Advertising’s Existential Moment

folio_logo“Even with the decline in print, magazine media—that is, brands with multiple channels—are holding their own or even growing advertising despite the tough climate. They are getting out in front of each new digital challenge. And by doing so, they have turned what might have been an ‘ad-pocalypse’ into a new sales opportunity for ad-driven brands.”

This comment by Kevin McKean in Folio: summarizes the findings of the company’s deep dive into the state of advertising and magazine media today, culled from thoughtful interviews with 18 heavy hitters in the industry.

The findings come at a critical time for an industry buffeted by a huge variety of challenges, McKean notes, including the loss of print ad dollars to digital; the devaluation of digital ads; viewability and fraud issues; the rise of ad blocking; and pitfalls in automating native ads and sponsored content.

“The ground shifts under our feet every few months, but we’ll be up more than 20 percent in overall ad revenue this year,” said Bob Cohn, co-president and COO at The Atlantic. SVP/Group Publisher Chris Lambiase of Rodale echoed similar thoughts: “It’s a challenging market,” but notes that “Rodale is seeing gains in both print and digital this year, so we’ve been able to defy gravity.”

It’s traditionally been a struggle for magazine brands to embrace new technology, yet in this case this may actually have worked in their favor. They’ve been able to leverage lessons learned in digital advertising and apply them to their print products, like tracking ROI by adding digital tools to print. And they are getting smarter about using social media channels to connect directly with their readers in real time, building audience and brand strength in between print issues.

In the midst of all the change, the strength of magazine media advertising remains strong for publishers, notes McKean. “Last year, advertisers in [Meredith’s Sales Guarantee] two-year-old program reaped an average $7.45 sales lift for every $1 spent with Meredith magazines and $7.35 with Meredith Digital, the company says, compared to an ROI of only $2-3 for a typical digital portal or ad network campaign,” he writes.

What the industry has going for it is what made it successful in the first place – good content that people want to read. McKean notes that, regardless of their other revenue strategies, two things are common threads to each brand.

“The first is that you must start with superior content,” McKean writes. “The second is that to survive in this fast-changing world, you must embrace new technologies—not fight them—and fast.”