MediaVest SVP Baehr On What's Trending In Digital For Today's Magazine Publisher

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MediaVestFollowing up on a conversation with AdExchanger.com last year, Sarah Baehr, svp, director of digital publishing solutions at MediaVest, discussed how digital is continuing to transform the magazine publisher.

AdExchanger.com: In the past year, what has been a key, emerging, digital trend with publishers?

SB: The release of the tablet.

In any article about tablets, you often read about unprecedented device sales and adoption by the consumer. But, at the same time, its potential impact on the publishing community is huge as the device is well-suited to their content in a way that highlights not just the writing, but great photography and creativity that can be embedded in their tablet experiences.

Looking at revenue potential, I think that the models are still being worked out but certainly it will incorporate the users paying directly for their content.

What are publishers going to be offering the advertiser in a tablet world? Scalable audiences may be limited in these early stages, are they not?

I think scale is in the eye of the beholder.  It all depends on who your audience is and what your goals are, of course.   The idea of using a program for a client based on a tablet app for a direct marketing-oriented $2 cost‑per‑sale probably won't work.

The tablet business is just over a year old – and as with any new technology, the cost of producing and understanding how to use the technology is still evolving. So as people start to understand what works, what doesn't work, and as there's more talent that's able to work on it, things will shift.

In spite of today’s tablet market, potentially, it’s a much different marketplace five years from now similar to the way we were talking about smartphones, where it used to be a BlackBerry or RIMM‑dominated marketplace. The iPhone changed all of that – and now there’s Android driving hard.

Now or down the road, do you see large publishers with two distinct strategies- providing a website and a tablet destination/app?

The fact of the matter is a lot of people use tablet devices for web browsing. Now, whether the tablet is considered a mobile web browsing or more of a computer/laptop‑like browsing device is something that I think will depend on the connectivity and memory of the device as well as how well people are creating content to work in that environment. So "Does a website go away?" I don't think so.

Apps are generally a closed environment. And it's not to say that we aren't going to get to a point where you can dynamically update content within that shell, but we're not there now.

What do you think is going to happen with large magazine publishers and video on their digital properties?

Well, you don't naturally think of a traditional print property as having video. But if you think about the holding companies in which many of these publishing companies live, video is something that's very natural. So certainly Time Inc., as a company, has access to a lot of video opportunities, and certainly the talent in there and the ability to create video. Meredith has Better TV with Better Homes and Gardens.

There are a lot of partnership opportunities available, but I don't think the idea is that suddenly these publishers become all things to all people. Yet, I think that - much like becoming a writer online - becoming a producer of video is continuing to be much easier to do. Consequently, video is not that big of a leap for any of these companies.

What’s hot and what's not for your publisher clients today as it relates to selling advertising solutions to their customers?

It depends on the client. The thing that gets us excited internally is when we have publishers approaching us from the standpoint of "We understand our audience and our channels in a way that we can curate a story that's credible across all of our [digital and non-digital] channels."

So, the publisher doesn't just cut out one piece of media as a means of driving savings or driving efficiency. It's like chopping your arm off to lose weight. As an advertiser, what you're looking for is, "Where can I get the best experience, and where can I integrate myself in a way that drives not only association but revenue?"

Publishers are in a position to deliver in a way that many digital‑only companies would have to go to outside vendors to get.

Are publishers creating a data strategy that's informed by digital? Is that starting to happen?

Some would argue that they are probably one of the best when it comes to data strategies. Their business has been built on understanding their customers and building marketing plans off of that. And certainly, that has propagated in the digital space.

The idea of reaching and understanding your audience from a data perspective is something that they're all very familiar with.  They've just been a little bit more protective of that data.

Is the publisher starting to build out a stronger team to serve the digital market?

What I see more and more of is that you have a single person who really understands the brands and the assets. And for certain situations in which you're doing an extra, deep dive - so let's say like a data strategy or something that would require a custom digital integration - you might have an expert that comes in.

For the most part, though there are certainly digital experts, there are also others who represent the brand and the various assets that it can bring.

Finally, what's surprised you in the past year in your digital experience with publishers?

There are many.

I am pleasantly reminded the passion that publishers have around the content that they produce, what the brands mean to them, and the importance of that distinction versus everything else that's out there.

It means something to be quoted by the Wall Street Journal or be part of Time 100 or the Fortune 500.  These are all really important brands, and I think that sometimes we lose sight of it because it's associated with a page.

I think they're in this world where there are so many options and choices for content. I think that what we're starting to see is this need for trusted brand content rising again. There's something that needs to happen to rise above the fray.

Certainly, when Google changed their [search] algorithm to help original content versus aggregated content was a testament to the fact that they saw value in making sure that the content has credibility, value, and brand behind it.

By John Ebbert

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