This interview originally appeared on PSFK.com.
Advertising Age, the leading trade magazine for the marketing industry, has pulled its March 16 issue. There has been a lot of talk about the decline of print media recently but instead of just reporting another story about how this not only impacts readers but the lives of the people who work there, PSFK decided to find out more about what's going on internally. We asked Ad Age editor Jonah Bloom for the inside scoop:
Jonah, we've heard rumors that the next issue of Ad Age will be digital only - true?
Yes, it's true. No print issue on March 16th, next one comes out on March 23rd. It's no big secret--we stated it clearly on page 2 of this week's issue, and indeed dated this week's issue on the cover and throughout the book at March 9th and 16th. The fact is that in the last couple of years we've gone from publishing 50 issues a year to publishing 47 issues. This year my best estimate would be that we'll publish 44 or 43 issues--cutting back on this one, a couple of the summer issues and maybe cutting one of the December issues too.
Why have the publishers made this decision?
Why do it? Well, on the most basic level, we're doing it for the reason you'd expect--the economy is in the toilet, media is in a period of radical realignment of the business model, and that's affecting us just as it's affecting most everyone. At such a time it's clearly just common-sense to cut back on print and distribution overhead, especially if that enables us to maintain staffing levels in the newsroom and our DataCenter, so that we can continue to serve our audience with the content they need/expect. Additionally we've been evolving the weekly print content for five or six years now, so that it's less about splashy breaking news--which has clearly moved online--and more about smart, service-based journalism and analysis that enables our readers to do their jobs better. While I'm not pretending that journalists like me who started their careers in print find 'double-issues' of print weeklies a little scary, the fact is that today we're able to publish the most timely content online and make use of print for the bigger, deeper stuff. We want to deliver that deeper stuff every single Monday, but we think 44 offerings every year is still pretty compelling.
The scary thing is that online publications don't seem to be getting the same amount of advertising dollars that is leaking out of print publications. Is online advertising as we know it not failing brands, publications and therefore the reader?
Online advertising as it's executed is clearly failing brands--and, yes, I guess you could therefore say it's failing media owners who are looking to it to justify the money they spend aggregating audiences using content. There's pathetically little creativity in the online ad arena and a commensurate lack of effectiveness for many scalable campaigns. Probably more damaging, as Ad Age has documented extensively, is the legacy notion that online advertising should be measured in clicks. That's great for those looking only for direct response, but fails to recognize the potential role of online ads further up the purchase funnel. And then there's the infinite-supply-finite-demand issue that's led to rapid commoditization of/depreciation in online ad cpms. Yep, it adds up to a nightmare for all concerned.
That said, and again Ad Age has been banging this drum for too many years, the more fundamental problem is that so many media owners have built online 'business' models based on the idea that the internet is an ad medium that was just going to suck every last dollar from every other medium. Yeah, it is an medium, but it's so, so much more than that. It's a way of life and as marketers realize that, as they realize that it's a whole way of being conversationally and transactionally involved with their customers, they're going to be more and more focused on that aspect of digital marketing and less and less focused on simply putting ads next to content.
What does that mean for media owners like you?
Well, two things, first that we have to built customized solutions for advertisers that go beyond just traditional ad units and really work for them and are measured in business results, and, secondly, that we have to look at other ways of monetizing our content. If we believe it's sufficiently valuable that people will pay for it, we have to find ways to unearth that value that don't involve advertising.
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