Mark Twain made the remark a long time ago but it may be worth applying it to the purported death of interruptive advertising. We all know that mainstream media has become impaled on all things interactive, social and digital and that changes in the distribution model of media have proceeded in a way that does not support advertising simply because (zut alors!) many consumers avoid advertising if they can and almost none actively seek it out.
As a consequence, and as I have written before, the new media displaces the old yet does so without any kind of plausible funding model. There will be a reason why the owners of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter do not publish their revenue figures and it’s not because they would take too long to add up.
Worse still of course the attention (time spent) given to the new channels reduces audiences to the old creating the triple whammy of reducing audiences, reducing revenue for programming and editorial and escalating the costs of reaching audiences for advertisers. Among all media channels print is being hit most dramatically; the announcement by Hearst that the Seattle Post Intelligencer (Microsoft’s local paper) would most likely close in weeks is the latest in a long line of suspensions, reductions in frequency and closures and is certainly not the last.
The sadness of this is that the print industry is almost beyond saving, its economics are horrible and it has just two strategies remaining. The first , being acquired by deep pocketed benefactors, is challenged by a combination a shrinking population of the egregiously wealthy and a reduction in the correlation of newspaper ownership and political influence. The second may have a little more potential; print needs to find a new way to measure itself and charge its advertisers. Doing this is in everyone’s interest, for retailers and other advertisers the correlation between advertising and sales has never been more important, for the media yield management in a market of declining demand will only get you so far.
To this end the key may be to look at all the digital connective tissue that can help ascribe value to analog media including unique urls, promotional codes and mobile short codes that can help the media and its customers understand the value of their readers. In a perfect world this will translate to a pay for performance model in which the media can invest in running ads and other promotions and see the results in the registers of their customers. If this sounds like partnership rather than an adversarial set to, so be it.
As for YouTube, Facebook and the rest their issue is different. I guess we all know that their users won’t approve of interruptive advertising and that commercial free is good. All true, personally I like HBO, luckily I like it enough to pay. Is the same true of the world’s most popular digital platforms? 5 cents a play on YouTube, $1 per month on Facebook? That’s unlikely but by the end of 2009 it would be totally unsurprising if sessions on both did not start with, and become punctuated by, ads.
The calculus seems simple to me. For the consumer it’s pay or prepare for interruption, for the media owner it’s prepare to interrupt and prove your contribution to sales.