Publishers Expanding Their Turf

A recent article in B-To-B Magazine shows how many publishing companies are getting into territory normally handled by ad agencies. The expanded offerings include online and word of mouth marketing services. This is getting traction in the business publication sector but consumer oriented pubs are going in that direction too. The trend appears to be that media companies are acquiring agencies with expertise in web site design & development, word of mouth marketing and PR.


This makes sense to me strategically so that publications can stay relevant to advertisers BUT will they cut off their nose to spite their face when ad agencies lose billable work because of it. Another questions is what are they doing to stay relevant to their readers? If you give advertisers more ways to reach readers, but don’t add any value to those readers, they’ll get annoyed and go away. The key to succcess here is for the pubs to be sure and increase value to readers, ESPECIALLY if you are giving advertisers more access to them.
I think the distinctions between between media companies and ad agencies will become less and less over time. Its a game of survival as advertisers continue to have more and more choices as to how they spend their marketing dollars. It will be intersting to see how this plays out.

2 thoughts on “Publishers Expanding Their Turf

  1. Sure, every rag bows to circulation; but publishers — particularly those of “objective” material — lose the last of their plausible deniability once they sully their all-white suits in the ad racket.
    NPR this very evening was offering suspicion that eventually “unbiased, in-depth news reporting” would be available through (expensive!) subscription only.

  2. Weird. Not surprising, but still weird.
    I’m one of those dweebs who will look through a pub and check out the ads, and then act surprised at how vacant they all are. But last night, I actually noticed some iinteresting things.
    First, traditional advertising agencies are frequently very concerned with their presence in the major awards shows (One Show, Cannes, Andys, D&AD, ADC). Sometimes success there translates into financial windfall, although, consider that in the month of August ice cream sales are up, along with the murder rate. So its hard to say the two are linked. What typically wins those coveted awards are the high-concept, lately a really clever “visual solve,” or maybe a really witty headline. You know the type. Your average person doesn’t, but that’s okay. Advertising’s very self-absorbed. So what struck me as interesting about this one issue of Rolling Stone, and then the last year’s worth I looked through later, was that there were very few (if any) of these types “traditional ads.”
    There’s a decent amount of fashion ads, and then a lot of ads that are just big visuals not unlike the sort of stuff Zipatoni might make (which was usually regarded as “sales promotion” and thus looked down on by the ad elite, even though spending money on Zip is probably a smarter marketing decision). One brand that I saw frequently was Zune, for whom the work is done by 72 and Sunny in LA, one of the “cool” agencies according to that astonishingly popular and relevant publication, Creativity. The work is a simple photo, and then usually a line that reads “Welcome to the social.”
    Not exactly what you see from traditional agencies. Its not the worst thing, either. That campaign succeeds in making the Zune totally different from the iPod, albeit in a pretty linear, forgettable fashion.
    Tangentially related, yes, but I have to ask: as a marketing person, why would you pay an advertising agency? Why should you go to a high-priced, bureaucratic place like BBH in NYC when you can have a leaner, less-famous place perhaps generate superior results? For this I went to a friend who’ll be starting up as a brand manager at Purina after finishing her MBA. She said that it was probably more of an ego thing, that a lot of brand managers might do it because of the agency perks and the attention and so on. Fair enough. None of that translates into increased profit, which is all any company cares about. Even though I wonder frequently if the currency of the U.S. has gone from the dollar to inches on a ruler.
    And then there’s that quizzical campaign for Old Spice, “Experience is Everything.” In the words of my mother, the only thing teenagers care about in regards to deodorant is if they smell okay when they’re attempting sex. If it comes down to paying untold millions for this vaguely artsy campaign commenting on the importance of experience, or having someone do something that’ll move the sticks off the shelf, I’ll go with the latter.
    If you’ve never seen the episode of Front Line called “The Persuaders,” find it and watch it. Brings to light why something like this might happen.

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