Monday, August 23, 2010

The advertising disconnect

Near the end of a short post today at The Wrap which discussed the announced departure of Caroline Little from Guardian America a sentence stood out that forced me to reread it again and again.

The story explained that the advertising environment had hit the properties run by Little hard and that the staffing level had fallen to as close to zero as you would want to consider. Then, in what could have been a throw away sentence, the story speculates on Little's successor:

Little said Guardian had not chosen a successor, but were likely to choose someone with more advertising experience.

I found this startling: did Little not have advertising experience? what exactly was the background of someone who had previously been Chief Executive Officer of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive?

Little's resume is certainly impressive: graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University with a degree in English; received a J.D., with honors, from New York University School of Law in 1986; as General Counsel for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive and Deputy General Counsel for U.S. News & World Report; then named Chief Executive Officer of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

It used to be that it was hard to get promoted in the media business if you didn't come from the advertising side. I used to hear many journalists complain that their products were completely dominated by the ad folk, journalists simply couldn't get promoted into leadership positions outside of the newsroom.

But now there are dozens of media conferences created on the future of media that do not even include ad people, as if the future of media will be an ad-free zone. (The same seems to be true for mobile media, as well: Digiday Daily's John Gaffney swooned last week over the mobile media rants of American Media CEO Kevin Hyson -- these guys don't even do mobile media, why should I care what he has to say?!)

If the media world wants to get serious about digital and the future of the media business it will have to understand that there is no such things as "build it and they will come" -- someone has to go out and sell it. To do this you will need to build world-class publishing teams -- and world-class publishing teams include revenue generators, not just content creators. Isn't this obvious?