Digital

The Future of Print Is Data-Driven & That Future Is Here

By: Patrick Henry

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Print technology has evolved, thanks to the growth of digital printing and data tools, which means print is becoming as personalized and relevant as online media.

Just how meaningful is print in what’s come to be called the world of “omnichannel” communications? To publishers and to brands that owe their success to direct mail and catalogs, the answer might seem too obvious to need repeating. However, that leaves all the other media and marketing professionals to whom the answer ought to be just as obvious, but isn’t.

The DigiPub Conference aims to provide the needed clarity by underscoring the role of data-driven print in both book and magazine publishing and in integrated marketing campaigns. At the inaugural event, publishing and marketing executives discussed how print is a powerful medium for capturing consumer attention, and how it can be enhanced and even personalized, thanks to online data and digital printing technology. The conference, hosted in New York City in November 2017, showcased how print media is evolving to become as responsive, customized, and engaging as the online world.

Data-Driven Print Improves Content Relevancy

The common theme of its general-session presentations and topical panel discussions was that with the help of data-driven print in the mix, publishers and brand owners can connect the online and offline behaviors of their audiences for the results they want.

“Data-driven print,” as described in an opening keynote to the general sessions by Denis Wilson, editorial director of Book Business and Publishing Executive, is responsive, demand-based, targeted, personalized, connected, and measurable.

These virtues, he said, are a riposte to the “noise” created by narratives that don’t take them properly into account. The faulty narratives have failed to note, for example, the embrace of printed catalogs by online retailers; and the fact that printed books have easily withstood competition from ebooks, which were once thought poised to claim half the book publishing market.

Books, catalogs, and other examples of “purposeful print” are attractive to consumers precisely because they are physical media, according to Wilson, who added that their appeal can be enhanced by making data an ingredient of their development. “If you can increase relevancy, you can increase engagement,” and that engagement can be monetized, he said.

Print vs. Digital Is the Wrong Question

An accurate narrative about the place of print can be found in the responses to a recent Target Marketing survey about marketing practices, said Nathan Safran, NAPCO Media’s director of research. The survey found, among other things, that print was the second largest budget allocation made by respondents in 2017; direct mail was the second most used method for customer acquisition and retention; and that direct mail delivered the second highest ROI.

Results like these, said Safran, tell us that “print versus digital is the wrong question:” what marketers should be trying to find out is where print fits best among the digital channels they are using.

Print Magazines Drive Consumer Purchasing

Linda Thomas Brooks, CEO, The Association of Magazine Media

Linda Thomas Brooks, CEO, The Association of Magazine Media

Today, magazine publishing consists of both, although attention usually is focused on the travails of the print side of the business. Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of MPA, The Association of Magazine Media, acknowledged that the magazine industry is experiencing disruption. But, she said, “we never talk about the part of the business that’s good.”

The good news to spread is that magazine media build brands and sell products “in a transparent and safe environment with demonstrable results and more rigor to prove it than anyone else.” Magazines are unique in being able to brand and sell simultaneously, said Brooks; other media do one or the other, but not both.

What’s more, unlike “walled gardens” such as Google and Facebook that “grade their own homework,” magazines voluntarily submit to independent circulation audits and share those metrics of their effectiveness with advertisers.

Magazine-disparaging rhetoric ignores the reach of magazine media into consumers’ lives, Brooks declared. Nielsen data reveals, for example, that nothing on television - including "The Walking Dead" and Sunday night football - is seen by as many people as the top 10 magazines. The rhetoric also ignores the fact that unlike the kinds of unrequested digital media people find so intrusive, magazines are “invited” into homes through subscriptions and single-copy purchases.

As Brooks pointed out, “advertisers get to come along as the plus-one,” and being the guest of the guest in this way can be a smart investment. In reviewing return on ad spend (ROAS) in 1,400 client cases, Nielsen Catalina Solutions found that magazine media delivered a ROAS of $3.94 for every $1 spent on them - higher than digital display advertising, linear (live) TV, mobile, and digital video. In this sense, said Brooks, magazine advertising is underpriced when compared with other channels.

She also stressed the tactile appeal of magazines and the trust that consumers continue to place in them. The democratization of media has made people even more eager for expertly curated content from reliable sources, a public service that magazine media have always provided.

How Inkjet Is Changing Magazine, Catalog & Book Markets

Marco Boer, Vice President, IT Strategies

Marco Boer, Vice President, IT Strategies

Publishing retains its reputation and its “gravitas,” according to Marco Boer, vice president, IT Strategies, but it has also come under “huge financial pressure” that publishers can use digital technologies to help relieve. He reviewed the options for producers of books, catalogs, magazines, and direct mail, noting the opportunities that each segment has to print with better quality, efficiency, and economy.

The book market, he said, is “really stable,” with about 8% of its pages now printed digitally and twice that percentage of digital pages forecasted by 2020. The question is how to make it more profitable. Part of the answer, said Boer, lies in producing more books in color: about 10% of offset book units are printed in color, but they account for 33% of the value.

As book run lengths decline and the frequency of ordering increases, profit will come from turning book printing into a form of “agile manufacturing” that can adapt to the change in demand. Distribution inefficiencies have to be addressed as well. Up to 30% of all books printed are still shredded as unsold returns, said Boer, who also noted that “the slow boat from Asia doesn’t really work any more” for publishers that want to adopt data-driven production strategies.

Emerging, said Boer, are global networks for color book production in which “touchless processing” characterizes the workflow from order entry, content assembly, and logistics to distributed printing at a location close to the customer that placed the order. He said continuous-feed inkjet printing would be central to this model, although cut-sheet toner digital presses and offset lithography also could have their places in it.

Catalogs, in Boer’s view, remain highly relevant as “on-ramps” to the non-print shopping channels that consumers are now using. Offset continues to be the predominant process for this mostly high-volume application, but digital printing, with its unit-cost advantage in short runs, is made to order for the specialized vertical markets that catalog retailers also want to reach. Inkjet presses are getting better at printing on the kinds of paper stocks that catalogers like to use, Boer added.

Substrate compatibility is something that inkjet production will also have to offer magazines, whose declining circulations and changing formats are starting to make them candidates for the short-run economy of digital printing. Various methods for making coated offset stocks receptive to inkjet inks are available now, and new processes and consumables that serve the same purpose are on the way.

These solutions won’t establish themselves overnight. But in 10 years’ time, predicted Boer, the debate about inkjet’s suitability for magazines and catalogs will have ended, and offset will look less attractive than it does now as a process for printing them.

Direct mail, meanwhile, stands out as the sterling example of what digital printing can accomplish in the traditional channels. Inkjet, according to Boer, accounts for 30% of all direct mail pieces now produced. IT Strategies projects that inkjet’s share will be 50% by 2020.

Will inkjet make similar inroads into catalogs and magazines? That depends, said Boer, on how long it takes their publishers to realize that producing them “is no longer about print cost—it’s about value to the customer.” Once they see that, they’ll also see that they “can’t afford not to have digital print” as a manufacturing option.

How Brands Are Using Programmatic Direct Mail

Adam Solomon, Chief Product Officer, PebblePost

Adam Solomon, Chief Product Officer, PebblePost

Capping the general sessions was a report on data-driven print in action by Adam Solomon, chief product officer of PebblePost. The “golden age of digital” we find ourselves in, he said, is signaled by the fact that this year for the first time, spending on digital advertising exceeded the spend on TV advertising. At this rate, digital could eventually represent 50% of all advertising outlays.

But, the digital advertising chain is so dauntingly complex (“tech gone wild,” as Solomon put it) that the experience for consumers often turns out to be a poor one. This explains why they’re increasingly resorting to ad blockers and other remedies for pushing back against the overload.

Solomon said that programmatic direct mail, PebblePost’s specialty, offers marketers a result-getting alternative to bombarding consumers with digital-only messaging they won’t respond to. He compared its main ingredients, customer data and physical mail, to those of a famous peanut-butter-and-chocolate confection: delicious individually, but even more satisfying together.

PebblePost gathers “signals” of online shopping behavior and uses that information to dynamically create mailing pieces that correspond to whatever the shopper was doing at the time the signal was captured. Because the process is designed for very rapid turnaround, Solomon said, “today’s intent signal becomes tomorrow’s direct mail.”

A rules engine turns the signal into a “dynamic JPEG” that is ready to be digitally printed and placed into the next day’s mailstream. The “secret sauce,” according to Solomon, is PebblePost’s ability to match signals to surface addresses in a privacy-compliant way. PebblePost also uniquely codes the pieces to track and analyze conversion events—actions taken by addressees upon receipt of the pieces.

Done correctly, said Solomon, programmatic direct mail exceeds the sum of it parts in terms of the response it generates. To make the most of it, he advised marketers, “be fast, be nimble, and be iterative” with the possibilities it offers.


Author: Patrick Henry

Source: pubexec.com URL: https://goo.gl/JptDgb

There's a Digital Media Crash Coming. But No One Will Say It

By: Josh Marshall

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Yesterday I appeared on a panel about digital publishers who are ‘pivoting to video’. I’ve written about this before. But in case you’re new to it, there have been numerous cases over the last six months to a year in which digital publishers have announced either major job cuts or in some cases literally fired their entire editorial teams in order to ‘pivot to video.’ The phrase has almost become a punchline since, as I’ve argued, there is basically no publisher in existence involved in any sort of news or political news coverage who says to themselves, my readers are demanding more of their news on video as opposed to text. Not a single one. The move to video is driven entirely by advertiser demand.

What crystallized for me from this and other discussions I had yesterday is that we’re actually in the midst of a digital news media crash, only no one is willing to say it. I’ve noted before that digital news media in the midst of a monetization crisis. But it’s more than that. It’s a full blown crash.

Here’s why.

You have three different factors coming together at once: two primary ones and one secondary but critical one.

First, digital publishing has always been ruled by a basic structural reality: there are too many publications. Now, how can there be too many publications? The more information the better. Well, it’s like this: There are too many publications relative to the funding available to support them, given that it has been almost universally assumed that the funding comes from advertising. That creates the furious competition for clicks and the ever growing intrusiveness of ads. The advertisers have all the power. So rates are always going down.

This has been a fact for more than two decades. It is driven by the extremely low costs of entry in digital publishing which makes it very difficult to set up the kinds of de facto monopolies that existed for big city newspapers for most of the second half of the 20th century.

Then came the platform monopolies: Google, Facebook and a few others. Over the last five years or so but accelerating rapidly in the last 24 months, they’ve gobbled up almost all of the growth in advertising revenue and begun to engross a substantial amount of the existing advertising revenue as well.

Let’s try a very simple visualization of what I’m describing. Remember, there are too many publications relative to advertising revenue. So let’s imagine there are 30 publications and 25 revenue seats. The publications fight like hell to secure one of the seats. Then the platform monopolies came along and sat down in maybe 5 or 10 of the 25 seats. You can see the problem. The competition of 30 publications competing for 15 seats gets insane. A bunch of the publications are going to die or be forced to find another way to fund themselves.

Now, here’s the too little discussed part of the equation. A huge, huge, huge amount of digital media is funded by venture capital. That’s not just to say they had investors at the start but in effect a key revenue stream of many digital publications has been on-going infusions of new investment.

Much of that investment has been premised on the assumption that scale – being huge – would allow publications to create stable and defensible business models. There are a lot of moving parts to the strategies. But it essentially comes down to this idea: get big enough and you can solve the chronic problem of over-supply of publications in your favor through sales at volume and being able to command stable, premium advertising rates. But that hasn’t happened. Just as one fact point, The Wall Street Journalreported today that Buzzfeed is going to miss its revenue target this year by as much as 20%. That’s a lot.

Now, this doesn’t mean Buzzfeed’s about to go under. I don’t know all the details of their internal business operations. And in any case, this isn’t really about Buzzfeed. That’s just a number I saw today. But it does probably mean BuzzFeed likely won’t do an IPO in 2018 – which means their investors aren’t going to be able to get their exit any time soon. Indeed, they may never be able to get it at the level they expected. The point is that investors are realizing that scale cannot replicate the kind of business model lock-in, price premiums and revenue stability people thought it would. Another way of putting that is that the future that VCs and other investors were investing hundreds of millions of dollars in probably doesn’t exist. That means that they’re much less likely to invest more money at anything like the valuations these companies have been claiming.

The big picture is that Problem #1 (too many publications) and Problem #2 (platform monopolies) have catalyzed together to create Problem #3 (investors realize they were investing in a mirage and don’t want to invest any more). Each is compounding each other and leading to something like the crash effect you see in other bubbles.

Let’s go back to our chair analogy.

We had our 30 publications and 25 chairs. The platform monopolies came along and took 10 chairs for themselves. Now it’s 30 publications fighting over 15 chairs. But wait, how can 30 publications compete for 15 chairs? That means 15 have no place to sit? Well, the hidden part is that a lot of them are surviving on on-going infusions of venture capital. Once that disappears, it’s something like a crash. Because everyone really needs a seat. And there’s more! Maybe 5 of those chairs weren’t advertising at all. They were on-going investment too. So really there’s 30 publications competing for 10 chairs. Or maybe it’s 7.

To be clear, I’m taking these precise numbers – 10, 30, 7 – as broad guesses. But the general picture is painfully accurate. And as you can see, the real trap door is the withdrawal of on-going re-investment which has created what amounts to a phantom revenue stream. Problems #1 and #2 are either chronic or relatively slowly growing. Problem #3 is rapid and possibly total.

Like I said, it’s a crash. It’s largely because scale hasn’t worked in most cases. But it’s definitely a crash. Just no one’s willing to say so yet.


Author: Josh Marshall

Source: talkingpointsmemo.com URL: https://goo.gl/XCcBTx

Mattress Company Shutters Web Publication, Pivots to Print

By: Jack Marshall

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Mattress brand Casper is launching a print magazine and shuttering Van Winkle’s, the sleep-focused online publication it launched in 2015.

The company said its new magazine, titled Woolly, will be published multiple times a year and focus on themes including comfort, wellness and modern life. It will be bundled free with some Casper products and available for $12 per issue from Casper’s retail stores and website.

Companies have flocked to so-called content marketing in recent years in an attempt to align their brands with certain topics and issues without relying on straight-forward advertising. The tactic has become prevalent online, but some companies, such as Airbnb, have since taken the approach offline with their own branded print products.

But according to Casper, Woolly shouldn’t be viewed as marketing designed simply to drive mattress sales. Rather, it says it wants to use it as a vehicle to link the company to subjects it “believes in.”

“This isn’t traditional content marketing; there are no ads for Casper,” said Lindsay Kaplan, Casper’s vice president of communications and brand engagement. “It’s not about building a revenue stream either. It’s really about owning the conversation around wellness and health.”

Casper has hired nonprofit publishing company McSweeney’s to help produce the magazine, which will be headed up by former New York Post editor John DeVore. (The New York Post is owned by News Corp, which also owns The Wall Street Journal.)

The launch of Woolly marks somewhat of a pivot for Casper’s media efforts from digital to print, a move that bucks recent media trends. In 2015 it hired four veteran journalists and launched a website called Van Winkle’s with the goal of selling ads and building a stand-alone media property dedicated to all things sleep.

The site failed to gain significant traction with readers, however, and will cease publication to make way for Woolly. Van Winkle’s one remaining editorial staffer will now work on Woolly instead.

Woolly plans to focus on a broader range of topics than just sleep alone—topics people might enjoy reading about when, for example, they’re lying on their Casper mattress. The first issue includes a “love letter to comfort pants,” confessions from your yoga instructor, a non-chronological history of snoring and a coloring book.

“When people buy a Casper, they cover it up with sheets, so there’s something special for us knowing this will remain on someone’s nightstand and remind people to get in bed, relax, unwind and get comfortable,” Ms. Kaplan said.

Billed as a “quarterly,” Casper said Woolly won’t stick to a specific publication schedule. The first issue, which is 96 pages, is available today.


Author: Jack Marshall

Source: wsj.com URL: https://goo.gl/dvPXGG