awarding, conferencing, debating, printing, publishing

Celebrating the end of the Party: Why dumping the junket is exactly what The Caxtons needs


so I’ve just returned from The Guardian Australia’s launch drinks, but before I call it a night I thought tonight’s happy event made it timely to throw some thoughts down about yesterdays shock report in Adnews that “The Caxtons’ famed jamboree to an exotic location will not happen this year. But the awards will. And next year the junket could be back.” … furthermore “Tasmania has been mooted.”

well phew. heaven forbid that in the midst of the biggest systemic shift in print advertising in several generations we miss the chance to junket it up somewhere exotic.

I should declare an interest; I was honoured and privileged to be asked to speak at last year’s Caxtons – on Hamilton Island, above – so last year I very much enjoyed the benefit of giving a presentation in Adnews’ mourned-for sunny climes.

I have to be honest though; I didn’t wholly enjoy my presentation. and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why.

the truth is that I wasn’t at my best … it wasn’t the most focused of talks, and that’s my bad. but I think it was also a lot to do with the room; a mix of mainly newspaper staffers, ad agency people, journalists and some flotsam and jetsam like me. you see sometimes when you present the room is with you, and if you’re like me that makes you better. but sometimes the room isn’t with you, and that makes some people stronger, but if you’re like me it makes nagging doubt creep in … perhaps I’m wrong? perhaps I’m a crazy person for even suggesting this!? and when your presentation to a bunch of creatives pivots around your (my) belief that “the worst thing that ever happened to advertising is adverts” you can see how that would affect your (my) performance.

I’ve gotten pretty good at reading rooms, and I think the reality is that whilst I wasn’t, by my full admission, at my best … a lot of people in the room just didn’t want to absorb the message: that the time had come to change.

my audience, perhaps quite rightly, wanted to get on with what the Caxtons are there to do: celebrate creativity in newspaper advertising. who the freak was I to turn up and rain on such a brilliantly orchestrated parade? people’s hearts and souls and time and effort had gone in to organising that celebration. people much better than me had created ingenious and awesome presentations to delight and entertain and stimulate.

the words of Maya Angelou echoed in my head that night and many nights since: “People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel” (source) … and I think that is why I failed that day on Hamilton Island – when the words and actions were long gone, I had made that room feel no better about the situation I believe press advertising is in. I hadn’t followed-though my dark night to deliver a dawn. I’d attempted, but it hadn’t landed.

so why the confession? well, yesterday’s Adnews report that – essentially – the party was over, filled me with nothing but sheer optimism. because the party is over, and that’s what I so desperately tried but failed to say last year. but the party being over makes it all the more important that the celebration continues. because what I experienced on that island, that energy and passion and creativity shouldn’t be lost because of some crazy perception that the Caxtons is a junket … what I witnessed was much more than that. the Caxtons isn’t living the vida loca in some exotic location, its an idea … an idea shared by some staggeringly creative and passionate people.

the Caxtons, like print advertising, must reinvent itself … and that is a conference (in the truest sense of the word) that has never been more urgent nor necessary. this is the Caxtons’ opportunity to fight for its own future, I believe that it’s more than up to the task.

featured and above image via trip advisor

advertising, printing, publishing, social media-ising

Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin: Lessons from The Guardian on getting, well, everything right

so I’ve been roused from a bit of a blogging famine (not self-imposed) by the surfacing of a rather remarkably brilliant bit of storytelling on two fronts by The Guardian. on one hand, the above is (nice one BBH) a wonderfully articulated ad showing what journalism looks like in the second decade of the 21st Century. the second element of storytelling however relates to The Guardian product itself – and this is where it gets a lot more interesting…

because whilst other newspaper titles have faced a digital-fuelled funding crisis by (delete as appropriate) building pay-walls around existing content / attacking aggregators such as Google / devaluing their brand with ongoing price promotions / bundling subscriptions / creating much-hyped tablet-only titles / add as appropriate – The Guardian has quietly gotten on with doing three things rather well.

one, they’ve developed genuinely channel and delivery-neutral platforms for their product. two, they’ve defended investment in content. three, they’ve introduced and demanded fair pricing for their product.

there are people better qualified than me (The Guardian themselves for one) to comment in more detail about the specifics and implications of these endeavours to their title and the wider journalism category.  what interests Mediation is how these three principles apply to brands per se. because those exact things that The Guardian has done so well should be top of the agenda for every brand and client right now.

one – channel and delivery-neutral platforms

for all our talk of bought earned and owned and platform neutrality, we still have some way to go to break the last remnants of the broadcast disruption advert model. ‘make an ad and get it seen’ is still for too many situations the default option.

our focus should be on a brand’s business challenge or opportunity, not on default bought media solutions. channel-neutral is now easily a decade-old idea, and it feels almost retro to talk about it with even a degree of reverence … but new pressures can fuel flights to perceived safety – flights that more than ever need guarding (appropriately enough) against.

two – investment in content

from podcasts (oh my beloved MediaGuardian podcast) to video to applications and beyond, The Guardian’s story is not just one of investing in content, but of investing in content despite a reduction in revenues as digital impacts cannibalised (traditionally more profitable) print impacts. there was no retreat, no back-pedaling, no compromise in the investment nor distribution of content.

here too brands can learn.  new models are more content hungry than old ones. in short they require much more than 30″‘s worth of content! longer-form video, multi-platform, often generated in real time and in response to a brand’s activities are essential if a brand is to capitalise on and exploit the opportunities that new models present. will it cost more? perhaps. will it return more? perhaps? will you get left behind if you don’t. absolutely.

three – fair pricing for that content

I’m not suggesting that brands start charging for people to engage with their communications (although Apple seem to do quite well in monetising the best ads they ever made in the form of a retail space that isn’t a retail space). rather brands need to acknowledge that for many people the old contract has evaporated…

the contract stated that in return for free content, a brand can interrupt that content as long as they entertain or inform us whilst they do it. for many this simply no longer plays, or indeed pays. The Guardian increasingly, I suspect, relies on a model not dissimilar to an iTunes set-up – simple easy small payments that allow people to access the content they want, when they want it, where they want it. many people are prepared to (micro) pay to do so.

brands face a similar challenge. what are the new contracts you can form with the people with whom you want to connect and engage. what are you offering in return for their attention? value, usefulness, entertainment, information, inspiration? to say that continuing to offer an interuption that communicates what your business believes people should know, hardly seems worth dignifying with a debate.

there’s two last things that brands can learn from The Guardian’s predominance in their field. firstly, let people in – whether its helping to devour MPs expenses data or teasing people to piece together a story that a super-injunction prevents them from reporting, The Guardian isn’t just better by having people be part of the debate, they are – just like brands – increasingly dependent on it.

and secondly, this reporter of fairy tales stands for something. as a brand, as an organisation, as a business, they understand why they exist in the world. they can articulate why the world needs them. and rather than telling people that, they show them…

there is no more powerful navigator for this new world than to have built into your DNA a compass telling you every day in every way which direction to take.

its tempting to say stop the world and ask to get off. to that, I say not by the hair on my chinny chin chin would I want it any other way …  keep up the good work Guardian.

measuring, printing, publishing, reporting, sampling

Starting the Big Sell: How The Readership Works started the debate with agencies over the future of readership measurement in Australia

The_Readership_Works the start of the debate: representatives of The Readership Works present to media agencies last night at The Mint

so last evening saw the start of what is likely to be a long conversation between the media agency and The Readership Works, the body tasked with creating a new readership survey for Australia's media industry.

we began with a well-trodden story – the world has changed.  only, it turns out, measurement metrics haven't.  the evening was on oportunity for The Readership Works (TRW) to present how they intend to put that right.  we began with the challenges:

  1. people don't fill in surveys any more (in fact it turns out that three quarters of people flat refuse to do so these days)
  2. advertisers need more and better data (yup)
  3. other media are delivering (no doubt last year's MOVE is front and centre of TRW's mind – especially given the gestation period that this project has had)
  4. print media are no longer print media (well quite … in fact I'd question whether or not it's in their interest to still be called print media but that's a debate for another day)

so what do we want and when do we want it?  well we want – it turns out – more higher quality data, delivered in a 'more timely' manner, transparency in how it's delivered and reported.  plus we'd also like it to be future-proofed and developed in collaboration with agencies (and therefore advertisers).

all of which sounds like a lot, but saying "we need to stop doing face-to-face interviews and filling in paper questionnaires" is a bit like saying "let's stop using horse drawn trams to get people around".  similarly the idea that we need to measure readership beyond the printed page is a great deal less surprising than the fact that we don't seem to be currently doing it.

so all headed in the right direction…  a survey that:

  • collects information via a screen-based interview
  • generates new insights on how magazines build readership over time
  • provides better data on regional and community titles via smarter sampling
  • measures readership across all platforms (so print and online for now, but – in response to my question – once critical mass is reached on tablets and phones too)
  • delivers insights beyond readership, be it on sections, engagement, and new lifestyle statements (although I'd recommend that you brace yourself for still being able to tell clients that their readers are leaders not followers)
  • offers richer and deeper information on the purchase and consumption habits of readers via IPSOS' BRANDpuls

all of which, in the warm light of the next day, feels very solid and in the right direction.  it would be easy to be cynical about the whole event, but the reality is that the industry needs a better measurement system than the one we currently have.  one that its reflective of the evolution of publisher brands (ie not print brands) beyond paper, but that also plugs this information into data about what those readers think and buy.

for perhaps not obvious reasons TRW were reluctant to share details of the methodology.  there is after all an elephant in the room.  that elephant is Roy Morgan Research, who have in effect now become the competition to TRW's survey…

this put the audience in the rather curious position of being pitched a product that will inevitably create potential painful change in the market, by a body on which those same agencies have representation.  when you take into account the fact that the introduction of the new survey will require not only the philosophical backing but the financing (in part) by those agencies, you begin to see why last night's event was so important.  the big sell has only just begun…

converging, debating, printing, selling

More bullish than a bull doing an impersonation of a Bull bullying a Bull: Mediation listens on as The Australian gets, well, bullish

The_australian_breakfast gathering at The Four Seasons for The Australian's inaugural breakfast series

dispatches for the Sydney media world … this week saw The Australian on, yes, bullish form at it's inaugural Media breakfast series.  many of Sydney's media agency kids gathered at The Four Seasons to hear Geoff Elliott chair a panel of Nick Leeder (Deputy CEO, The Australian), Malcolm Turnbull (Federal Member for Wentworth and former Leader of the Opposition), Andrew Murrell (GM Channel Market, Commonwealth bank of Australia) and Richard Eary (Head of Media and Telecommunications Research, UBS Equities) discuss convergence, iPads and a lot in between.

but it was Richard Freudenstein, CEO of The Australian and NDM who kicked things off.  describing the context of the "rise of aggressive technological companies" that may prove "potentially quite disruptive to professional media companies".  I'll let you digest the 'potentially', 'quite' and 'professional' bits of that quote on your own time…

Freudenstein kicked off the bullish tone in fine form…  declaring that the organisation is "aiming for an increase in print circulation" and that it is "our intention to be the pre-eminent source of news at all times across all platforms" … "NewsCorp fully intends to be across all [emerging] platforms … it's cheap, current and constantly up to date"

but it was the Admiral himself who continued NewsCorp's bullish tone.  Rupert Murdoch addressed the room via a recorded video, and in comments reported this week in The Guardian, heaped praise on Steve Jobs and his iPad, of which Murdoch is so fond…  but the Admiral's battle charge began with comments aimed at recent adversary Google.  he noted that he had "ruffled some feathers" but that "the debate needed to be had" … and, in a delightfully provocative comment that "The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free" … lovely stuff

Murdoch described how "we are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet" … "people are willing to pay for high quality content, as long as we deliver it how and where they want it" (Murdoch missed out the last bit of that sentence: …and as long as that content is not available for free elsewhere)

and then to the panel debate, where NewsCorp's bullish tone continued unopposed by the rest of the panel.  it started OK, when Elliott asked Eary if newspapers were dead?  Eary replied that "its a good question" … cue nervous laughter from the NewsCorp crowd.  but it didn't last long – Eary went on to say that "there is some degree of optimism" and that "even if paywalls are put up there's a big audience to monetise" … "if you look at digital CPMs vs Press CPMs there's a big divide" – his point… that better targeting (behind paywalls) generate higher CPMs.  all very on message.

and how the message continued…  "You don't want to bet against yourself – we're not seeing circulation decline" … "we need to grow in both directions" … "be careful you don't import [from the US and UK] the narrative" … "the beauty of an app is that the technology goes away [the iPad is introducing] serendipity back into the browsing experience"

you were hard-pressed to find anything off what was clearly a very well constructed message to Sydney's media community.  that NewsCorp and The Australian are growing and on top of emerging platforms and technologies.  the only descension came from what I had considered to be the most unlikely of places…  Malcolm Turnbull seemed to be the only challenge on the platform, the only voice of question.

Turnbull pointed out the "devastating loss of value" that the internet had brought about in media organisations, and raised valid and critical questions about the rise of video and the effect of new technologies on news organsations.  his questions and concerns were simply brushed away, with Nick Leeder, deputy CEO of The Australian commenting that "people have to sift through the nonsense they see on Twitter" and that "YouTube is great for dogs with skate boards.

which all-in-all was a shame.  being bullish is good for business, it's good for shareholders and its good for negotiations and for bravado.  but it's not good for the important debate that needs to be had about the future of media and communications.  it's restrictive, limiting and adds nothing to the knowledge bank of media planners and clients picking their way through an evolving communications landscape.

NewsCorp can talk all they like about Twitter's "nonsense" and YouTube's "dogs with skateboards", the revolution is coming, whether they like it or not.  being Bullish will only get you so far.

planning, printing

Of Editors and Marketers: media planning lessons from the New News ecology

a legacy of the past?  Sydney Morning Herald's Ad from earlier this year (shot at Harbourside Open Air Cinema Feb 2010)

so I was fortunate enough this week to enjoy breakfast with the editor of an online news portal, and during our discussions it occurred to me that online news editors have more than a little in common with contemporary marketers.

the audience-centricity of online news editing was clear, from how stories are aggregated and published thru to the future platforms being considered and developed for content deployment.  the predominance of this centricity in the reader was clear when the editor talked about 'owning the reader at every point in the day'…

all this is in stark contrast to the heritage of the print newspaper, the monopoly of whom lasted for so long that it institutionalised a product-centricity which is, in some part, I believe firmly responsible for the current challenges facing the print publishing industry.  the newspaper industry 'didn't have to try for so long', was one observation made over the course of the discussion.

it occurred to me that marketers and media planners have three big things to learn from how news editors go about doing what they do…

the first is around content vs platform, and which is most important in gaining share of attention with people you want to reach.  on one hand its crucial to create appropriate and stimulating content for an audience.  this one from LG for example, which Oldham sent me this morning.

but platform is and will increasingly become the most important element.  I was never going to see this ad on TV…  I'm a light viewer at best, and now pretty much see every ad on YouTube or Facebook as and when they're recommended by friends.  the fact is that if you're aim is to gain audience share of attention you have to be platform-centric…  deploying content on those, rather than on the content's, terms.

the second learning is the old chestnut of doing not saying.  news organisations are increasingly defined not by what they say (see the Sydney Morning Herald effort above) but by what they do.  actions increasingly resonate louder then words, as any flick thru Contagious demonstrates.  this doesn't negate the need for the broadcast model – it just makes you re-evaluate its role on a schedule.

but the final lesson – and perhaps the most important – is around audience migrations.  you have an online space (Facebook page, YouTube Channel, Microsite (really?), website, etc) around which you want to aggregate an audience.  so you produce content an use search to direct them where you want to go right?  well yes, but…

…our editor was explaining that Facebook is increasingly more important than search in audience-flow to their site.  and that this traffic is dwarfed by the volume that comes direct from email links and browser bookmarks.

the lesson?  the most valuable way to aggregate an audience is to give it reason to stay connected.  book-marking, liking, registering for more, linking are all more important – in volume terms – than clicking thru search.  efforts to build long-term audiences that you encourage to keep coming back for more become significantly more valuable than one-off 'come see this' efforts.  one more nail in the coffin then for the idea of 'the campaign'.

big thanks to Rob for organising the session, brilliant stuff…

charging, internet, IPA|ED:final - existing customers, printing

Free No More: Why The Times’ efforts to Value and add Value to their Existing Customers could herald a better future for us all


it was whilst catching up on recent media events that I ended up lying in the Sydney summer sun listening – courtesy of MediaGuardian's Podcast – to London Times Editor James Harding on how he and the newspaper intend to un-write the economics of free on the internet.  in short, the title intends to start charging for the valuable content they create but have hereto been giving away for free online.  some snippets, as reported in the Guardian:

"We created a culture of free, and we absolutely were party to that … In the last few years, we have talked with great pride – we believed advertising would sustain us – about unique users … These people were window shopping down Oxford Street – they were not coming into our shops …

"From spring of next year we will start charging for the digital edition of the Times. We're working on the exact pricing model, but we'd charge for a day's paper, for a 24-hour sign-up to the Times. We'll also establish a subscription price as well … You have to be very careful with article-only economics … you will find yourself writing a lot more about Britney Spears and a lot less about Tamils in northern Sri Lanka."

"We keep investing in journalism, we believe that's what our readers want. We're not dumbing down, we're dumbing up … We are going to rewrite the economics of the newspaper, newsgathering and delivery business … We have to do that, we are in the fight of our lives."

what's of particular interest is the call to move away from micro-charging – the economics that sustain Amazon, iTunes and the like, and instead focus on the smaller customer base but higher-per-customer return of a subscription model…  of particular interest to Mediation is Harding's comments re home delivery services and the Times+ membership and reward scheme, about which he nodded towards loyalty…

"Historically, newspapers have treated their best customers worst and their worst customers best … We give the paper away to people who could not care less and we pay little or no attention to people who love it and read it every day."

I've written quite a lot about loyalty on these pages including a essay on the subject and won't reiterate now, but in short, I believe we've come to accept as fact the supposition that the primary role for marketing communications is growth through customer acquisition.  and that in doing so we ignore both the existence of current customers and the pivotal role they play in the growth of brands…

I believe that focusing on customer retention is an acquisition strategy.  I believe that it is those brands that choose to invest in marketing communications that talk with their existing customers, that are building the most robust marketing structures for the future.

there is much to criticise about hardings plans; people simply will not pay, that the charging structures won't allow let alone facilitate browsing, that the content arguably is overvalued … but there's the possibility that in the near future we'll talk about The Times as a case study in reinventing markets around customers not consumers.  there's the possibility that The Times' efforts become a landmark in enabling us to divest ourselves of the ill-suited model of ad funding for online-distributed content and invest instead in brand-funded collateral: on things that make the world a better, more interesting, more exciting, more educational or more spontaneous place.

its strange to thing that Rupert Murdoch, of all people, could help take us to that place.  but much stranger things have happened.

advertising, branding, broadcasting, converging, printing

Things we never thought we’d see # 15: Why Google’s use of press proves that media probably never was and certainly won’t ever be simple ever again

great brands don't need to advertise.  right?  great brands generate their own publicity.  great brands grow through word of mouth.  great brands invest in innovation which gets itself talked about.  great brands activate their networks, excite their advocates and set the Twittersphere ablaze.

great brands pity lesser brands that need to resort to broadcast advertising to get their products and services in front of the masses because they haven't mastered the new media economy.  great brands don't advertise, right?  …wrong:


Emily FK kindly sent me the attached today (yesterday…) from London…  Google.  advertising.  with a cover wrap.  on the Metro.  things we really, really, never thought we'd see.

on viewing it I recalled an ancient Chinese curse that goes along the lines of "may you live in interesting times".  they didn't value change did the ancient Chinese.  boy are we collectively cursed – interesting times indeed.  one of two things is happening here, you can take your pick…

option one: the Google (money) train is faltering.  their core business of search continues, of course, to be a juggernaut that is in very good health.  but could the non-core products and services that are fueled by the juggernaut be feeling a little more heat?

its the only realistic explanation…  despite coming from the fine-tuned stable of Goggle new media marketing, Chrome has failed to get traction in the marketplace.  the very handy market share reports that Chrome's current share is hovering at 3%, compared to Firefox's 23% plus and the collective Explorers' best part of 60%…


three percent.  that's a figure that Google executives haven't seen for a while and no doubt has them spooked.  they need more than 3% and they're going to throw money at getting it, because the information about what we browse, what we do and who we are is invaluable; and in Google's hands its game-changing.

the reasons as to why traction hasn't been hit could be numerous and are almost certainly a combination of apathy, familiarity with existing browser, anti-Googleness ("they've got enough information already" kind of thing), and perhaps even awareness.  one would hope that the latter has some part to play, for I fear for the ability of a press cover wrap to make a major dent in any of the other potential barriers.

there is of course option two…  that in the evolution of media and communication, there's a need for both sides of the equation.  or indeed every side of the cube if you get what I mean.  that its not enough for a brand to be a 'broadcast' brand or a 'networked' brand.  all this could mean that there's a time and a place for one to many, as well as a time and a place for many to many.

option two could mean that there's there's no such thing as old and new media.  there is only media.  media thats owned and rented out at a negotiated CPT by big business.  media that's made by individuals with a passion and an opinion or two.  media created by brands that they can subsequently own and leverage to tell the world why they exist.  media that we respect, share, love to hate, assume credibility, trash, believe, pass on, or – indeed – read on our way to work before logging on and checking out a new browser.

Google advertising on Metro.  proof, like we needed it, that media probably never was and certainly won't ever be simple ever again.

commenting, innovating, pioneering, praising, printing, publishing

Covering a story like never before: what 56 newspapers in 45 countries can teach brands about the art of collaboration and cooperation

so the long and winding road of global climate change discussion and debate has brought us to 7th December 2009, and the Copenhagen Climate Summit.  the world's eyes and ears will converge on the gathering as political leaders meet to debate and, with luck, agree the principles of the collective action required to save us from ourselves.  an army of bloggers, Twitterers and reporters will all be there to capture – for us and for future generations – how it all went down.

the unprecedented media coverage that is no doubt to come is preceded today by a global media first orchestrated by the Guardian in London.  56 major newspapers in 45 countries have today published an identical editorial piece.  appearing in twenty different languages, the piece takes a single united message – the demanding of action – to a global audience.  Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger noted that "Newspapers have never done anything like this before – but they have never had to cover a story like this before"


collaboration on this scale is unprecedented, and difficult.  as the Guardian puts it; "Given that newspapers are inherently rivalrous, proud and disputatious, viewing the world through very different national and political prisms, the prospect of getting a sizeable cross-section of them to sign up to a single text on such a momentous and divisive issue seemed like a long shot"  …but the long shot paid off and – with the very notable exceptions of the US and Australia aside – a united editorial piece is reaching a global audience, and its a good and powerful thing to see.

its a testament to what can be achieved when editors and publishers want to cooperate, made all the more potent at a time when much is being said about the waning power of the fourth estate.  and it begs a big question for brands…  where's the co-operation?  campaign after campaign has been rolled out to the world demonstrating commitment to reduce this or eliminate that – all inherently communicating on brands' terms rather than on the terms of the agenda against which they are developing comms…

the climate change agenda is bigger than any single brand, and some hard-fought co-opertaion could be just the thing to bring some increasingly needed credibility and scale to their – well intentioned – efforts.  and if the "rivalous, proud and disputatious" printing presses of the world can do it, then perhaps a group of enlightened, forward-thinking and pioneering brands can too.  its something I'd like very much to see.