Thursday, September 13, 2012

B2B and City/Regional magazines might be in the best position to sell interactive ads into the new tablet editions

It is an unfortunate fact that smaller publishers are the last to adopt new technologies, due mainly to costs. The same is proving true to launching new, effective digital products such as mobile app and tablet editions (emphasis on the word effective).

But it is also true that those publishers who have sales staffs that interact directly with their advertisers, often acting as their ad agencies, are in the best position to sell the new digital ad platforms.

While many B2B publishers are very dependent on ad agencies who work with their advertisers, many B2Bs, especially small publications, have an intimate relationship with their clients. The advertisers depend on the publications they use to design their ads, to create campaigns, to even set budgets.

Most ads in B2B tablet editions are of no value, like
 this unreadable ad from the replica edition of BD+C
Because of this, these publications are in the best position to design new, more interactive ads that would appear in the publisher's digital tablet editions.

Others publishers, outside of B2B, are in a similar position. City/regional magazines, for instance, often have to work closely with their advertisers to create copy. Small newspapers and niche consumer magazines are in the same spot as few small businesses can afford to hire an ad agency.

Unfortunately, most tablet editions are designed specifically to support the print editions. This is why so many publishers opt for replica editions. The problem with these digital flipbook-like apps is that they do nothing to generate either revenue or more qualified readership, and in fact add costs to the publisher's bottom line at a time those publishers can least afford to absorb more expenses. (I actually know one publisher that promised their staffs new iPads but had to cancel the initiative after they spent the money instead on a replica edition iPad app for the magazine.)

But in order to sell new tablet magazine ads one must first stop giving them away for free. This is a hard transition when the current app is a replica edition.

The best strategy is to figure out where you want to go with advertising before launching the app in the first place. But for many they are already past this point. OK, fine, then move on.

Some publishers have taken a unique approach by creating a new news app that contains the replica edition within it. I like this as it creates real estate for ads, like a new website, while enticing the reader to use the app by offering digital copies of the magazine. Of course, those magazines are still pretty much worthless, but at least it is a compromise position to take.

The best thing a small publisher can do is to ask themselves why they want to create a tablet edition in the first place. One publisher, when I asked them this question, responded by saying they wanted to save their print magazine. I responded by saying that if they were lucky a new tablet edition would kill off their print magazine.

No B2B or small publisher has yet to give me the only good answer to that question (why create a tablet edition). So, after over two years I will spill the beans as to the only good answer: to make a profit (it's the same reason they are producing the print magazine).

So if a profitable new digital publication is the goal, then learning to sell those digital ads is vital. That means making your sales team and managers part of the development of any new tablet edition, right from day one.