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Published: September 18, 2007 at 03:28 PM GMT
Last Updated: September 18, 2007 at 03:28 PM GMT
Frank asks marketers to consider the way the magazine experience has remained relevant, even in an increasingly digital landscape, because it brings consumers the best of both worlds: The relaxation, inspiration, and trust long associated with magazines, combined with the digital promise of personalized content, passionate communities, and consumer control.
"When you combine those strengths, rather than competing with new digital options, magazines are an antidote to our over-scheduled lives, a time to unplug, disconnect, and relax. A 'time for me'," Frank suggested in an exclusive conversation with Jack Myers Media Business Report.
Our discussion was prompted by Frank's response to the recent network and cable television Upfront marketplace. "It feels like the relationship between magazine brands and consumers is in good shape, but our challenge is how we communicate with advertisers," Frank commented. "Similarly, the relationship between television and consumers is also in good shape, although viewership is shifting. Earlier this year, all the forecasters were predicting not exactly a great year, yet when it came time for the networks to demonstrate value to advertisers, it was an amazing Upfront, and Scatter is strong right out of the gate. The issue for magazines is how do we learn from that? How do we take our great consumer relationship and appropriately demonstrate and communicate it to advertisers? Individually, magazines are doing this, but we need to address the misperceptions in a more macro way."
Frank spent most of her career in television, first in the agency business at Dancer, Fitzgerald, Sample, which evolved into Saatchi & Saatchi and Zenith Media, and then nine years as chief researcher and strategist at MTV Networks. She was an early advocate of cable television and was recognized as a new media specialist before the term was popularized. "Advertisers want to be associated with what's new, but they also want to be associated with what consumers are still finding valuable and relevant, whether it’s new or not. We can all sell our multi-platform offerings, but the real story needs to be about a medium that isn't appreciated by advertisers the same way it is by consumers."
Frank is struggling to identify how the magazine industry can best update advertisers' perceptions. "What does the industry need?" she asks. "Is it a new metric? Is it the way the medium is packaged with its digital brand extensions? Is it the ability to generate a notion of scarcity, urgency, and excitement about our content? Or," she wonders, "is it better demonstrating the ability of magazine advertising to engage and communicate with consumers, especially in information intensive categories?”
Frank is confident magazines would fare well in cross-media comparative research on consumer value but points out audience measurement systems across different media remain 'siloed' because each medium needs to provide bullet-proof currency, and agencies often prefer to keep media separate for negotiating purposes. "Although it varies across the industry, many agencies are not yet looking holistically across multiple media," she acknowledges, asking if the industry would be better served by an audience measurement tool that "gives marketers and agencies the opportunity to see -- from a consumer-centric perspective -- how consumers are integrating all the media - old and new - into their lives, plus an added component of how they are engaging with the advertising in these media? As long as research remains siloed, it becomes easy to not see the forest for the trees."
Frank continues, "What is needed, whether it comes from research or elsewhere is something that reminds advertisers and media that consumers are using a lot of different media forms, and one doesn't become irrelevant because a new one comes along. Magazine brands are aggressively creating digital opportunities, and while we know those are valued by advertisers, we want to be a multi-platform branded content company, and magazines are still an important touchpoint between consumers and brands."
Early on, many magazine and television companies failed to recognize the Internet as an opportunity for incremental advertising budgets, instead using it as a promotional vehicle. Today, Frank says, magazine publishers are "investing to make sure our brands live on the web, mobile and VOD, responding to the fact that the media experience is different on each platform and audiences may be different, too. We are still working to deepen the consumer connection, and demonstrate this connection to advertisers.”
Time Inc., for the past 12 years, has been providing the industry with an understanding of the automotive "purchase funnel" and “purchase influence matrix.” The results, she comments, emphatically point to consumers using TV, magazines, manufacturer websites, auto sites, and local newspapers for different purposes at different times. "They haven't stopped using their traditional media. That's the message we need to get across. Consumers are smart about how they make decisions; they understand the benefits of each, and they don’t stop using one simply because a new one comes along."
Frank recalls the early 1980’s, when the debate was about broadcast vs. cable. "But we learned that that wasn’t how people watched TV," she advises. "It wasn’t ‘either/or’; it was both. They go for relevance, occasion, and the experience they want. No one size fits all in a cookie cutter approach. There are no media loyalists; everyone is a multi-media pluralist."
Betsy Frank Comments on Her Transition from TV to Print Media
Commenting on her shift from television to print, Frank says "I thought the learning curve would be steeper than it has been. There are more similarities than differences between TV-centric companies and magazine publishing-centric companies. Both are becoming more multi platform and aggressively focusing to be sure their brands are relevant across platforms. Organizationally, both MTVN and Time Inc. have been enormously successful in creating great brands. Now, both want to make sure their brands stay successful and anticipate changing consumer media behavior. There have actually been more surprises in the similarities than the differences."
Frank's focus in her year and a half at Time Inc. has been to reorganize the Research teams to focus holistically on the consumer and the brands, sharing best practices, and generating new insights on how consumers use media.
She adds, "it's an interesting challenge coming into one of most traditional of media that is transforming, and working to stay relevant to both consumers and advertisers. All the research suggests that consumers are still more emotionally engaged with magazines than any other medium, yet perceptions are that our time has passed and the focus is about what's on the horizon. As we continue to develop our digital resources, we are simultaneously focusing on how we best remind advertisers that magazines remain an important point of contact. Are there lessons," she asks, "for the magazine industry to take to heart from the television Upfront? How can we create the same sense of demand?
Since the mid-1990’s, when predictions were that the Internet would kill television, we’ve learned that it isn’t a zero-sum game. I hope that I can help change the way advertisers perceive the value of magazines in a multi-platform landscape."
Betsy Frank can be contacted at email@example.com.
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