(Speaking of meetings, stay tuned for our own announcement for an early March meeting of the Cleveland ASBPE chapter—we're going to do a digital coaching session on Google Tools, RSS and podcasting.)
After introducing the panelists (Mark Geyman of OhioBiz, Matt Dickman of Fleishman-Hillard who also produces the Techno//Marketer blog, and Shawn Riegsecker of digital media firm Centro), WebAssociation president Jon Eggleton of American Greeting’s Interactive division led off with a recap of a survey that the association conducted over the past few months, predicting “modest” growth for 2008’s online spend. In an economy teetering on the brink of (if not already knee-deep in) a recession, any growth is good growth. My colleague Michael (web marketing manager) said he had answered “modest” growth even though IW’s online growth has consistently fallen into the “significant” category in past years. I guess he’s either a modest fellow by nature, or he doesn’t want to jinx himself.
Mark Geyman from OhioBiz spoke next on the state of local search in the B2B and B2C worlds. According to the figures Mark cited, 30% of all searches contain a city name or a zip code; a key metric that magazines with a regional focus or readership should definitely factor into their own online marketing efforts (via metadata, Google AdWords buys etc.)
Mark also sees mapping usage rates on the rise, and counseled business owners to doublecheck their mapping locations and check their basic biz data against the major search engines and big database companies (InfoUSA was one he mentioned prominently).
I thought it was interesting that OhioBiz is looking to offer embedded blog applications as a value-add for Ohio-based businesses that don’t have a Web presence of their own. Great idea, as it combines the ability to post/edit/re-post information quickly with the ease of a “plug and play” consumer platform. (Maybe I should offer him my services as a “widget ninja”…)
Next up was Matt Dickman, who has a day job at Fleishman Hillard but is probably better known as a blogger (he’s got a pretty well-trafficked and informative blog called Techno/Marketing). Interesting side point to be made here—the multiple roles that we inhabit in this fractured media landscape can make it hard to self-identify (I’ve got four blogs myself) much less describe ourselves to others.
Anyway, Matt was speaking today mostly on behalf of his work as a blogger, doing his Evangelism 2.0 thing (with some impressive powerpointing skills, I might add).
He spent most of his time talking about the marketing and communications potential of new social media tools, and along the way he gave some pretty powerful examples of how things like “micromedia” are filtering into the public consciousness. For instance, he described how users of the microblogging service Twitter were able to scoop both the national and local press by almost an hour immediately following the Minneapolis bridge collapse. He described learning about it via Twitter, and going again and again to CNN.com looking for the story to no avail. Finally, after an hour, it appeared on the local Minneapolis news.
Listening to Matt today, I was reminded of a conversation I’ve had with a couple of other B2B editors, where we’ve come to realize that most trade press Web sites serves two main purposes:
1) To give the audience the up-to-date and relevant news they need to do their jobs in an effective manner; and
2) To offer our opinions and insights to our audience on that news, and place it in context, so that they can relate to it and know what to think of it (or, maybe just as often, and definitely just as importantly, what not to think).
It corresponds well with Matt's presentation as the first point is all about timeliness (and here Twitter- or Seesmic-enabled business journalists might be one method of staying ahead of the pack) and the second is all about “voice” (and what is a blog if not a plug-and-play column?)
The panel discussion concluded with a presentation by Centro's Shawn Riegsecker. Shawn began by making the unequivocal point that the digital age is here to stay, both for marketers and the publishers that rent them space. "This is 2008," he said. "The test is over."
According to Shawn, we've seen an incredible growth in the amount of available media (3-10 times was the figure he quoted) without a corresponding growth in marketing budgets (something that we’ve also seen, especially in the trade press).
He also noted that magazine circulations peaked in 2000, and are now back to 1994 levels. That was the bad news.
The good news, or at least what I took from his talk, is that even the most traditional marketers are starting to catch on to the idea behind the "integrated media" phenomenon. Along these lines (and especially relevant to B2B mags struggling with delivering returns via traditional metrics) is that the current emphasis on clickthroughs may be less than relevant/effective, and for some companies that model is broken altogether. What marketers want now is to surround their consumer with 360 degrees of media, and seeing as we're the media that most of these people are allowed to openly read while at work, we have a definite part to play.
Although you might not care that much, I'll bet your ad sales team will probably be happy to hear that an expert says that online marketing, and marketing in general, are moving towards a more holistic view of the ROI of on- and offline integrated marketing campaigns. “If you’re only doing banners and buttons and only tracking clicks, you’re missing a huge opportunity,” Riegsecker says.
He cites a major telecom provider as an example of an advertiser who thought they had “horrible” ROI from ad clicks alone, but noticed that once they pulled their online campaigns that their Google searches/clicks decreased 30-40%.
To accompany this trend, Riegsecker forecasted a rise in analytics companies that are going to be helping advertising agencies and marketing departments judge the “total impact” of integrated campaigns. Will some of those be in B2B? Probably, but probably (as usual) a little behind the adoption curve. Which isn't that bad of a place to be, if you believe like "The World Is Flat" author Tom Friedman does that "the second buyer always wins."
Following the panel, there was also a really great, if kind of short, Q&A with the panelists. In response to a question about popup ads, Riegsecker stated unequivocally that his company will not work in what he calls “interruptive” advertising/marketing models (i.e., popups, floating ads, interstitial ads etc.) for his clients. “They’re bad for the brand, bad for the consumer and bad for the publisher,” he observed. I agree completely, and was reminded of the flap a few months back when Paul Conley called out Ziff-Davis (among others) for inserting ads in editorial content. Although ZD ceased and desisted, the fact that they are like poison for all concerned certainly isn't stopping other publishers (who I won't link to here) from offering them, or any of the other interruptive ad models, for that matter. It does, however, serve to reinforce the fact that the smarter marketers know that interruptive advertising should be resisted by all parties at all times at all costs.
Finally, and speaking of “interruptive advertising,” Matt Dickman told us a story about how he was on the street in NYC recently and someone in one of the stores had set up a server that was broadcasting—or “bluecasting”, as it's known—an intrusive advertising campaign to every Bluetooth-enabled cellphone in the area.
Although I completely agreed with him that this is uncalled for (as soon as I heard this I disabled the Bluetooth on my Curve) and probably mostly counterproductive, I also found it kind of ironic that Matt was shocked at this violation of his personal mobile phone space only minutes after telling us that his 400-some friends on Twitter are constantly keeping his phone abuzz with “tweets” (Twitter’s name for the text message blog posts). I guess Seth Godin is right--these days, the savvy marketers know that it's all about permission.
My hope is that smart marketers like these three keep spreading the gospel of non-intrusiveness, as our audiences, not to mention our businesses, will benefit as a result.