Tuesday, June 26, 2007

For papers, online's still a world apart

For papers, online's still a world apart

Media buyers want to see integrated ad packages

By Lisa Snedeker
Jun 25, 2007

For the longest time, newspapers were confused by the web, and frankly annoyed, irked that they were having to post stories for free that print subscribers were having to pay for.

But most publishers have moved a long way in understanding the longer-term strategic value of their web sites.

While they're still not sure how or whether internet advertising will ever make up for losses of print revenue, they know they must invest. They need to build up their online offerings, and they must also integrate them with their print editions, making them that much more attractive to advertisers.

Yet very few papers have yet to pull it off, just a handful. And the fear now is that time is running out.

A new JupiterResearch study on media consumption shows that people are spending more time online but they are doing so at the expense of newspapers. They are going elsewhere. The worry is that advertisers will follow.

The value of integrating print and web is in being able to offer advertisers combo deals that tie them into the paper. That means deals that are flexible, easy to understand, and priced in a way that makes them that much more attractive than anything the competition can come up with.

It's doable. The devil seems to be in the transition. All but a few papers continue to sell print and online separately, through different departments, each with its own rate card.

“I don’t know that newspapers have it 100 percent right yet. They are still trying to figure out structure and price to make those multimedia buys," says Randy Bennett, vice president of audience and new business development for the Newspaper Association of America.

And Bennett allows that there's a real need for it. “From the advertisers’ side, there’s particular interest in trying to change the media mix and moving money online,” he says.

A recent survey by the Newspaper National Network found that 74 percent of their customers felt newspapers should offer integrated packages. NNN sells advertising for more than 1,500 newspapers across the country.

A similar Media Life survey a year ago found much the same thing. Media buyers regarded them a top priority, and a far bigger story, way ahead of the circulation issues that dominate so much of the coverage of newspapers.

The absence of integrated ad deals was a major source of frustration for media buyers.

Little seems to have changed in a year.

“We are not being approached with combo packages as of now,” says Mike Monroe, vice president of media and advertising operations at Macy’s, which advertises in four dozen newspapers and is one of the Los Angeles' largest advertisers. “Frankly, more times than not, we are the ones pushing bundling a print campaign with their (newspapers) online property.”

There are exceptions, of course: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Tampa Tribune are among those cited for offering integrated advertising packages across print and online platforms.

Most newspapers continue to see online as value-added, something to tack onto a print buy. Print is where the big dollars are, and there's where the interest is too.

As Bennett suggests, the problem is working out the details of a truly integrated buy, in which media buyers could move and choose from column A and column B and shift dollars back and forth as plans changed.

That's a lot harder to create than a bundled package with a single price and no flexibility, which is exactly what buyers do not want, says Jason Klein, president and chief executive officer of the Newspaper National Network.

“The print and the online package should not be stapled together but rather built using elastic bands for flexibility," Klein says.

“There is pressure from consumers and the market that newspapers have to be integrated to build that, even if it means they have to retrain their work force,” Klein says. “Change is never easy, but it clearly needs to be done.”

But one buyer at a top agency believes things have improved. She's Jouette Travis, executive vice president and managing director of Dallas-based Carat USA.

“Newspapers are getting better about selling combined print/online packages, and we are responding by having our internal newspaper and online teams make joint evaluations,” she says. "This has resulted in some new programs and begins to pave the way for a migration to the future of newspapers. It's very exciting to see publishers getting into this marketplace."

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