Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Desperate Times, Not Desperate Measures

A colleague shared an email she received from the publisher of an industry magazine and website which included the following paragraph:

“It would be great to book some new advertising sales in May. Some solid support from [our industry’s] billionaires that hang with [our] community would do wonders for us and [our] industry in general - old and new. The press releases while often solid editorial - don't actually pay the bills - food for thought for those in the marketing and PR department. However, we will happily take money off just about anyone and if you are feeling generous you are most welcome to send a paypal/credit card contribution to….”

This appeal for advertising dollars is both desperate and pathetic. Advertising is purchased for one reason: a company sees value in reaching the audience of the publication or website because they believe it will translate into sales of their products or services to that readership group. Stating that they “will happily take money off just about anyone” is not a viable strategy to build credibility and develop long-term relationships with advertisers. Selling advertising during the current economic conditions is difficult enough but one should never have to publicly beg for money and expect that approach to actually generate the needed funds.

This email may be an extreme example of the desperation being felt by some publishers and advertising sales directors, but it also probably reflects the frustrations and concerns of many throughout our industry. The cyclical nature of economic downturns is, to some degree, predictable in that those of us who have witnessed them before know they will end and market conditions will improve. But, we must appear to remain strong in the eyes of our advertisers and our readers so that when the money returns, it will come to us.

Admitting to fear and failure, as the sender of this email clearly is doing, will become a self fulfilling prophecy. Advertisers will rightly question the financial strength of the publisher and his ability to survive and make the necessary investments in content and technology that will be needed to survive. Advertisers don’t want to put their hard-earned good money after bad and those same advertisers don’t ever want to be viewed as the deep pockets that a cash-starved publisher can go to in order to survive. In good times or bad, the strongest publishers are those that will continue to deliver value to their markets and never have to send out such a blatant plea for a bailout. After all, we are, thankfully, not in the automobile manufacturing business.

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