Are the publisher and advertiser at all connected in 2010?

I’ve been thinking about the relationship between reader, publisher and advertiser … and the relationship feels broken to me.

A good relationship requires a few things. One of which is a thorough understanding of the other parties in the relationship.

As media becomes more ‘digital’, it feels to me – as someone publisher side and beforehand, agency side – that there is a lack of understanding from both advertiser and publisher.

As an issue this is significant, as it impacts both parties as well as the most important one, the reader.

Ideally in a media environment you want a situation that is win-win-win for all three parties. The reader is provided with a great editorial product subsidised by relevant, complimentary advertisers, the publisher receives support financially from the advertiser that allows them to continue to serve the interests of the reader, and the advertiser is linked in a meaningful way to a reader.

It works because each party has the other two parties interests at heart. It works because the ads make sense. It works because all parties are playing a vital role in providing a relevant, sustainable experience. Great magazine brand absolutely embody this.

Here’s the thing – my honest belief is most marketers and their agencies have a limited intimate understanding of the online publishers they support with their advertising dollars. Let alone all the other potentially relevant channels they could be using – blogs, forums, communities etc

And on publisher side, do sales reps have a true idea and curiosity around the business objectives that shape the brief? Or is the motivation purely based around the thrill of the sale and the need to hit a budgetary individual target each quarter?

The sheer choice of digital options has made it almost impossible to utilise the medium to the potential we’ve all said it has. There are simply too many potential publishers. The answer can’t be an ad network or affiliate program to bundle them all – as that is simply placing ads on whatever site will take them within the parameters set out and completely renders worthless the role of the publisher who has created the content.

If an advertiser is simply buying a ‘group’ of sites, then it is not supporting the reader community nor contributing to the sustainability of the publication. It’s merely a spray and pray attempt to connect with whoever comes across the ads. If it works, great, if not … no harm there’s plenty of other options.

If you put your ad investment into a network that aggregates 100’s or 1000’s of sites what are you really buying? Do you know? If it works – why is it working? How? Where? How can it work better? All valid questions and all difficult to answer without full transparency.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but if the end game for the marketer is to create meaningful experiences … then wouldn’t it help to know where these experiences and relationships are starting and the context where you’re speaking to the consumer?

Doesn’t it make more sense to hand pick sites that provide the right environment. Environments that allow the advertiser to be more than just another brand within a 728×90 leaderboard served up as a result of a computer calling an swf file based on some cookies/tags that had been dropped over the last 30 days.

The idea of severing the relationship between advertiser and publisher might make sense if you’re looking to save some resource hours off preparing and trafficking a plan, but next time have a real think about how and why and if it works for the advertiser.


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