Small Businesses: Beware of Online Marketing Offers from Your Local Paper

Posted on April 28, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Blogs, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers, SEO | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is longer than most of my posts. But I’m really het up! Music-wise, no relevance. I just picked something that always makes me feel happy and relaxed – Flor de Lis by Djavan.

These days, when you’re convinced you should be advertising in your local paper, your newspaper ad rep will likely be trying to sell you an array of online services. Some – like Hearst Media CT — will even offer you a dollar for dollar match of print advertising for every dollar you spend in online advertising. Sounds great, right? Now my $10,000 budget just became worth $20,000. Yes, but by what metrics do you determine the value of this offer. Right off the bat, the offer implies that the print publications are worth zero.

I am all for effective integration of online/offline marketing. However I’m finding that as traditional media – especially newspapers – transition their businesses online, there are some big pitfalls for unwary advertisers.

Case in point: I recently launched a new medical practice that draws from a pretty local market. We built a website and carefully optimized it for organic search. We registered the site in the key local search directories – Google, Yahoo! And Bing and quickly began coming up #1 on page 1 for our important terms.

The partners in the practice wanted to launch with some local traditional advertising as well. We canvassed the local media for print and online ad rates. In our area – Fairfield County, Connecticut — Hearst Media now owns four daily papers in all but one of the biggest cities and a time-honored chain of weeklies that covers some of the key smaller towns.

Hearst said to us: Whatever your ad spend online and in a targeted bi-monthly health/lifestyle magazine, we’ll give you a 100%, dollar for dollar match in print advertising in our other publications.

Here’s the rub. What is the online ad spend really worth. The promise is that there’s lots of analytic data to evaluate the online ROI, but the reports are a real disappointment. We bought visibility on three daily paper websites with geo-targeting to three local weeklies. The problem is that Hearst can’t break out the geo-targeting.

The rates are based on CPM – how many impressions – not click throughs. Unfortunately the sales staff is not well-informed and the analytics not precise enough to offer any advice on placement, aggregate analysis of what constitutes a good CTR, or anything that can be helpful to a marketer trying to get value for a client.

Then there are deceptive ‘SEO’ programs that are sold as collaborations with Google and other search engines to get you to come up higher in search rankings. No one at Hearst could really explain the program to us. The best we got was that you get a landing page on the back end of their site. Does it have a backlink to our site? I asked. Yes I think so.

Here’s what the SEO program turned out to be.

Hearst set up a landing page optimized with the same search terms we used on our site. They grabbed copy from our website, cobbled it together, wrote and added some factually incorrect copy that they never submitted for approval. They established a tracking phone number that pointed to the client’s phone number. The tracking number’s reason for existence was to prove to us that Hearst had pointed calls to us from this landing page. A visitor who was interested but not ready to call might write this number down and if they called it two months later when we were no longer advertising with Hearst, they would certainly think we were no longer in business.

The more agregious thing that Hearst did was to steal our entire website code and recreate the site under a new url – the same as my client’s but with a 1 added to it. They changed the phone number on every page of that site to their tracking number. The bogus site was optimized with the same search terms as our original site to drive traffic for our terms to the Hearst websites. So basically, they put us in competition with ourselves in organic search. They took the video we supplied them for the landing page and uploaded it to a YouTube account that used the client’s name and again pointed those who clicked to their site – not ours.

Worse yet they were charging us to put us in a situation where Google could demote our legitimate search engine rankings for duplicate content.

Who are they designing this for? Maybe if you’re a very small local business and you have no website or web presence, Hearst and others providing similar products – the other daily in our area The Hour has something similar – might help you establish some online reach that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But if you’re a small business that has invested in your own website, SEO and online reach – do not, I repeat DO NOT buy such a service. Take the money and create a blog, hire a good, local SEO consultant to optimize your site. (BTW – you can’t come up on page one for $35 per month for any really meaningful search terms.)

Maybe you’d be better off buying a banner ad on the newspaper’s site with a link to your site or see if you can get them to give you a direct back link from their site via some content you provide – which could be worth a lot to you. But in my experience you can’t really get meaningful reporting to help justify the investment in these programs. These new newspaper offerings are not malicious, just part of an evolution in marketing. But they are potentially damaging, nonetheless. Get yourself up to speed and be part of moving media toward truly mutually beneficial solutions.

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Give Pieces a Chance: A Case for Integrated Marketing in the Digital Age

Posted on April 14, 2011. Filed under: Communications, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Here are a few disparate but related thoughts that will roll into the topic of this post – how to make integrated marketing a reality. Today’s musical post is Pieces of Dreams, a jazz standard sung by Sarah Vaughan, backed by the orchestra of Michel Legrand, its composer.

The song title connects to the post title: Give Pieces a Chance. Now, I could have selected the John Lennon/Yoko Ono hit about ‘peace’. But I really wanted to stick with the idea of ‘pieces’ – read ‘tactics’ — and their relationship to successful integrated marketing.

So, the Legrand song seemed to be a better tactical choice in support of my strategic objective – to start a useful discussion about integrated marketing. Also – I believe that true integrated marketing is sitll a dream. And – the song had double appeal because an excellent jazz band Pieces of a Dream – who hail from my home town of Norristown, Penna and used to play at our family’s parties – derived its name from this same Michel Legrand tune.

Call me sentimental! Marketing is about emotions after all! But there’s definitely an intellectual piece first…

Integrated marketing in the digital age. Here’s why I decided to write about it again. Earlier today I read and commented on a wonderful blog post by Jill Adams, CEO of Adams & Knight, an integrated marketing agency. Her post was titled “Stop Chasing Digital Crazes: Tomorrow’s Top Brands Will Be Led by Fusion Marketers – Not Social Media ‘Gurus.’”

After reading her post, what I recognized is that the integrated marketing battle is no different today than it’s ever been — except for the fact that we have many more tactical tools to choose from and that there is more of a willingness to at least consider blurring the boundaries between various marketing disciplines. Historically there have been turf wars for both budgets and bragging rights among various contributors that have negatively impacted results.

Even though I come out of PR, I’ve made it a point to understand the big picture in order to be able to support various marketing pieces with media visibility. ‘Big picture’ is the operative term here because you have to see the big view to identify overall objectives and strategy. Then it’s a question of having a big tool box. No one person can implement all of the important efforts, so we need to collaborate with trusted colleagues who can bring their expertise to bear – everyone with an eye on what will move the ball ahead to the objective.

What will work is different for every project, assignment and initiative, which takes flexibility and ever greater creativity. What’s most important for success is how we think about each effort. THINK!!!!!!! Thinking is at the root of the creative process. It’s not what we know about Twitter or Facebook or a flave of the week digital offering that will achieve success for our brands.

Yes we have to keep informed as never before because everything cycles through so fast. But we have to think about what we want to achieve, what the best tools are to get there, who else we need to collaborate with to make it happen. If we don’t think about the tactical pieces of what we’re doing in terms of the strategic whole, they’ll never have a chance of getting us to success.

Now this post has been very theoretical. Next time I’ll share some recent client projects to give you a more practical view of marketing integration.

Please jump in to share how your strategic vs tactical thinking works – whether or not you’re a marketer.

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How the Worm is Turning for Newspapers

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Content, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

This post is about the continuing – and increasing pace of – the evolution of print newspapers into online entities. The musical post is not directly related. It’s a tribute to Joe Morello, the iconic drummer of the 1950s and ‘60s Dave Brubeck Quartet whose solo on Take Five is a jazz classic. We lost Joe this past week.

Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck Quartet

If there’s a thematic connection, it’s in the idea of evolution. Joe Morello helped evolve the way we think about rhythm. Listen to his killer technique on Far More Drums (in 5/4 time) from the album Time Further Out. Other personnel are Brubeck, piano, Paul Desmond, sax, Eugene Wright, bass.

Three things came to my attention this week that magnify the rapid move of newspapers away from a print platform. Two of them were widely reported.
• The L.A. times reported results of a study that show for the first time that online readership surpassed print readership by 46% to 40%.
• The New York Times announced it will erect its online subscription paywall on March 28.

I learned of the third thing as I worked with a client launching a new kind of medical practice who wanted to do some local print advertising here in the Fairfield County, Connecticut market. Over the past few years, Hearst Media has acquired all but one of the major dailies in the county, as well as a well-read chain of weekly community papers. I asked our sales rep for her help in putting together a three-month advertising plan in three of their community weeklies.

She proceeded to explain that for every dollar my client spent advertising online – which would include visibility on three major dailies and geo-targeting to the weeklies – and in a health and fitness-related magazine title, Hearst would match the spend 100% – dollar for dollar — in newspaper print advertising. That meant that a $10,000 budget, for example, would have a $20,000 equivalency.

It was a no-brainer for the client to cover both traditional and online bases for its original budget. And it made an enormous statement about the value being placed on print newspapers by the publisher. Even though the online advertising might be a bit pricey, we’ll know if it’s worth it when we get the traffic, page view and click-thru reports. There was no contract required so opting out is no problem.

A newspaper publisher giving away print to build online ad spends. Time was – til recently – that it was the other way around. The worm is most definitely turning!!

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Letting it go: Accepting that we only control so much

Posted on December 23, 2010. Filed under: Advertising, Blogging, Communications, Content, ecommerce, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

snOMG - Blizzard of 2010 - Baltimore, MDTo accompany a holiday-time post about accepting what’s out of our control in order to live productively, enjoy listening to jazz pianist Oscar Peterson’s take on ‘Let it Snow!’. Vibes player Dave Samuels gives it a tropical feel. Heading south anyone?

One year ago I was looking forward to 2010. The end of 2008 and most of 2009 had been really tough in the crisis economy. I had taken the enforced ‘downtime’ to change direction, learn, re-think my business and career, work out frequently and get very fit. In effect, I worked on controlling what I could control.

Come January 2010, I hit the ground running with new collaborators, a new set of ideas and tools to offer clients — and optimism. 2010 turned out to be a year of accomplishment.

Fortunately, the economy improved enough that some other hearty souls decided to launch a new business or expand one. Some of these fellow optimists became clients.

I’ve worked steadily all year helping these clients build their Web presence through inbound marketing. For most, we’ve started by creating or re-doing a website so that it can support interactive functions. You have to walk before you can run.

Out with the old. In with the new.

As we’re about to ring out 2010 and welcome 2011, I have to – once again — admit shock that it’s flown by so fast. Come January 2011, I’m going to hit the ground jogging. I’m assessing how to take my own business and my clients’ to the next level. With great foundations in place, we’ll all be very busy.

I’m writing goals for me and my clients. We’re in a technological world that keeps evolving faster and faster. No one has all the answers. This year I feel inclined to take it a bit slower.

Adrenaline was helpful. In a way it’s more difficult this year when much is already in place. But I’m even more optimistic. My vision of what I can control is different but it’s becoming clear.

I’m assessing the foundations built in 2010 and what they will support in the coming year.

I’m hoping that you’re also thinking about you and your business about now: How to give up what’s in the environment that you can’t control and keep moving ahead. What are you planning for 2011?

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How to Succeed in Magazine Publishing: A Winning Formula

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Advertising, Communications, Content, Entertainment, Jazz, Marketing, News, Nonprofit, Not-for-profit, Public Relations Marketing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In honor of Moffly Media’s inaugural A-List Awards (read on) today’s musical post is “Shaking the Blues Away” sung by Doris Day. eMail readers need to log-on to listen.

The other evening I had the pleasure of attending an inaugural awards event created by Moffly Media, a local magazine publishing company here in Fairfield County, Connecticut. It turned out to be one more step on a successful path that is keeping the company growing as other publishers are shedding titles and even closing their doors.

The A-List Awards brought back a touch of glamour that hasn’t been seen or felt around here since the onset of the Great Recession. It was done just right; not over the top. And, the awards were perfectly targeted to the advertiser and subscriber base of Moffly’s décor title, atHome Magazine. The well-produced program recognized the top area talent in interior and landscape design and architecture.

It was a great strategic move. And it was handled with sensitivity given the fact that we’re not quite sure we should be celebrating yet. But it sure felt wonderful to all who packed the landmark Westport Country Playhouse. The event benefited a fitting organization – Habit for Humanity of Fairfield County – which made us all feel better about feeling good!

The evening aptly demonstrated the concept at the core of Moffly Media’s success – local community. The family-owned operation began in 1987 when Jack Moffly retired from a 33-year career with Time, Inc. He and his wife, Donna bought the 40-year-old Greenwich Review and ran it as publisher and editor respectively.

They changed the name to Greenwich Magazine. They made it a beautiful glossy dedicated to the upscale Greenwich lifestyle and the singular people who populate the town. Most of all they contributed to the fabric of the community through their personal involvement in its life.

 

Using the same uber-local approach, Jack expanded into other towns with Westport Magazine, New Canaan-Darien Magazine, Stamford Magazine, as well as atHome. In 2007 he stepped down as publisher and turned over the reins to son Jonathan Moffly, who had joined the family business in 1998. Jonathan was involved in the expansion of titles over the years and since becoming publisher has added online, events and custom media divisions.

Moffly Media has been bold in trying new things, yet it’s grown in measured steps that maintain its basic values and leverage its capabilities. If something works, they apply it elsewhere. For instance, a larger-format private label magazine it developed for a client was so stunning that it led to a re-design of atHome in the same mold.

The company hires top people who are knowledgeable about the towns in which they work and/or their areas of specialization. For example, it tapped Camilla Herrera, longtime features writer for the Stamford Advocate, as editor of the new Stamford Magazine when she became available after newsroom cutbacks at the daily. And James M. Gabal, another Time, Inc. vet recently joined to head Custom Media.

The Moffly’s are terrific business people. They know how to add value for advertisers. The A-List Awards are a perfect example, as are the quarterly DesignDistrict evenings they run to showcase advertisers in the towns they serve. Print and online advertising and sponsorships are another way. They understand PR, too, and the behavior required to maintain a stellar reputation.

The Moffly team seems to share a sense of humanity and respect for all its constituents – readers, advertisers and the advertising/PR/marketing agencies who interact with them. They’re good folks. And it’s nice to see good people succeed!

Other publishers – even those who put out national titles – can learn from Moffly Media’s model. Each audience is, in essence, a ‘local community’. Treating them as such works in print, online and in person everywhere.

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dLife: A How-To For Information & Social Media Monetization

Posted on December 28, 2009. Filed under: Advertising, Inbound Marketing, Internet Traffic, Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today I was in the midst of my usual early morning multi-tasking, reading email, a few favorite blogs and the New York Times online, drinking coffee and eating breakfast while listening to local news and weather on the tube in the background.

 Eating in earshot of the TV has become a real crapshoot in terms of whether you’ll be able to finish without a pharma commercial ruining the meal with a nauseating list of potential side effects of some miracle drug. This morning I didn’t get lucky.

 As I got into a NY Times story that caught my attention, Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites by Richard Perez-Pena and Tim Arango, a drug commercial came on, sending me running to preserve enjoyment of my yogurt and fruit. As I exiled myself from the room with the offending commercial, I couldn’t help but think for the umpteenth time that this couldn’t possibly be the result that pharma marketers are looking for.

 Particularly in light of the Times article, which focuses on how news media companies are trying to monetize their content, I thought – also for the umpteenth time – about the visionary ideas behind dLife – a multi-media effort focused on helping people living with diabetes to better manage their chronic condition. I had the good fortune to work on the launch of that venture back in 2004. And it can provide a road map for both media companies and advertisers trying to find new ways to succeed.

The genius behind the dLife concept is its founder, veteran marketer Howard Steinberg, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10. Recognizing that successfully managing diabetes represents a lifestyle – a very different view of disease management – he created a multi-media diabetes network that would provide the diabetes community with a new approach to living well with a life-threatening chronic illness — while building a hugely targeted audience for pharmas and other providers of products and services for diabetes.

dLife has a web portal at its hub plus spokes that include the first lifestyle cable TV show about a chronic illness, a radio ‘tip’ segment and a newsletter. dLife.com is now one of the top diabetes/healthcare sites on the web. Its TV content is consistently award winning. You can follow the company on Twitter — @dLife. dLife members (sign-up is free) get unlimited access to its content, as well as product discounts and online purchase opportunities.

 Who pays for all of this? Advertisers do! Gladly! dLife delivers a large community that is almost 100% guaranteed to be interested in advertiser offerings. And, instead of buying expensive national advertising to reach a relatively small fraction of the US population, they can reach dLifers via much less expensive cable, online and radio advertising.

Media companies and advertisers can take a lesson from dLife. Maybe the New York Times, for example, should begin to break down its reader base into affinity groups and build segmented communities that are interested in certain areas of its coverage and would be interested in particular ad categories. The Times seems to be moving in that direction with its Weekender subscriptions and ad campaign that explores what sections people are ‘fluent in’ – read ‘interested in’. It could then offer targeted packages to advertisers – particularly multi-media offerings with built in cross marketing. Like 24/7/365 special advertising sections.

The technology exists online to provide personally segmented advertising. That’s how to get ads to where they’ll actually be appreciated – and effective. In fact, the process could be interactive. I know I would consider self-selecting for relevant ads to keep desirable news content coming – particularly if I could get irrelevant and disgusting pharma commercials out of my life!

I’d love to hear some of your creative ideas for new content/pay models for traditional media.

In honor of Howard Steinberg’s vision, today’s music is the tune Miles Ahead by the visionary jazz man Miles Davis with the Gil Evans Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones, live at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. Ironically, Davis is listed as a musician who lived with diabetes on the dLife website.

Enjoy! See you soon!

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