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Posted on September 30, 2014 by clint on Advertising, Branding

Why does advertising cost more in a digital world?

I can safely say that all of us in the media industry have noted the decline in newspaper and magazine sales.

It’s hard not to see if one lives in Durban; the dailies are thin, brief attempts at yesterday’s news, although the sister publications in the other major centres are fairing better, along with those outside of the Independent Group stable.

The Sky is Falling
However viewship rates are falling, worldwide, with O Magazine having recently closed it’s doors, Zigzag and FHM before it. It seems people know where to get their news: Twitter confirms breaking news instantly or disproves it as a hoax, whilst various free online news portals fill in the rest, as and when we need it.

Entertain Me
Entertainment can be found increasing through online video – who wants to read when one can watch and various other Social Media channels, blogs, Hulu, Netflix, AppleTV and Youtube channels and the like cater to our needs in a relevant, accessible and cheaper way than paid subscriptions can.

But wait, that’s not all
Digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines have helped to keep the industry afloat, however the numbers don’t add up as they used to. A digital subscription to Your Family cannot be left in the doctor’s waiting room and be read for months by a captive audience with nothing else to do. Firstly the patients are on their phones finding a cure for their disease and secondly, digital subscriptions cannot be shared.

The beat of the Drum
Drum magazine, for example has a circulation of 107 504 (http://m24m.co.za/m24markets/drum/) from April -June 2014. At the same time readership is estimated at 3 210 000. That’s quite a difference and it shows what we’ve known about printed magazines for a long time – their reach is far greater than sales as their ‘lifespan’ is longer – sometimes months after publication.

Digital is Private
As Drum changes from print to digital, production and distribution costs will fall, with consumers expecting a slightly cheaper experience as a consequence.

Someone Forgot to Tell Sales
So why have advertising rates remained constant? Circulation is dropping but, more importantly, readership is dropping significantly, and this should impact the cost of advertising. Sure, we will be told that this includes ‘an online advert’ on their web platform, but it’s not quite the same thing, is it?

In the numbers
Impressions don’t tell me who has actually seen anything, Banner Blindness takes care of up to 90% of all readers and a web search is totally different to the purchase of a wanted magazine – or for that matter reading a magazine based on the title and front cover.

Clicks sure do count, but you need to ensure that you’ve set up tangible goal funnels and metrics, otherwise it’s not really measurable.

Page Views count less: is your advert on every page, what kind of ad rotation does the website employ, what are the daily impression and/or click rates etc? All these need to be factored in before considering this as added value.

So back to the advertising, in a magazine, that’s what we wanted to discuss.

Let’s recap:

  • Circulation of print is dropping
  • This is being propped up by Digital Circulation
  • Digital circulation returns a much lower readership, usually at a ratio of 1-1 not 1:30 as with Drum.
  • Advertising rates have remained constant

It’s Napster all over again
We’re not sharing content in the same way as Napster, it isn’t illegal to share articles online as long as you sight the source (more or less) but the same thing that happened to the music industry is happening to news. It’s hard times for newspapers and magazines, don’t get me wrong, but unless they change their game (and I am afraid that if they haven’t already they may as well give up) it’s not going to be viable at all in 2 years.

The Bottom Line
So when a sales rep phones you with a great deal on adspace, ask them print vs digital circulation, how this has changed over the past year, and why ad rates are the same or more than they were before. If it serves your brand, cool, but remember to ask the questions and to consider the real return, the number don’t mean the same as they used to.

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