Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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The Tend to Zero Risk

One of the reasons so many media companies are in trouble is the simultaneous crisis in all revenue streams.  It seems to many, that whatever strategy is deployed, the size of the potential revenue pot keeps falling. 

Back in the sixities, almost all business to business titles were paid for.  News about your industry was valuable and that value could be measured with money.  Today nobody charges for news.  In print, yields have been under pressure for some years.  Online display advertising with it’s transparent measurability has given advertisers a legitimate stick with which to beat media owners.   Where there has been success in selling online display the achieved CPM has been falling.  Too much traffic, too little of it useful or enaged, consequent poor click through rates mean that much inventory remains unsold – a growing proportion for many – and what does get sold is at rates that are falling.  Where once the choice advertisers had was limited by the number of titles in a market, today they are confused by so much choice.

We lost our way with recruitment.  Where we used to charge thousands of pounds for a page of advertising, the job board model now offers an ad £100.  In the recession prices here too are falling.

However we solve the current strategic conundrum, it seems pretty clear that unless we can push back the tide of prices tending to zero we don’t have a business.    The truth is, whilst there are things we can do to make a difference the price of a transaction in the new world is unlikely to reach the heady heights of the old world.  There are  four steps that all media companies must take:

1) Set the fixed cost base at a  level which is supportable by the new model.  This means attacking some sacred cows and stripping away layers of management costs.

2) Improve the value of your advertising proposition.  Seth Godin says,

“As long as your site is about something else and the ads are a distraction, you’ll see CPM rates drop. As soon as you (or the advertisers) figure out that creating online communities aligned with the advertising, where attendance is a choice by the consumer, then you’re creating genuine value.” 

In B2B that means making ads relevant and targeted.  Don’t give up on vertical search solutions.  Keep experimenting – there are riches ahead for the media company that gets it right.

3) Audit every activity that leaves the building and assess it for value.  Use that value audit to establish the prices that could be achieved.

4) Give up on the idea that you are going to survive by doing the stuff you used to do.  News products supported by advertising are going to be very small businesses.  Plan and implement a series of new product developments that will help you scale your business.  Buy some expertise to help you do it.

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July 20, 2009 - Posted by | Advertising Sales, b2b media, business media strategy, Search | , , ,

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