Suddenly publishers are wanting to get more strategic

Interesting this week that ninemsn appointed Nicholas Gray and NDM appointed Rob Pyne. Both come from senior strategic roles and both publishers are obviously looking to put more strategic oomph behind their sales and commercial efforts. Other players are also doing the same thing … which is pretty much needed as right now we have a pretty flat media industry and a shedload of competitors all struggling to keep afloat. It’s hoped strategy will provide a competitive advantage.

Personally, I am a believer in this. Digital doesn’t need, right now, more great client service people in senior commercial roles. It needs more thinkers and the recent moves from News and ninemsn show this.

Right now it seems most of the prominent players have the same wants.

– greater visibility with strategic decision makers
– greater visibility with clients
– larger share
– better commercial product output

Which makes sense in theory but is tough to execute in practice. So where does it fall down?

– publishers focus too much on internal sales management and not enough on external value
– too often take conservative options and don’t pre-empt questions from clients or their partners
– pander to agency ego. Agencies don’t mind if you go to clients if you have something of value to offer them.
– maintain too narrow a viewpoint around the media world
– let their own motivation (ie extraction and sales) dominate their approach without asking the client what they require from the investment
– don’t offer anything to market aside a basic commodity that is oversupplied. (ie eyeballs in generic environments like news, sport)

If you want to nail the 4 key areas of visibility, share and output my belief is the below needs to be realised. Now I don’t claim to be a ‘strategist’ (I’m not really sure what it means) but I’ve worked on both sides of the fence over the last decade

1.Lead the market
The issues facing all publishers around visibility and share of decision makers mindspace are category issues and not relegated to individual operators. No one publisher can solve this acting purely in their own interests – one publisher needs to do a category job to show the value of digital display media. Want to lead the market? Act like a leader – be the market. If you can’t demonstrate real value and insight you will never get in with the key strategic people beyond a basic personable relationship. Trust only comes with value.

2.Understand your underlying commercial purpose
A sales team should understand it effectively has 2 masters – its employer and also its clients. Too much focus on either one of these can result in problems. Thus, often people defer to their own motivations which are sales goals and revenue. As a result the motivation of the client and the publisher are not aligned and the client will look at the publisher as a commodity to be bought and sold at the lowest price with the lowest resource/time cost.

3.Leverage your complete network
Don’t act as a silo, understand what your print/tv/radio cousins are doing and how clients are using them. Provide research – good research not junk research. Tell clients how $x,000 dollars in digital can deliver better results than $x,000 invested with another media. Show them how digital impacts search and radio etc.

4.Understand media
As an agency person I am over dealing with digital people who have no idea about the rest of the media world – TV, press, newspapers, magazines, outdoor, CRM etc – it makes it hard to take them seriously. How can you package up your product if you don’t know how competitor media channels package and price theirs? Digital is no longer just competing with digital – as growth rates go down (1-3 years) the challenge for digital will be competing not with FD, ninemsn, News, Telstra … it’ll be competing with Eye, ARN, Austereo, and 7 and Newsnet and being able to better solve problems more efficiently.

5.Differentiate on key pillars
Ask yourself – what makes my product different? What are the 2 or 3 things you can hang your hat on that mean something? Stop being okay at lots of things and be excellent at a few things.


3 responses to “Suddenly publishers are wanting to get more strategic

  1. joelyrighteous

    Great, great post, Ben.

    One thing I will add is that publishers need to shift focus away from “quick fix” solutions. e.g. the ridiculous video units that everyone is running TVC’s in at the moment.

    This kind of activity is clearly designed to squeeze immediate dollars out of advertisers who don’t normally utilise digital, however all it will do is lead to disappointed clients who won’t continue to invest online and thats just bad business. It harms the publisher, the advertiser and annoys the shit out of consumers.

  2. Great post Ben.

    I’ll just make one comment here – it’s important to champion the brand, not just the platform.

  3. Fantastic post Ben. Bookmarking it right now and considering the forward all. 😉

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