Commentary

Thriving In A World Of Change (Enough Handwringing About Ad Rates!)

At the recent  D10 conference, Mary Meeker, the well-known Internet analyst now at Kleiner Perkins, made a whirlwind presentation of how the digital world is changing.  She projected a slide showing how fast iPods were adopted, then the much faster rate that iPhones were adopted, and the even faster rate of adoption of tablets.  Then (not to be Apple-centric), Meeker showed that Android phones are growing at an even faster rate.

For many of us, it’s hard to believe change can indeed accelerate, but now it can be said that change is the only constant.

Change has been accelerating in how our readers and viewers access our media, and therefore we must change how we publish to our market.  At the same time, our audience is also changing the way they gather information that leads to purchase decisions.  So our advertisers are changing their perception of their marketing services needs. Mobile devices are winning more of our audience’s time, and yet the traditional revenue stream to support media distribution – advertising – is much harder to deliver on digital devices, especially on those with very small screens.

When you try to manage change, the first challenge is to determine what not to change.  What are the constants your business is built upon?  Core customer needs don’t change.  The change is in how these needs are filled. What are you doing to understand your customer’s changing lifestyles and advertising-styles?   Do your employees understand what is happening in their market, and how to help you develop new solutions for your customers? If they don’t, rest assured you’ll be left behind by the change.

In today’s fast-changing media world, there are two things you can do:  invest in the relationship with your customers, and invest in more training and development to help your people adapt to the change.

Own your customer relationships

How many online publishers plug a piece of software code into their ad server to serve ads sold by a network or real-time buying platforms, and then marvel to see others doing the same thing, driving supply up and prices down?  These publishers don’t own their customers; the network or RTB platform does.  How much better off would these publishers be investing in the sales and marketing efforts it takes to develop direct relationships with advertisers?  Your salespeople (BTW, you need to have salespeople to “own” advertiser relationships) must develop deep and multi-faceted relationships with your client companies.  For them to do so, you need to invest in your salespeople and provide them with training and information resources that allows them to bring value to the customer relationship.

This same “own the relationship” approach applies to your readers.  If you ‘re expecting your traffic to come exclusively from Google Facebook or Pinterest, you don’t own those relationships.  If your readers are loyal enough to come directly, or sign up for an email, you have direct ownership of their time and attention.  If your content isn’t good enough to achieve that direct relationship, then you’ve just identified a place that needs investment. 

Train, develop, train, develop…

It used to be that media companies had a training program for new hires, and that was the end of it.  Now training needs to be ongoing, a constant in your budget.  Send your people out to industry conferences to learn about new technologies and techniques and hear how others are harnessing them.  When they come back, have them present the ideas they learned to your team.  Bring experts in to train your team and to introduce new ideas and new tactics.  Do research on your market to understand your customers’ changing needs.

With training and development, and with investment in owning and understanding your customer relationships, your company can develop the new revenue streams you’ll need to supplement declining advertising rates: new services for either advertisers or readers. Without those investments, your business is toast.

 

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