Crossing the Chasm to Advertising Online

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Crossing the Chasm to Advertising Online

Postby Kevin » Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:24 pm

"Save the News, Not the Newspaper," by media observer Eric Alterman in The Nation magazine... ... -newspaper an unusually clear and fully-scoped discussion of the familiar issue of precipitous decline in US daily newspapers, very much worth reading for anyone concerned about or interested in the future (even the near-future) of our news-gathering and sharing institutions... and in informative media, more generally.

It includes a number of really important potential solution categories that are usually left out.

It also accepts as a given one key assumption that I suspect is not sound, even though it is almost universally included in such discussions.

"...while the number of Internet readers is rising, they are no replacement for print readers from the standpoint of advertisers, who must pay the freight. To ad buyers the worth of an Internet reader is barely 10 percent of that of a print customer. ..."

Contrary to such thoughtfully pessimistic perspectives, I think it's most likely that there's going to be a very large increase in the amount of marketing dollars flowing online, instead of into print.

New media are in current caught in the classic "crossing the chasm" situation of technology product introductions. However, there are a couple of key differences from the classic form of that model.

First, the "technology product" caught in the chasm is the whole approach to interacting with information media online, instead of on paper - not just a single product line. Second, the split between early adopters and conservatives has played out to the point where readers or end - users of media are rapidly making the move to new media--taking the relative role of early adopters - while the advertising community are dragging their feet, in the relative role of the conservatives.

In other words, the readers are moving to new media much faster than the advertisers. The bulk phenomenon of fear of change on the part of the advertising community (amply supported by most print publishers, who remain caught in the middle like deer in headlights) has the whole industry in a state of severe distortion: advertisers are overpaying for dwindling print audiences, and under-paying for burgeoning online audiences.

That standoff of the last couple of years is of course now radically intensified by the economic crisis.

Like those headlights for the deer, the light at the end of our tunnel is ultimately big and bright. In the long run, the amount of money going into marketing overall isn't likely to change all that much - not by the current 10x+ differential between print ad spending and online ad spending. Companies still need brands and branding to differentiate products in the marketplace. The dynamics of competition largely determine how much ad buyers can and will spend.

Essentially, at the moment, the weight of business as usual and other classic impediments to change leave ad buyers spending the bulk of their money in all the wrong places - where their end users used to be. That is an unstable situation which will change. Eventually.

And once the agency/client complex - the ad buyers - finally drags its sorry spam over the chasm (or perhaps is pushed eventually by economic desperation), that will largely shift the majority flow of marketing dollars. Online will see 5x increases in overall spending. At that point, print will experience its "final lurch", needing its own new models to survive, while the new media will at last see the realistic funding levels that can sustain ongoing well-layered professional/participatory publishing.

Across the chasm, where we're slowly headed, the skies are blue and the hills are green. Serve your readers, stay hungry, stay innovative, to survive the crossing and get eventually to those greener pastures for journalism and publishing.

A version of this piece was originally published as a 'Letter to the Editor' in The Nation.
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