Friday, August 24, 2001

Advertising: Analysts think advertising may increase only 5-7% overall this year - or it might decline. But if you think that's the biggest issue and risk to the advertising marketplace, you have missed a key characteristic of the Web. Web-based advertising vehicles are undermining advertiser's faith in mass media, and that change in attitude - if it gains traction - could turn our known world inside out.

The purpose of advertising is to place a message in a visible spot where potential customers might see it, and thus be induced to try out the advertised product or service. Visibiity is a key concept here - how many people will see the message, and how many of the "right" people - true prospective buyers - will see it. In TV world, shows set their price for "message space" based on the number of viewers the show/time period draws (the ratings) and - to some extent - the demographics of that audience, as much as it can be determined. Thus the SuperBowl gets maximum visibility and highest price; the 4 am slot on the Food Channel can be had cheaply.

In the print world, magazines sell ads on a similar basis - price based on the total number of subscribers (plus newsstand sales) and the demographics of that audience. The advertiser places an ad for next month's issue, writes his check and the magazine prints the book and the ad and counts the whole as "delivered" to the audience. A single issue may contain ads from hundreds of advertisers - and when that issue of the magazine hits the mailroom, the business office considers every one of those ads as "delivered." Like magic.

The Web is a vastly different story. The advetiser buys an ad for a particular page or family of pages. And the ad counts as "delivered" only when a Web surfer actually displays the ad. Furthermore, the advertiser has a clue how effective the ad is by virtue of the number of those surfers who take the time to click on the ad itself and go to some other place - they have shown enough interest to be led off their original intended click stream.

Whoa! A magazine "delivers" hundreds of ads simply by putting the whole book in the mail. Web advertisers have to get an audience to every single page on which an ad appears - one at a time. And some advertisers are going to consider their ad "delivered" only when a viewr clicks on it to get more info.

This puts the Web publisher at a severe disadvantage relative to the magazine publisher. That is, until the advertiser gets wise, and starts to apply the same logic to his magazine ads as he does to the Web ads.

If magazines were held to the same level of accountability Web ads are, would magazines fare very well? Not likely. Certainly print ads have a certain level of effectiveness, they've worked wonders - in some cases - over the years. But what happens if advertisers start to ask uncomfortable questions about the real visibility of their magazine ads, the realnumber of people who see and read their ads, the number who actually take some action after reading their ads - well, one can imagine the magazine ad salesman starting to squirm. Over the years, no doubt thousands of studies have been conducted to detemine which ads are most likely to be read (which is why some positions in the book are priced higher - like covers, the page across the table of contents, etc.). But the Web has generated some very significant doubts about overall effectiveness throughout the run of the rest of the book.

The Web essentially deconstructs the idea of a "publication." Each page is a "publication" - and the only way you can claim multiple ad views is to put multiple ads on a page. There is no way to bind a bunch of Web pages together call them a unit - or to claim that viewing one page/ad is the same as viewing them all.

Some advertisers - like Procter & Gamble - have been asking such uncomfortable questions for a couple of years now. They spend hundreds of millions on advertising - and they want to be sure they get the biggest bang for their buck. Others have begun quietly following P&G's lead - asking for guarantees and concessions heretofore unheard of in the business. Nothing disastrous yet, but as cost concerns accelerate, such issues will become more important.

So those publishers who are looking to achieve "synergy" by combining their print operations with a substantial online presence, may actually be setting themselves up to see a relatively great success on their Web properties, while drastically lowering the credibility and profitability of their print properties.

Hmmm ... does this bring any particular companies to mind ...?

The Jungian Cloud: Doesn't Condit get it? The public - in the form of the news media - demands someone be accountable for this missing girl. Until something better comes along - Gary Condit is it. And as long as he continues to act like he's a disinterested 3rd party, the more certain people are going think he's simply an arrogant, cold killer. Can you spell OJ? Through bizarre events like the interview with Connie Chung, he is digging himself into a hole he might not be able to get out of - even after we discover what has really happened.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Floating on the Jungian cloud: According to a recent study, some 64% of all prescriptions written in the US are for ... Viagra!

Monday, August 13, 2001

Welcome to The Overlook. We hope this will be a place you will find worthwhile to spend some time on occasion. We are just now getting established. More to follow ....