:
Megatrend # 1: Transactional revenues, including paid will change the business
The switch to paid online content recently passed the 50% mark of newspapers and has been a resounding success yielding millions in a variety of markets. In fact, blinded by success, circulation marketers may still not know what they don't know.
Paid content is not the only transactional model. Perhaps the most interesting presentation was made by Eric Bright, VP of E-commerce at Deseret Digital Media.
At Deseret, transactional initiatives under Bright's direction now include everything from hotel transactions, for the purposes of which they have acquired Utah.com, to rental background checks.
Bright brought slides that show users perceive interruptive online ads as a negative experience, while at the top of their list of favorite sites from a UE perspective are transactional sites like Amazon.
It seems that sites that the goal of getting more traffic to ads creates design goals that are contradictory with the goal of selling transactions, which require buyers, not eyeballs.
In addition, as paid content sites are learning, transactions are all about UE, with purchases varying by percentage points at the slightest change in the position of a button or removal of, well, advertisements and other content.
As speaker Matt Sokoloff, (full disclosure: and fellow Fellow at Reynolds Journalism Institute) pointed out, newspapers have yet to fully grasp how this changes not only their site design, but also their very news model. When what you want is not just traffic but trackable buyers, how will the newsroom change?
Megatrend #2: Content marketing is on the horizon
Jim Morony, publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News pointed out that as display banner revenues flatten, there is a major overlooked opportunity from another kind of marketing that deploys skills newspapers are already good at: Content markeing.
Google's new, higher standards for content ranking have largely diminished the influence of link-building hackers - or gritty entrepreneurs, depending on your point of view - in favor of "real" content.
And if brands today are in search of content, who better to sell it to them than media companies, he asked. My guess is, that at Dallas Morning News the editors will not win an argument that splits the hair too thin.
Take this week's Top Ads Winner, at Local Media Insider. "In the Kitchen" a chef video series, created by The Observer Group of weeklies for a local restaurant group, embedded the videos in online profiles that include a written recipe. Great for the readers right? Yep.
Great for SEO, right? Yep. Content produced by the media? Yep.
Monetized? You bet. No where does it say that the profiles are paid.
In fact, the profiles could have run under a different URL, such as the restaurant association that purchased the campaign.
Beyond SEO value and which URL the content runs on, what merchants really love about content marketing, versus "native advertising" is that good content marketing is "legitimate" information. It doesn't look like it's paid. For those of you still catching up, and I had to Google this, "native advertising" looks commercialized on its face.
Put another way, studies show readers think native advertising is misleading (tiny advertorial messaging at the top of a magazine article is the tip of the iceburg).
Content marketing is created as "real news" and most often posted by the brand's own media company.
Which raises the question, "how close can you get" to the line, online... and, more and more often, who cares?
There is big money in content marketing from companies that newspapers are losing or never had. Just one outstanding example is OPUBCO's SEOSales pres, now a $2 million business, tapping national companies with local headquarters, and search-oriented companies that used to run in the Yellow Pages, but may have never placed a print ad.
Some are spending more than $10,000 a month for "real" content and and link marketing - content that doesn't need to run on the newspaper's site. In fact, SEOSales Pro is being rebranded away from the paper.
Mega-trend #3: The agency model requires more from you
Last year media agencies were new and tentative. This year, many are moving past cookie-cutter bundles into flexible expertise driven by merchant needs.
Michael Klingensmith, publisher and CEO of the Star Tribune Media Company, which signed up with Hearst's LocalEdge late last year said he created a new sales team to drive the effort. The new breed makes 25 calls a day, setting 5 appointments and generating one sale. They are hired largely from IYP backgrounds.
When the existing sales team asked why they didn't get an exotic trip if they met their goals, Klingensmith said he offered them a chance to take a jobs on "the other side" that had the contest - and the 125 cold calls a week. Nobody took him up on it.
Agencies are challenging media companies in other ways. One key executive at the conference who owns a group of small dailies told me that his agency services division, formed about a year ago, had already turned out to be too cookie cutter in its approach, and that they needed to create new services to actually mold campaigns to the customers needs. In fact, as a publisher, he was now being pushed by sales to expand the expertise and services offered. The business card he wanted from me was OPUBCO's.
Mega-trend #4: Owning the market means data and use it or lose it
Ruth PressLaff of Presslaff, a email and data marketing company gave the presentation on database marketing. We have numerous case studies here on monetizing email (just search the site), using Presslaff as both source and key vendor in case studies. An early version of monetizing data - sales of ads on eblasts that uses PressLaff is here.
The genius of Presslaff's software is simply providing a template to collect, store and pull multiple targets - think 20 to 25 - per contact, and cross match them. You want someone with enough income to buy a home, but rents, in zip code 65201? You can find them.
But the real eye-opener about data happened in a hallway conversation and involved Macy's. One executive noted that Macey's has already tested printing 97 different individual fliers, that is, individualized based on data knowledge of customers purchasing behavior - and and sent to each of 97 different consumers. As expected, they saw a huge lift in response.
What happens when Macy's figures out how to send individualized fliers by text or email?
The point here is not that you are going to lose Macy's as an account (although newspapers may). But rather, think of the value of owning all of the highly targeted in your marketplace, and what that kind of targeting is going to be worth to large, medium and small businesses. Who is better positionned to grab that data than media?
Companies who own all the data in their markets may one day sell highly targeted programs back to Macy's.
On a final note: Congratulations and thanks to Inland, SNPA and LocalMedia Association for getting together to create the Key Executives MegaConference. It was bigger and better than ever, and a great way to see all the new trends in one day. Put this one on your list for next year.