From Telmar Chairman & CEO: How to Reap the Rewards of Print’s Demise

iMedia Connection Article Highlights:

  • It’s impossible for humans to track every client demand and cancellation over time, creating a need for another solution
  • In combination with other online metrics, revenue management systems help agencies and publishers maximize value and take advantage of demand
  • Revenue management solutions give agencies and publishers real-time data to help extend or pull campaigns
Stanley Federman, Telmar Chairman and CEO

When asked about how his ad agency relationship, an online publisher might respond, “Agency? What agency?”

That’s an extreme example, but one that may make many publishers nod in agreement. Over the past few months, the digital content shift has changed the relationship between advertising agencies and online publishers. In the United States, online ad spending has just surpassed print. This means that publishers’ sales houses and agencies must develop a new kind of relationship if they are to have one at all.

For example, last year a major online publisher in France sold one of its banner ads by posting it on eBay. The publisher reported very positive results.

How can agencies play a role in this new game?
The changing digital space is nothing to smile about for many publishers or agencies, nor is the proliferation of free content. Agencies can support online publishers by finding new ways to quantify the value of ad space, integrate content with brands, and charge again for formerly free online content.

Revenue management (RM), including the concepts and software solutions, offers just that. RM originates in the travel industry. Anyone who has ever purchased a last-minute ticket to Paris in August or Denver over Christmas has felt the sting of this reality. The value of a seat changes depending on the time of travel, destination, and the number of days until takeoff.  Airlines greatly increase their rates as a result of their RM, otherwise known as yield solutions.

How does this relate to media?
Seats are perishable, just as are spots, ads, or banners. Therefore, in the media business, RM solutions help businesses free up ad space and increase revenue for any media. Moreover, RM solutions can help publishers and advertising agencies negotiate more effectively, adding more value to both parties.

No human mind could possibly track all the demands and cancellations of every client over time. Even if you think you can, you often provide inflated discounts to certain clients while wrongly punishing others. RM systems record behavior, make projections, and offer pricing models based on constantly updated information. The result is that loyal clients will be rewarded and receive discounts based on actual versus perceived value.

For example, let’s say Client A buys 10 percent of the available ad space early in a TV season, but always cancels 3 percent at the last minute. Let’s say Client B will pay more and rarely cancels. Our solutions will warn the sales house not to accept the first offer of Client A in order to retain some of the ad space for B.

How can this apply to new technology?
The iPad, soon to be accompanied by various other fancy handheld ways of consuming the work of publishers, will force publishers to adapt quickly. The Economist has been successfully making the transformation; it remains a subscription-only publication and has the most subscribers of any online publication via the iPad. In fact, the magazine is willing to go 100 percent digital if that’s what the world demands. At a media conference in 2009, The Economist announced its uncertainty about maintaining a print addition in five years. This means that all revenue will have to come from subscriptions and digital advertising. RM can help the magazine through digital channels as successfully as it can via print.

Apple’s iPad and other devices may even provide better tracking information, making the system’s recommendations that much more powerful. Advertisers will always want to be where there are eyeballs and credit cards, and these are both still everywhere. Loyal, affluent readers remain glued to The Economist. RM solutions can help online publishers quantify the value of their advertising across all media from banner ads to pay-per-click ads. Their ad space still has value and adding other metrics allows us to simply deepen the solution. All the demands for ad space are fed directly into the system, updating constantly and reallocating the ads to ensure that reach goals are met. In this sense, online media becomes more like television.

With more immediate feedback on readership — similar to overnight ratings — publishers and advertisers will be able to know if a given campaign reached the numbers assumed and if they reached their target number of clicks. They can manage the campaign live, extending it to reach optimum numbers or retracting if the ad flops. Advertisers and publishers can adjust in real time and agencies can help them do this with RM tools.

For agencies today, the majority of print planning relies on surveys conducted often no more than two times per year. TV advertisers and agencies, on the other hand, have benefitted from overnight ratings for many years. As a result, they can adjust campaigns throughout the season. Agencies and advertisers can now work similarly with online publishers. The information of demands and readership, along with other metrics available (such as click-throughs), can be reported, offering a better measurement of campaign success.

How many solutions are in the marketplace?
Currently, revenue management solutions are available from Telmar Worldwide and Mereo in France. There are also similar services available from RSG Media Systems, Rapt, Yield Solutions, and Fivia. While all good companies, these solutions cover only some media and therefore provide a less comprehensive solution for all media sales houses.

Overall, the RM solutions available on the marketplace have bridged the gap between advertising agencies and online publishers’ sales houses. Now, media owners can benefit from knowing the true value of their media. Meanwhile, agencies and advertisers can now be rewarded for their loyalty and receive pricing proposals more in-line with the true value of the opportunity.

As the Indigo Girls often belted out, “Everything is different, but nothing has changed.”

Stanley Federman is chairman and CEO of Telmar.