When I started my journalism career, things were simple. Journalists wrote content for readers, marketers provided information to journalists for the content and brands provided the products that the information came from. Four years later, brands no longer need journalists to reach their audiences, and all three parties are taking on different roles.
“Things are changing, that’s for sure,” wrote Digiday writer Haniya Rae. “One major shift is that everyone is everyone else’s business. You have marketers that think they’re journalists, brands that act like publishers, and publishers trying to be agencies. It can seem like everyone wants to do something — anything! — other than what they’re doing.”
Two trends that are affecting both publishers and marketers are social media and content marketing. With these efforts, brands can directly reach their audiences. Brands think, “Why promote a product through a publisher, when I can just send a Tweet or develop a company blog?” For the brand, it’s instantaneous, more engaging and the company can see the results first-hand. Brands are recruiting marketers for these initiatives leaving publishers out of the loop.
In the meantime, publishers, expecially those in b-to-b, have been moving toward a different path. Many media companies are using their expertise in reaching and engaging audiences to help brands strategize outreach, pinpoint targeted demographics and develop a week-by-week plan. Sound familiar? Publishers’ background in research and the data have only helped in these marketing efforts.
With everyone exhanging roles, boundaries and expectations can get confusing. On April 16, ABM will host its second Marketer/Media/Publisher Council meeting allowing the three parties to share common challenges, discuss potential solutions and network with potential partners. Even before this shift in responsibilities, communications between marketers and publishers have been tense.
This month, media website Digiday, which covers the digital media, marketing and advertising industry, ran a series on the relationship between the two parties. Summed up, publishers are frustrated with agencies and agencies feel the same about publishers.
“Both sides sometimes forget that we’re in the advertising business, not the buying and selling business,” said unnamed Publisher X. “Sellers should be incentivized to address their clients’ business objectives, not just sling banners. Buyers should be thinking about deep partnerships with brands that make sense for their clients, not just rate reduction. It’s a different, more sophisticated skill set, and the talent just hasn’t fully caught up yet.”
In a follow-up story, agencies expressed their grievances with publishers.
“The more junior folks on either side tend to take more of an us-vs.-them approach,” said Agency D. “As you rise the ranks and form tight relationships with those on the other side, you begin to empathize and realize that each side of the desk comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. But we’re both extremely busy, and our time is precious. Ultimately, we’re both here to serve clients, so both sides should be collaborating and getting on the same page, not trying to go behind each other’s backs.”
ABM’s April meeting, which will cover topics such as Launching A Brand On A Limited Budget and What’s Working — And What’s Not — In Digital, will aim to get each party on the same page. The meeting is the follow-up to the first Marketer/Media/Publisher Council meeting held last fall, which Larry Greenberger, group publisher of the transportation group at Cygnus Business Media, attended.
“The process of the agency is my biggest takeaway [from the meeting],” he said. “I was somewhat surprised about how much effort agencies might expend before engaging publishing partners. I now understand how some agencies come forth with RFPs (request for proposals) that have some impossible-to-deliver components. The need for a partnership is ever so important, but still so elusive.”
“The landscape is changing and clients are looking for help from different subject matter experts or communication platform experts that may be outside of the traditional client-agency-media company relationship,” said Michael Hurley, the current vice president of custom marketing solutions at Stagnito, after the fall meeting. “The key is for the client to drive the collaboration, be clear about assignments, measure and manage what is measured.”
The upcoming April meeting will be held from 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in New York City. Space is limited so those interested should RSVP to Debbie Humphreys as soon as possible.
By Elizabeth A. Reid