Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Archive for Branding

Who Will Pay For News?

President Obama recently weighed in on the crisis in journalism.

“Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it’s paid for, is really a challenge,” Mr. Obama told a reporter from the Toledo Blade. “But it’s something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy.”

About the same time I was reading this article, I came across another — this one quoting the results of a Harris Interactive Survey on who would pay for news.

The research, commissioned by paidContent:UK shows that most readers would, in their words, “run a mile” and NOT pay. Nearly 75% would switch to free sites, 8% would read only the headlines and move on, and 12% weren’t sure. That left a measly 5% who would actually pay for content.

As reporter Robert Andrews asks, “The big question for publishers: Is five percent of your readership enough to offset the decline in advertising revenue that would come with putting your content behind a pay wall?”

Actually, that 5% would choose to pay is in line with the anecdotal evidence we’ve heard at Kachingle, which is that between 5% to 10% of readers would pay for content. Journalism Online is using the higher number. NYTimes said they received 12% for their failed effort called “Times Select.” Others in the business I talk with seem to think you can get at least 5% to pay. So in and of itself, the numbers are not surprising, and reinforce what we’ve been hearing.

What’s surprising, and frankly somewhat baffling, are the results broken out by age. Harris reports that 13% of 16-24 year olds and 6% of 25-34 year olds said they would pay; as opposed to only 1% of 45-54 year olds. Harris Interactive is a big name in polling, but these results go against everything we’ve seen, and seem totally out of whack. If anyone is going to be willing to pay, it’s the baby-boomers, not the “kids.”

But the big picture remains true: “As long as free alternatives exist, consumers will turn to them for their daily information.”

At Kachingle, we get asked a lot about statistics like these. There’s some comfort in knowing that some percentage of users will pay for content. What’s disconcerting is that so few actually will.

We’re not about getting users to pay for content; we’re about getting them to build online personas. They’ll Kachingle in order to associate themselves with sites and build their personal brand. That’s why in our demos, we show side-by-sides of a Yugo and a Porsche. What does contributing say about YOU? Our question hasn’t been asked yet. But it will, soon…

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The Apple-Google Superbrand: The Merging of Two of My Favorite Things. Appoogle?

I just heard news that is going to make 2008 a wonderful year for me! Two of the strongest Internet brands (and two of my favorite and most used products) – Google and Apple – are continuing to merge their services. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect marriage; that is, assuming the romance stays alive, and some sort of “formal” engagement ensues.

Apple, since its induction into the technological world in the 1980s, has been known for its simple, classy designs and easy-to-use hardware. While they’re market share is dwarfed by Microsoft’s, I’ve never seen a group so devoted to a brand like Apple-heads such as myself.

And such is the same with Google, the search king. Less then 10 years ago, a googol was just a math term. Now it’s a commonly used verb.

Here is a recap of the new (and some old) Apple-Google enhancements:

iMovie: Upload files directly to YouTube to share
iWork: Speculations about integration of Google Docs
iPhone: As you’ve seen already – Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail
AppleTV: Support for YouTube
iWeb: Easily embed interactive Google Maps and Google AdSense to your webpage. Here is a screenshot.

You can view more screenshots here.

What are Steve Job’s comments? “We are working closer with Google, they offer back end services we want to tie into our offerings,” replied Jobs. “Google likes our products, too.”

To think, I was way jazzed when I downloaded Google Notifier for Mac and received my Gmails on my desktop. Now this? Thanks for the early Christmas, Appoogle!

Read more:
Last 100 – Apple and Google Alliance Just Got Stronger
Engadget – Live From Apple’s Summer Mac Product Press Conference

Chicks With Swords: An Ask.com Update

I originally wrote that audiences were “waiting for more” of the Ask campaign, and that we “can’t not talk about it” and “want the rest of the story.”

Well, we got more, and are (still!) furrowing our brows.

The latest ad from Ask.com has aired in due time for the launch of Ask 3D (which, weird advertising aside, is actually pretty cool. The ad features a thirtysomething, run-of-the-mill business guy getting what he’s looking for, which in this case is chicks with swords.

The concept is simple enough: A guy found what he was looking for with Ask.com. The execution, however, is not as easily understood. First of all, I don’t understand the big stage production. I think it worked well for Goodby’s eBay campaign, when it hadn’t been done as humorously before, and that this Ask ad is a blatant rip-off. The eBay ads at least put the stage show into some sort of context that viewers could identify with. Our Ask.com guy? He’s relishing out some sexual fantasy after a “chicks with swords” search on the internet by singing on stage? Jordan McCollum of Marketing Pilgrim notes CP+B’s historical “ubermale” portrayal. So, am I now supposed to equate business dudes searching for weird sex fetishes with Ask.com? Is the next commercial going to be a different guy singing “I got what I was looking for” in front of equestrienne line dancers? Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not a guy, nor do I have a Babes With Blades fetish.

But it still raises questions about The Algorithm I thought Ask.com was trying to push. The ad only alludes to it at the end of the commercial when it is displayed on the screen. And still, a search on Ask for “chicks with swords” is less than exciting.

CP+B has done creepy successfully before. Remember this one? Really though, I think they just have a weird obsession with broadway stage productions.

I await the next Ask.com chapter with some unsettling mixed feelings. I’m ready for some answers (ironic, huh?) to this Algorithm question, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if I saw some women who ride horses performing the Electric Slide, either.

We’re still waiting for the elusive Algorithm.

The Algorithm is the most recent great success story of viral marketing. Ask is definitely getting something right if it’s getting the whole world in an upheaval over it. People in the search industry are buzzing over the assertive billboards, at first questioning their origins and are now eagerly waiting for more. Non-industry people are asking, “What the hell is an algorithm, and what does it have to do with Jesus and Ted Kaczynski?”

When the campaign first launched, quite secretly I might add, there was an immediate backlash of blog posts full of pictures, questions and speculations. I saw my first billboard driving down 101 a few weeks ago. “The algorithm killed Jeeves,” it read, and nothing else. After furrowing my brows for a minute, I decided it was a new ad by Google, attempting to reinforce its enormous shadow over the search industry. “But specifically attacking Ask.com? That’s uncharacteristic,” I thought briefly, and continued driving.

In the following weeks, a flood that grew to become more like a tsunami, swept through the search world. People thought the ads were bizarre, confusing, stupid, off-putting, smart, clever, vague; and then continued to blog and comment about it. We definitely know more now. We know Crispin Porter + Bogusky is behind it, Ask.com’s new-ish agency. We’ve seen all the other “Algorithm” billboards by now. We’ve seen the Google-attacking urinal ad. We’re waiting for more.

Why is it successful? It’s everywhere! People can’t not talk about it. The campaign screams curiosity. We want more. We want the rest of the story. Who is this algorithm, and what does that funny word mean?

Traditional Brand Advertising is Dumb

I’m a reformed brand marketer. In a previous life, I sold advertising for a magazine called Communication Arts. Selling advertising used to be fairly easy – if company doing B2B marketing wanted to reach its customers, it looked for targeted publications like ours. The fact that Communication Arts was a paid publication and not just a give-away controlled circulation magazine made it all the more valuable. We didn’t have to show that the ads would be effective – all we had to do was provide the audience. Most advertisers found it difficult to quantify the value of their advertising because, well, print advertising was just so hard to measure. The best indicator was sales: if sales went up the following month or year or at least stayed the same, well, the advertiser usually felt their advertising worked. That was branding.

Analytics were always in short supply. The main measurement was determining what the cost-per-thousand (CPM) was to reach our audience. CPM is determined by ad cost divided by circulation per thousand subscribers. Example: An ad might cost $10,000. Circulation is 65,000. CPM = $10,000 / 65 (thousand) = $153.85 CPM. But what’s that mean? Nothing really, except that one publication might be more expensive to buy than another. Does it say anything about which publication sold more effectively? No, of course not.

Some advertisers would put in 800-phone numbers. And everyone had URLs listed in their ads.

But these were dumb ways to buy (and measure) advertising. The smarter way to buy is to go out and do cost-per-click advertising (CPC).

The great thing about CPC advertising is that everything is measurable. You know not only how many people saw your ad, but who clicked on it. Done right, you can custom which page they land on and how they travel through your web site. You know at which point they leave your site, or if they make it all the way through to your conversion event or whatever it is you want them to do.

Print advertising will continue to have a rough time making the kinds of returns it once did. And for that matter, so will other “measured” media like print, TV, radio and online banner ads. In a 3/14/07 article of The Wall Street Journal, it was reported that the nation’s 50 biggest advertisers had cut their spending on “measured” media. Instead, more and more of the money was going to paid-search (CPC) advertising, social networking and online video.

What advertisers seem to be saying is that either they’ll find a medium where they can track their sales (like paid-search), or else experiment with something that’s new and different. But the old ways of advertising and branding, well, they just won’t work any longer.