Rosenberg on Why Print Publishers Should Pivot Back to Print

Print publishers are missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity by selling their online impressions through digital-only ad buyers, says Ari Rosenberg in MediaPost.

He explains his idea through some rather hard to follow math, but the bottom line is unmistakable:  Online ad buyers don’t understand the value of the individual print publisher.

“Online buyers are telling premium print publishers ‘we’re just not that into you,’” explains Rosenberg.

By bypassing online print buyers in favor of print buyers, and offering a “value added” online component to secure the digital component, Rosenberg feels print publishers could do much better.

“Selling online ads to online buyers wasn’t a misstep for premium print brands, but a necessary step.  Now there is clear and established monetary value for online ad impressions on magazine Web sites, and print publishers can use this value to drive more print revenue,” Rosenberg notes.

Rosenberg suggests a value added proposition might look this this: “Buy 24 pages and get two weeks of site exclusivity as added value.  Buy 12 pages and you earn one week.”

As Rosenberg explains, “Success for this approach would then live in the hands of sales management, who would have to be firm on the increase in print spending required to earn this online added value.

“The question then becomes, does the print buyer get the incremental dollars from the print budget, or does he or she wrestle it away from the online one?  My question is, why does that matter?”

In other words, let the customer work out those details; they will recognize the value and figure out a way to make it happen.

And to the critics who worry about giving away online impressions “for free” — thinking they’ll never be able to charge for them again — Rosenberg says that’s a misplaced fear. He also dismisses the concern that print buyers can only buy print

“Neither of these fears is in play,” says Rosenberg.

“First, you are not giving away online for free, you are using its value to unlock more print dollars, so it’s just creative accounting.  Second, print buyers can only ‘buy’ print because that’s how the budget the client handed them is defined.  But in this case, online packages are ‘added value’ just like ‘production and creative costs’ are often embedded as added value to drive print spending, because print buyers don’t have access to a creative budget, either.”

Digital ad buyers have been doing their clients a disservice by dismissing print out of hand, and it’s time for print ad buyers to close that gap with this creative approach. The “digital only” mindset just won’t sell when the numbers come in, and the value of print advertising continues to prove its worth all the time.

It’s a bit of revolutionary idea, not unusual from Mr. Rosenberg, and one we fully support.