Changing Reader Behavior Demands Changed Ads

If you’ve been in advertising for any time, you’ve probably heard mention of retailer John Wanamaker’s famous (infamous) quote:  “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Given the plethora of special interest publications, expanding cable and satellite TV channel options, and the exponential proliferation of online and mobile media applications, we would estimate that many marketers would say that the waste percentage is more like 75%…not 50%.  Long gone are the days of uniform media consumption among a small number of leadership properties in print, TV and radio. Today’s consumer spends time across a wide range of media. And, as expected, as media consumption trends change, ad dollars follow.

In no medium has the shift in media consumption been more challenging that print publications:  newspapers and magazines. Newspapers and general news magazines (e.g. Newsweek) have found their audiences eroded as people turn to the web, Twitter, blogs and mobile news feeds for true “news”. Print simply cannot match the immediacy of online media…witness the now famous tweet from Janis Krums during the USAirways plane landing in the Hudson:

People-powered journalism offers an immediacy and sense of authenticity that is hard for traditional media outlets to match.

People-powered journalism offers an immediacy and sense of authenticity that is hard for traditional media outlets to match.


The impact has been dramatic. KleinerPerkins analyst Mary Meeker, famous for her annual Internet Trends presentations, has been chronicling the shifts in media use by consumers as a way to highlight the growing opportunity for ad spending in mobile and social media. The following chart from here December 2012 presentation, offers a chilling outlook for ad spending in print:

Meeker Media Use vs. Ad Spend Chart

Internet analyst Mary Meeker provides evidence why publisher’s need to rethink how they position print ads in the Internet age.

The fact is…as media consumers, we spend less and less time with print publications. So, why are advertisers still spending so much money in the medium??? Than answer to that questions holds the key to future opportunity!


Tangible. Lasting. Brand-Building. Ad-Friendly. That is Print!

Think how you surf the web. You are purposeful, focused, and often annoyed by ads that interrupt your journey. You don’t “thumb” through the web…you use targeted searches or specific URLs you type in. By comparison, when you sit with a magazine, you browse. Serendipitous discovery is part of the experience. Ads are not a distraction, instead they are part of the experience. Your experience is the experience of many consumers.

The fact is, it is hard to build brands on the Web alone. That is why even web-centric companies like Amazon have ventured into printed media. But, lest we rest on our laurels, print producers cannot assume that companies are not working furiously to figure out web branding. In fact, while Amazon has used print to expand its media horizon, it remains dominantly rooted in web-only promotion. And, with the shift to mobile media now dominating the headlines, there are billions being spent to create ways to engage consumers on even small-format smartphones.


Making Print Interactive and Ads Personal

To counter this migration, print publications are exploring ways to make their pages more interactive, using actions codes like QR Codes, augmented reality tools like Aurasma, and creative cross-media campaign content that is designed to turn “print into portal”…. that is, making the page a gateway to all the web has to offer.

This technique can serve advertisers equally well.  But just as with direct mail, the hard part os getting uses to take the first step — to use their phone or tablet to scan a code or image. That’s where personalization comes in!

Ad personalization is used to:

  1. Increase the relevance of content.
    For example, if talking about outdoor activities in January, people in northern climates might see snowy images and ski content, while people in southern climates see green grass and golf imagery.
  2. Enhance visual appeal.
    Most people react to visual imagery before noticing the words on the page (unless the words are the visual!). Following up on Item #1 above, tailoring visual images can improve stopping power…the first step in driving ad effectiveness.
  3. Display personal interest.
    People don’t react if they see their name in print anymore — they recognize that companies can do that as easily as addressing an envelope. They also don’t like you to tell them what they had for dinner last night…that’s creepy. But, if you can offer a compelling opportunity to snag a deal on their favorite sweater, they really like that. Personal interest takes spending the time to mine the data to know what interests each reader. Figure that problem out and you get a reward!

The bottom line is that personalization can be used to motivate readers to engage with ad content. And by helping advertisers execute on that front, publications can extended the value that print ads offer in an increasingly fragmented ad market.