B2B publishers may be in best position to deal with widespread ad blocker usage
B2Bs have been selling sponsorships, events, native advertising and other packages far longer than many of the large consumer publishers and so are less likely to get hurt by the changing ad environment
The New York Times and many other news organizations are working through the details of how they plan to handle the various new forms of advertising in their organizations. Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, for instance, has a column today on how senior editor Trish Hall handle new sponsorship deals that are completed.
“What if, for example, a column on consumer electronics were to be sponsored by, say, Apple?” Sullivan asks. “It doesn’t take The Ethicist to see that some issues might arise, including self-censorship or pulled punches.”
Sponsorships, native advertising, and whatever other new forms of digital advertising are dreamed up, are becoming more top-of-mind these days as media outlets consider a world with diminished digital advertising due to the possible increase in the use of ad blockers. While some media reporters can dream of an online world without advertising, publishers cannot.
One problem many legacy publishers will experience is that they are ill-equipped to innovate in the area of digital advertising, Some publishers are only now coming around to the fact that much of their print advertising has not just gone to digital, but to forms of digital they are not prepared to fight for. Examples would be mobile, content marketing, shopper marketing, and the like.
Why this is a problem is that print ad sales people have their contacts, often ones they have cultivated for years. With budgets moving from print to digital, these reps are finding that the budgets they are fighting for are being reduced – that they money isn’t just going from under the control of the print buyer over to the digital side, but to a completely new area, with new decision makers.
How publishers and their reps make this adjustment will determine their success – and it is hard to overstate what a difficult adjustment this will be. A number of magazine publishers are currently implementing staff cutbacks, some consolidating their sales teams into groups of corporate sellers, rather than brand sellers. But while this cuts costs, it doesn’t necessarily improve the revenue outlook.
While editors may be concerned with maintaining the integrity of their editorial products, the real challenge will be less about whether a publication will accept editorial puffery, than whether they will get the ad deals at all because they were not prepared to compete with digital-only alternatives.
The sunny side of the road may belong to smart B2B publishers who are in a better position with their advertisers. Unlike national consumer brands that often have multiple agencies involved in both creative and ad buying, most brands marketing to businesses do their advertising in-house, or it they have an agency certainly only have one agency. While these companies and their agencies are also moving to digital, and moving to new ways of marketing to companies, they present a less complicated path to a sale. Often the same brand manager at the manufacturer who has handle advertising continues to do so.
But that does not mean that those budgets are not shifting, as well. Many B2B have benefited from moving from being exclusively a print magazine publisher to growing the data or events side of their business.
But these publishers will want to continue to attract digital advertising and will be impacted by ad blockers just like their consumer publishing cousins. But, oddly, one solution is to go back in time, to a day when ads were placed on websites one by one, loaded like photos with links, instead of through ad networks.
I looked at a number of different B2B publishing websites and the more the sites used modern publishing techniques, the more their pages showed up in my browser, with an ad blocker turned on, as devoid of advertising. Meanwhile, some of the more backwards looking B2B sites still showed ads because they were placed on the pages manually.
B2B publishers are also more experienced with selling sponsorships and what is now called native advertising.
B2B publishing needs to catch a break. Ironically, the growth in ad blocking apps may be just what the doctor ordered.