We hear it all the time: Companies who treat their websites as “brochure” sites and then wonder why they don’t have more visitors. According to this content marketing post from Talk Back Media, “your site should be like a salesperson working around the clock to boost your business”—and a brochure site will simply not cut it. The goal is to create content on an ongoing basis that continues to tell the story of your product or service. It doesn’t matter what form the content takes—it can be through blogs, white papers, case studies or people pages—it just has to be vibrant, relevant and regularly updated. This discipline not only makes your site more attractive to search engines, but also to site visitors. They’ll have an incentive to come back to the site more often if they know the content will be different every time and of interest to them because you have set yourself up as an expert and a trusted source.

As soon as media planners returned from the long Labor Day weekend last month, media planning began in full force for 2010. Hammock Inc. provides advertising sales management services for some of our clients and part of that work includes the creation of media kits. That’s why we started working on 2010 media kits back in the spring.
We’ve noticed that the economy has impacted some of the buying behavior of advertisers who run in the magazines we publish for our clients. One way the impact is most visible is that rather than committing to a full year of insertions, for example, some advertisers are buying on a month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter basis. While advertisers might not buy a full year of media by the end of 2009 for 2010, we still include all editorial information for the year in the 2010 magazine kit.

I was asking a friend who sells advertising about her business.
“It’s hard to swim, or even to see, with this much blood in the water,” she said.
True enough. Magazine advertising was off in 2007 and 2008. Those were historically bad years. Magazine advertising got off to an even slower start in 2009. Quarter one numbers from the Publishers Information Bureau show magazine pages off 26 percent year to year from 08 to 09.

Hammock partner Susan Weiss of the national advertising sales firm the James G. Elliott Company shares some perspective on the value of advertising in today’s environment in the latest issue of their company newsletter Ads & Ideas:
It’s a question that marketers struggle with during periods of economic unrest: cut costs by reducing or eliminating the advertising budget, or else maintain or increase the brand’s advertising exposure?
Today’s b-to-b marketing decision makers have learned the lessons taught during past economic upheavals. Meeting a recessionary climate with aggressive advertising is, historically, a way to grow business during a recession and maintain continued growth after the recessionary period ends. A study conducted by BtoB magazine earlier this year finds that most business-to-business marketers are determined to hold or increase their marketing budgets during 2008.

If you are like most marketers and are looking for ways to stretch your advertising dollars in 2009, a new report by Marketing Evolution has the answer for you—magazines. According the report, magazines beat out TV and online media in terms of effectiveness when it comes to influencing audience behavior.

The study focused on an ROI “cost per impact” model that measured brand awareness, brand familiarity and purchase intent. Magazines were especially successful in the categories of branded familiarity and purchase intent. Defining ROI is always a tricky thing, but in this study they use three measurements as a guide:

  1. Average number of people influenced
  2. Average number of influences per $1,000 of advertising spending and the cost per individual impact
  3. Cost per individual impact

As you work to finalize your advertising and marketing budgets for 2009, keep in mind these latest research results show that in terms of advertising, magazines are the most cost-effective medium for influencing consumer behavior, a critical part of the sales cycle.

Although it’s only July, media planners in advertising agencies across the country are gearing up for their 2009 planning efforts. That means that we are in full media kit mode here at Hammock—creating, editing, designing and distributing the 2009 kits for our clients to have the kits in front of buyers when they begin their planning phases. If your magazines are supported by advertising, here are 6 of our media kits tips to keep in mind during your media kit development:

An article a couple of weeks back in the New York Times
about the upcoming season of Mad Men on AMC (which begins July 27)
got me thinking about what’s changed in the world of advertising.
Mad Men, which won a Golden Globe for its first season, focuses on a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the early 1960s. It chronicles what workplaces were like when smoking, drinking and womanizing were all part of the work culture. Mad Men also gives a pretty good glimpse into the creative process of developing ad campaigns.
At Hammock, we are particularly interested in advertising agencies because in addition to creative development, media buyers reside in those shops. Media buyers and their clients buy the advertising that we run in several Hammock-published magazines. Hammock manages the sale of advertising as part of the services we provide to clients.
My most senior colleague in the world of advertising, Dennis Connaughton, corporate general manager at the James G. Elliott Co., is far too young to have worked in advertising in the early 60s, but he does have more than 30 years of experience in working for agencies, as well as experience on the client side for Chevrolet, and even as a former publisher of Field & Stream.
I work with Dennis on the sale of NFIB‘s MyBusiness magazine to media buyers. Dennis’ perspective is particularly useful to all of our clients who carry advertising in their publications. The current advertising environment has changed dramatically in the past five years, not to mention the past 30 years.
So I decided to ask Dennis whether he’d be willing to give us a perspective on the changing dynamics of advertising over the course of his career. I doubted he would share many tales of drinking or smoking or womanizing. (If that’s what you’re looking for, you may want to stop reading now, and buy the first season of Mad Men on Amazon instead.)
Otherwise, tune into a Q&A podcast with Dennis here (Just over 22 minutes, 10.3 MB, mp3).

Auditing is a must for consumer and business magazines that depend on advertising and newsstand sales, but if your magazine is controlled circulation or directed at a small, well-defined group, do you really need to pay for an audit?
“Yes, an audit is necessary regardless of whether or not your circulation is controlled,” says Sue Scott of James G. Elliott, Inc. “With the increased competition for audience and ROI accountability, agency media buyers are more focused on having a trusted, impartial third-party independent verify what they are paying for.”
The big two circulation audit agencies are ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) and BPA (Business of Performing Audits International). BPA Worldwide is similar to ABC, however it tends to focus on trade publications, rather than consumer titles. BPA Worldwide audits the circulation of primarily business-to-business publications. It also provides audit services for consumer magazines, newspapers, Web sites, events, email newsletters, digital magazines and other advertiser-supported media produced by its members.

My 8-year-old daughter is studying the Oregon territory and she refreshed my memory (thanks, Wikipedia) that the U.S. and Great Britain were involved in a land grab during the 1840s. The U.S. ultimately prevailed and a treaty was signed establishing the 49th parallel, the line that runs between the states of Washington and Minnesota on the U.S. side, and British Columbia north of the boundary.

Determining the 49th parallel in the media world is happening right now. The territory in question is the very fertile territory known as engagement. We are witnessing a land grab to define and determine how we will measure and monetize audience engagement with Web media. And there are all sorts of parties putting forward ideas of how to redraw the lines on Web analytics so this idea of engagement is more relevant to current Web media experience.

Like most people in this business, I have become obsessed with this discussion surrounding the idea of engaged audiences, particularly as this discussion centers on Web analytics. (I’m not sure I speak from personal “blogging” experience about engaged audiences when my last post to this page was in January. Mitt Romney looked like our next president when I last blogged in this space). Regardless, I’ve been paying attention to the people who have been trying to define this idea of engagement.

Forrester, who has been all over engagement for more than a year, is the latest with a set of metrics. Forrester Research’s last month at their annual Research Marketing Forum in L.A., which are based on the concepts developed by analyst Brian Haven in an August 2007 Forrester Research report on the same topic, lay out the ideas of Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy and Influence. Haven’s full report on these metrics, “Measure of Engagement,” which is co-authored by Suresh Vittal, will be published this month.

Will Haven’s metrics stand the test of time. I think Haven’s metrics ( I look forward to the full report) are an advancement in our quest to understand what sometimes seems like the unknowable: what does she think, what is she going to do?

We have ways of of trying to evaluate something like engagement in the print world. As Josh Chasin, chief research officer at comScore, admitted in a column he wrote about engagement, he doesn’t really know what engagement means. I can detect enough sarcasm to hear what he’s really saying: he believes we don’t know what engagement means.

Chasin knows that print and, now, online media, are evaluated based on reach and frequency, which might sound like engagement, but it’s not. He’s right. We ask how many issues out of 4 do you read?, and how much time do you spend with our magazine? Do you take specific actions as a result of reading my magazine? How many people other than you read this issue?

While I always thought those standard measurements were a little too crude to evaluate the experience a reader has with a magazine, and they never claimed to be engagement, they are pretty darn close to Haven’s 4 “Is.”

Much closer, in fact, than the idea of trying to use the same reach and frequency measures online, in a medium where the media itself isn’t a reach and frequency medium anymore.

But Haven’s metrics fall short of being useful for all purposes. While the end goal for most participants in this conversation may be an easier way for advertising agencies to come up with sound ways to direct their client’s spend of dollars, that’s not the defined goal for all observers of this discussion.

At Hammock, we’ve noticed how the metrics used to evaluate advertising-centric measurements aren’t intrinsically useful discussions for some clients. If selling Web advertising online is even one of the top five things under discussion with an association client when we talk about the Web site, it’s rare. The purpose of the site is to create a greater sense of value of membership to the visitor. The purpose of the site may be to spur a call to action. The purpose of the site might be a serve as launchpad for a set of helpful links. It might be a place where members can find helpful tools and advice, it might be a place to renew, or register for a products for which members qualify for a discount. It might even be a place to, yes, engage members, because all associations need ways to ensure that there is some way they can continue to drive home what is valuable in their proposition.

I agree with Chasin about the value of measuring “against a clearly defined set of goals.” Chasin points us to Eric Peterson, author of Web Analytics Demystified. Peterson has a series of quantitative and qualitative ways to analyze engagement. It comes down to an idea that what you measure is tied to an idea of what you want the experience of the visitor to be.

Setting goals that can be measured makes sense to me. If generating advertising is the goal, then I await the best sets of metrics for that purpose. If it’s not the goal, I think it’s on us to develop better ways to measure what we know is engagement.

Over the last year, ShopText has provided Hearst’s CosmoGIRL with code-enabled advertising so that readers can text to buy items or receive promotions from advertisers. The effort has been an overwhelmingly success—one issue last year resulted in 100,000 sent texts. With advertisers struggling these days to find new ways to not only capture their target audience’s attention, but also motivate them to action, the CosmoGIRL/ShopText partnership is a very successful case study in advertiser engagement.

Hoping to build on the success of the project, Hearst plans to experiment with some of its other titles, including Good Housekeeping and Oprah’s magazine O. It’s a smart strategy if you consider the latest predictions from eMarketer, which forecasts spending on mobile advertising text platforms to more than triple over the next five years. While $1.47 billion was spent in 2007, eMarketer estimates that promotions and ad placements will grow to $4.5 billion by 2012.

These are big numbers, but I’m still not sold that the texting platform will translate to the Good Housekeeping and O demographics. Readers of CosmoGIRL are completely immersed in texting as an integral part of their social interaction with peers. The same can’t be said of the predominantly older readers of Good Housekeeping and O.