Advertising Digital Publishing
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The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s media slide deck

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Anyone who has seen a “Bo-talk” knows that I always spend some time and a few slides with Mary Meeker’s work and analysis of the media industry. It is not the be-all and end-all of data analysis, but it is something to understand and acknowledge as we proceed. The charts that track print and ad buys since 2010 to the present are exactly what I have brought to my audiences and with the same conclusions for the last seven years.

What is worth noting is the fact that many magazines are bucking the obvious trends and are doing quite well. As I also suggest in my talks, aggregates only tell part of the story. Averages being what averages are, 50% of the titles are above the trend line. As I said in my last lecture at Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association a month ago, “I postulate that the 4% of time spent with print are valuable and precious minutes off the grid. Our strength is the total focus that print provides.”

The question is, can we convince young media buyers of the quality and worth of precious minutes off the grid? Does science matter in making media decisions?

The haptic experience between print and digital is mainly a different feel, a different sensation and, perhaps above all else, a different expectation. Print doesn’t offer distractions other than the words and thinking on the page, while the digital experience does.

With print the expectation is built right into the product as linear and fixed with no possibility of “surfing” beyond the next page. This firm foundation is in the background of your brain. Those particular expectations make for different reading experiences.

Here is the science of what we know:

1) Paper stimulates a stronger emotional response.

2) Paper is more action-oriented than digital, because its physical format stimulates mental processes that guide consumer behavior.

I think a case can be made that reading on the web requires a modern kind of discipline to actually finish the article you started to read, whereas in print there is no place else to go but finish what you picked up to read. Not everybody finishes every article regardless of the substrate. But to get readers to finish anything containing words requires good writing, good editing and a compelling subject. It is addictive content properly constructed and distributed that brings success to any magazine in print or on the web. It is that simple . . . and that hard.

When the MPA in a third-party study asked how much trust attached to advertising in the various media, consumers gave magazines and newspapers a score of 63%, TV 41% and Internet 25%. The conclusion was that despite important changes in media consumption in recent years, consumers continue to have most trust in advertising in magazines and newspapers. It seems the power of the printed word still rings true and should have great value when evaluating advertising and media mixes.

But sadly, media buyers are still on digital-crack, ever looking for the next web trendy ad spend high regardless of massive ad fraud, billions of bots or the need for any proven results. There is an institutional delusion that digital and social media spending should replace verified traditional media no matter the facts of the case. It’s infantile, but there you have it – 8 years of fantasy ad buying, and the beat goes on.

Bo Sacks, President, Precision Media Group


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