Imran's personal blog

September 12, 2009

Newspapers don’t understand their readers/customers

Filed under: Uncategorized — ipeerbhai @ 6:59 pm

Today I was reading the Seattle Times, then the PI.  I normally don’t read these often, as I prefer aggregators like Digg/Reddit.  However, sometimes I like local news, and the Times does a decent job of it.  While I was reading the paper, I thought about an App I’m writing, and maybe buying some local ad space for it.  This got me thinking.

First, some background.  Newspapers are in trouble.  As are blogs.  In fact, I’d say there’s a serious problem here — niether newspapers nor blogs can controll access well.  They need eyeballs to get advertisers.  But, to get eyeballs, they need the content to be free.  This is simple price elasticity.  It’s also the killer in the business.  In the past, newspapers could get some degree of scarcity via distribution difficulties — their entire model was to sell “home delivery” of the news in a readable format.  Along with a packet of Ads.  The size of the ad pages on a Sunday could well exceed 1/3 of the paper, which was already big and bulky.  Well, the web now gives that away!  So, some newspapers, like the Seattle PI, have gone online only.  They hope to exist by selling online ads.  Which might actually work — if they could figure out that how they sell ads is important.

And now my thoughts —  How they sell ads is stupid.  There.  I said it.  Downright stupid.  The Seattle Times sells ads via a partner company — who fills thier front page with scam ads. “How you can make $$$$ working from home.  Etc…”  So it puts out the legitmate companies who would want to advertise on the site.  Why would anyone want their luxury brand ad on the same page as a dancing fat woman?  I have a less favorable impression of Luois Vitton now — because their nice Ad was on the same page as a scam ad.  The luxury advertisers know it — they want some degree of class in their venues.  Disney probably won’t want to advertise in the same venue that “Porns are US” advertises.  Then the advertising partners place their own logo on the site — which makes the Times look foolish.  Why would I contact the Times for ads, when I know to contact the partner company?  This dilutes the revenue that the Times can get, since the partner will keep some for themselves, and the partner logo dilutes the Times brand value.

Of course, the fact that they outsoruce this makes some sense — because the newspaper industry sold ads. They had account representatives hold hands with every advertiser.  You had to call them up.  This very practice now creates a barrier for buying ads.  They can’t just go and get rid of those people — they’ve built relationships with longstanding clients.  But that system doesn’t work online.  I was thinking of buying an ad for an App I’m writing.  The fact that I have to contact someone via email or phone to get a quote stops me from using them.  Business that I would rather give the Seattle Times or Seattle PI will probably go to Google or to a distributer with an online system rather than the Times or PI, because they can’t bother to create a contact-free quote system.   I wouldn’t be a big advertiser.  I’d probably have a small budget per day — say a few bucks.  But, I am “generation net” — I don’t want to contact a human — or give out my personal contact info like email address — just to know how much an ad would cost.  If they need to auction the ad spots, then they can use an auction system like Google and Facebook do — so they can always fill their ad pool at miximal revenue point.  Their are companies that would even sell them such a system,  pre-made and working ( though I wouldn’t buy such a system — I’d build it.  A single engineer could get a rudimentary system up and running in a month or so.  They’d then be able to enhance and brand — their ad system itself becoming a barrier to entry for other blogs/newspapers. )!  And my App ad would be a far better choice than the partner Scam ad.  At least it wouldn’t dilute their brand value!

I see this problem everyplace where I look at old media.  Radio stations.  Newspapers.  TV. Blogs bought by old media.  Old media doesn’t get it — we don’t want to contact people! I want less human interaction when it comes to buying Ads!  You can make an auciton system if you need to fill slots.  You can keep your old way for your big accounts.  But by all means — give us new accounts a fully automated way to get potential pricing info.  You can have bump contracts with this!  It’s fine!  We can accept terms that allow you to maximize profits.  We undeerstand!  We just don’t want to contact a human!!  We don’t want to go to a ad aggregator that sells scam ads!!  If they have the poor ethics to sell scam ads, then who knows what they’d do with our data?!?  If you must use an aggregator, use one that doesn’t sell Scam ads and doesn’t brand on your property.  Ones that do are literally parasites destroying your good brand to build their business!

Of course, no-one reads my blog yet, so I doubt this would make any inroads anyplace.  But I hope it does…  As a reader and want-to-be customer of these sites, their Ad practices prevent me from buying Ads.  And if they think they’d rather have Big ads than Little Ads — would they rather have little Ads that don’t piss off big advertsiers, or dancing fat people that make big advertisers think, “This is a ghetto site”?

Well, that’s my post.  As Red Green would say, “Keep your stick on the ice”.

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