As Magnetic celebrates its second birthday, guest columnist Dominic Mills casts his eye over the current trends on Planet Media and explains why the sector should be cheery.
They say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Quite right. The winds that have been swirling round the wider media planet – especially those buffeting Facebook and Google – are actually blowing good things in the direction of magazine media. And it’s surely no coincidence that they align with the broader messages that Magnetic has been putting out to advertisers and agencies ever since it first opened its
doors two years ago. If I can summarise them, those messages centre on: trust, community, influence, expertise and context. As I see it, they all intertwine together to form the solid core that sits at the heart of magazine media, and they help the sector define its usp.
So let’s just cast our eye over what’s been happening on Planet Media in the past 12 months or so and see how these issues play out in magazine media.
Let’s start with the Google/YouTube brand safety row. Only a hermit would be ignorant of the firestorm engulfing the digital giant following revelations (The Independent -Google apologises over adverts placed next to extremist YouTube videos) in mid-March that advertisers were inadvertently funding terrorism.
As advertiser after advertiser lined up to pull their ads off the platform – M&S, L’Oreal, C4, HSBC and the government, to name but a handful – they might consider where else they could invest their media budgets. Magazine media would be one obvious answer.
Trust lies at the heart
Would they know where their ads were running? Tick. Would they be in a safe and harm-free environment? Tick. Could they, if they wished, specify the context? Tick. Would readers be in an environment where they could trust the content? Tick. Can those ads be independently verified and measured? Tick.
What’s not to like about that.
The Google/YouTube row really boils down to one over-arching problem – trust. But the other debates and controversies reveal that trust is really a multi-faceted concept, which plays out in different ways, but which together reinforce magazine media’s proposition.
Let’s look at some of the different aspects of trust.
- Fake news, for example: While content pumped out by Macedonian news factories or Russian government propagandists may be patently false, they appear in a wide number of places. But one place where they won’t appear is in magazine media.
It may be bleedin’ obvious to those who work in established media that the content generated by magazine brands – and they’re not called brands for nothing – is both accurate and expert, and therefore trusted by its consumers, but you get the feeling that this is a truth sometimes forgotten by advertisers.
Is it a coincidence that, as concern about fake news rises, so sales of Private Eye, The Week and The Economist race ahead? I don’t think so.
- Expertise: In a world suffering from content overload, it’s good to know that there are tried-and- trusted places where consumers can rely on what they read. That’s where magazine media come in.
Clients have fallen for the charms of social media vloggers on the grounds that they wield clout with their followers (Marketing Charts – Social Media Stars Becoming More Influential in Celebrity Marketing), but I was struck last year by Magnetic research which showed that, even in a social media-dominated world like fashion, fashion magazine media had four times the influence (Magnetic Reveals Fashion Magazines Have Four Times the Social Impact of Fashion Bloggers).
- Transparency: In a speech in February that set the media world alight, P&G’s chief brand officer, excoriated the digital media system (Adage.com – P&G Tells Digital to Clean Up, Lays Down New Rules for Agencies and Ad Tech to Get Paid), telling his audience that it was time digital media ‘grew up’, and ‘cleaned up its act’.
While he didn’t absolve his own company from blame for allowing bad practices to happen, or for agencies in colluding with them, his real ire was marked for the giant tech platforms.
More pertinently, none of his criticisms applied to what you might call the heritage media, or premium publishers, the tag that most accurately describes magazine media.
- Measurement: Whether it’s serial measurement errors by Facebook over the last few months of 2016 and early 2017 (marketingweek.com – Facebook defends metrics errors as it puts focus on transparency), or the now-popular criticism of the Google/Facebook duopoly for ‘marking their own homework’ (The Drum – Sir Martin Sorrell tells Facebook and Google that measurement is crucial to continue winning client spend), advertisers have woken up to the fact that they can no longer rely on the tech giants for independent or third-party verified media metrics.
Could this be said of the established media generally, or magazine media in particular? Of course not. It is one of the paradoxes of our time that, despite the way they trumpet their accountability, the digital media giants are held to a lower standard of measurement and verification than established media.
And when the new Audience Measurement for Publishers (AMP) system (AMP – Transforming Industry Fortunes by Simon Redican, CEO, PAMCo) launches early next year, the integrity of magazine media measurement, particularly in reach and frequency, will be even higher.
- Context and relevancy: I increasingly hear senior agency figures – like Richard Huntingdon, chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi – lamenting the loss of context and relevance in the art of ad placement (campaignlive.co.uk – Google UK boss defends against ‘contextless’ digital advertising accusation). As advertisers chase the cookie (and their media agencies the low CPM), they ignore the incremental value that can be gained from placing a relevant ad in a relevant context.
By definition, the communities of interest that make up magazine media’s core audiences offer advertisers the opportunity to max out on both relevance and the appropriate context.
How does this all wrap up? I think it’s quite simple. It’s all about trust. The digital giants have undermined trust, whether of the reader or advertiser. Other media, especially magazine media, are built on and retain that trust. It’s why we think of titles as brands, and it’s why the momentum is swinging behind them.