The new cost of marketing in a digital news world



We’re often reminded that the media economy, particularly for publishers, has been “re-priced.” That’s an elegant way of saying it costs a lot more to make a lot less.

Advertisers just don’t believe they should pay the same dollars for reaching the same person digitally versus print, and the development and content procurement costs for multiple platforms is sky high.

The old days were, quite frankly, easy. Print products take much less time to produce – a picture and some words and a spot of ad copy, right? Then pop it on some paper, ship it to the newsstand, and, voila, you make a bunch of ad revenue.

Now, of course, it’s more than just pics and words. It’s pics and pixels, video, polls, social, interactive graphics, blogs, links, updates, more updates, training, night staff, day staff, support staff, back-up support staff, 24/7, faster, trending analytics, paywalls … the cost of enhancing and enriching experience just keeps climbing. 

Moreover, the cost and resource impact of the new digital media economy impacts every department.

As the head of a medium-sized marketing department, I’m finding this new media economy is stretching us to the limit.

Admittedly, we don’t farm much stuff out to expensive agencies. Instead, our team of 10 creative designers develops the great majority of marketing materials in-house. Perhaps that is why we notice the changes even more acutely.

Gone are the days where a simple creative brief would result in two or three print ads or a direct-marketing leaflet and posters. Now, on top of the print ads, you have eDMs, postings, and re-postings on social media, iPad versions in different banner and island positions, mobile-optimised versions, mobile app versions, SEM buys, e-newsletters, landing pages, various format ad units for multiple online buys – all of which need to be “built,” not just “drawn.”

Copy needs to be continually adapted for different media. The workload and speed required to develop a single creative idea has expanded exponentially, with the time taken to develop an ad concept now requiring several days and probably 10 times as many different executions across multi-media platforms.

So where am I going with this?

Aside from bemoaning the loss of the good old days of simple advertising and highlighting the skyrocketing costs of marketing in the digital age, it’s time to draw attention to the demands on today’s modern media marketing team.

There are more products to promote and more need for promotions. The reality is, something’s gotta give.

It’s costing too much to do marketing, and too little money is coming back from advertisers. We’ve been given an abundance of exciting new avenues to plug our messages.

Yet in our enthusiasm to get the messages out everywhere to capture those transient and elusive eyeballs, we’re being overwhelmed by the amount of work demanded by the multitude of ad units across all platforms.

But it’s not like we need to screech to a halt on this. It’s all new and we are learning.

There’s a good chance that only 10% of the work we are doing is really effective. But without this long drawn-out learning period, we won’t know which 10% is delivering the numbers and clicks. Over time, it’ll become apparent what’s worth doing and what is just nice to have.

But remember — the media economy has been re-priced. Which means no one really knows what works yet.

There are no hard and fast rules. The only rule is that the last person standing is the one that collected the most toys, because chances are, they found more of the toys of value.

To collect the most toys, we will have to do more and suffer in silence for a while.

The key is to stay fully attuned to what’s happening in this new economy. To continually monitor effectiveness through the instant feedback tools afforded to us by digital media (which we never had with traditional media). And to capitalise on low-production-cost content marketing options, which leverage smart algorithms to target audiences and preferences.

It’s exciting to be learning again in this ancient industry. There’s never been a more exciting period with more things happening. At some point, we’ll hit a calmer, more learned period. But for now, it’s time to go a little overboard.

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