Most people have heard me bang on about how much I believe in print media for achieving certain campaign goals. However as print budgets gets squeezed and issue sizes drop, I like many, have concerns about readers continuing to find sufficient content to interest them.
Just looking at a few of this weeks IT publications, we see page counts of 64 pages for Information Week, 60 pages for Network World and 64 pages for eWeek. Each publications had approx 28 pages of advertising so they all fell into the range of the classic B2B mix of 60% edit for 40% ads. Only adding ads will allow more content to be included.
How can these numbers be increased? And more importantly how can smaller advertisers (or even some of the larger ones) be encouraged to do more than they do now? Is the time ready for a bid based B2B print ad model?
Currently a vast majority of the advertising comes from an increasingly smaller pool of companies. IBM for one still does large volumes, as does Microsoft. Below this there’s obviously brands like Sun, HP, Dell, our client Fujitsu, Juniper, Epson and Canon. There’s even a page from Google in one of the magazines (if ever there was proof that print works this must surely be it).
But here’s the rub…where are the smaller companies, the guys who would be print advertisings “next generation”? I suspect they are hand strung, unable to get the print budget past the CFO or at least unable to secure sufficient budget to make a sustainable print campaign work…
For these companies a bid model might be the answer. An independent third party could auction off pages on a blind basis across a range of IT publications. There would be a min bid price and any bid higher would immediately get access to higher circulation magazines and better ad positions. It might be somewhat random in nature but it would certainly allow a more adventurous marketing exec or agency account manager to add more pages into a campaign at lower investment levels. It would be easy to do in today’s digital production market as ads could quickly be uploaded to publishers a few days in advance of print deadlines. Adding pages, even randomly, increases reach and frequency – both essential for a strong campaign.
What’s more it could also open up the PR/advertorial side of things. Imagine being able to quickly post case study intros, white paper summaries or even product announcements on relatively short notice into a few magazine templates at a fraction of the cost of a traditional high profile ad. Smaller vendors would jump at the chance.
Downside for publishers? Well erosion of rates might be one worry although by making the bidding blind, advertisers will always want to ensure they are present in their core magazines. Bidding also gives publishers more price control over positioning issues and in some cases might actually help lift rates when they regularly sell out. More importantly it may just enable them to cultivate a much more integrated approach. Combining this with a similar bid model for excess online inventory and you start to get some very interesting models indeed. Publishers could even have a published open pricing (like the “buy now” on eBay) so advertisers can see min entry costs of a particular issue should they chose to take that option.
Impossible? Don’t bet on it happening any time soon, but never say never in the publishing world. There’s still enough excess space to make this a possibility and it might just allow the print format to remain viable a little bit longer and draw in a new batch of active advertisers. Marketers simply need to allocate a “print bid budget” something that’s now a more comfortable concept in this Google branded world.