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Scattered thoughts on advertising, Pulitzers and Facebook video

Dennis Hetzel Executive Director

By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

My mind is scattered. You get three mini-columns for the price of one today.

Some reflections on America East, ad revenue and FANG

I just returned from the America East conference in Hershey, Pa. The good news: Tools, skills, ideas and energy to produce great journalism are on the upswing – even with diminished resources. The journalists are figuring things out.

The bad news: The conference was a stark reminder that there are no magic bullets to the revenue challenges that all traditional media outlets face. Each organization must figure out the right recipe of, perhaps, dozens of small-to-medium things that will increase or regain profitability.  In many respects, we are mirrors reflecting the forces our major advertisers face, demonstrated most recently by the woes of H.H. Gregg, Macy’s, Penney’s, Sears and others.

This reminded me of a blunt encounter I recently had with one of Ohio’s best-connected and most-influential political consultants. I expressed the tremendous frustration we felt at AdOhio and at our member newspapers over the lack of revenue from political candidates and advocacy groups during the 2016 election cycle. As many of you know, you’re lucky to get an email acknowledgment, let alone a phone conversation or a meeting opportunity, from the political advertising world. I am paraphrasing (but not by much) when I say his comments went something like this:

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but there is nothing you are going to tell me or show me that I don’t already know.  There is no program you can offer that will reach any group I’m targeting more effectively and less expensively than I can do elsewhere. The sophistication of our ability to mine data and target our key groups is light years ahead of you.”

Well, obviously we disagree, but that doesn’t matter. Perception matters. Overcoming this common view in the political world will require extraordinary, unified effort.

Everyone also needs to learn a new acronym: FANG. Instead of competing with four broadcast networks, the real completion for big marketing dollars is from the FANG group: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google/YouTube.

This quote by columnist Shelly Palmer in Advertising Age in a provocative column headlined “TV May Actually Die Soon” reinforces what the Ohio political consultant told me.  It’s equally applicable to our industry, and we have a number of member organizations working hard in this area:

“Brands have never wanted to buy CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) or GRPs (gross rating points); they want to sell stuff. The data-rich FANG and other tech giants are offering data that can be turned directly into sales … For networks: It's just a matter of time before media without actionable data will be impossible to monetize. Can traditional TV catch up? Adapt or die!”


Pulitzers remind us that great journalism isn’t just for big papers

Where you as uplifted as I was about this year’s Pulitzer Prizes? It was particularly cool that several Pulitzers went to smaller-market papers such as Charleston, West Virginia, and most notably, the courageous editorial writing of a paper in Storm Lake, Iowa, that took on powerful corporate interests, advocacy groups and even some of its own readers by investigative reporting and editorializing about agricultural pollution of its waterways.

Enjoy this piece from Poynter about Storm Lake’s Pulitzer. Be reminded that tremendous journalism is possible anywhere.

Ohio newspapers of all sizes have done outstanding work, too.  If you’ve never seen it, check out the video and website that we created in 2016 that salutes the Pulitzer winners of Buckeye State media outlets. We did this as our part to recognize the 100th anniversary of the prizes.


The best Facebook tip you’ll have this week

I learned this at America East. Some of you probably know this already.  Everyone knows video is exploding on social media. There’s an excellent reason that so many Facebook videos have captioning. This is because a large percentage of FB users scroll silently with the sound off.  Research shows that time spent on the videos goes up substantially when you use captions.

I can verify that this is true. As someone who frequently sits in legislative hearings and meetings in which phones and tablets must be silent, I can simply look around the room and see how many people are watching videos – with no sound. I’ve done it myself.  Busted.

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