musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
For more info, call us at (212) 573-6000, email to david@reichcommunications or text to 914-325-9997.
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So-called native advertising is ad content designed to look like the editorial content it's surrounded by. We used to call it "advertorial" long before "native" became the current buzzword.
By its very nature, native advertising is deceptive, since it is intended to make the viewer think it's real news, coming from the media outlet's reporters or writers. As such, it tries to pick up the implied credibility that would come with a legitimately reported news or feature story.
Not so. Native ads are, after all, ads paid for and written by an advertiser. You shouldn't expect native ads to be fair, balanced or even, unfortunately, totally accurate.
For years, advertorials in newspapers and magazines usually were labeled as ads or paid content, although often in small lettering that could easily be missed.
Then, as media went digital, the lines became blurred or disappeared altogether. Online media, including widely-read blogs, went for the money, posting paid content without disclosing it was sponsored.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a ruling that all paid content had to be clearly identified. I'm not sure if anyone has been fined or prosecuted for breaking that rule, but most legitimate media seem to have become more careful.
Despite this and perhaps proving that more noticeable identification as an ad is needed, a new study by a university in Georgia shows the vast majority of us don't recognize native advertising as a paid ad. The study, reported in the Journal of Advertising, found that only eight percent of people surveyed identified native advertising as paid marketing messages. So 92 percent were fooled into thinking what they had seen in print or online was real news or information.
No wonder native advertising has become the hot thing.
The age-old question of "who sees my ad" continues to plague advertisers.
Digital advertising now allows advertisers to get a better read on who looks at their ads and how long they spend looking, as well as lots of other information about us that we'd probably rather they not have. Ever wonder why, after you go to a site to look for information on travel to, say, Mexico, you all of a sudden start getting pop-ups and emails advertising destinations in Mexico? It's called behavioral tracking.
But as ads appear everywhere, we consumers look for ways to avoid them. It's almost like a game of cat & mouse.
With radio, simply hit the button to go to another station. Now, we have ad-free satellite radio or subscription services online like Pandora.
Back before DVRs or home video recorders, the only recourse we had to avoid ads on TV was either switch the channel (which pre-remote meant getting up to turn the dial) or leave the room to raid the refrigerator or take a quick bathroom break. Now, we simply click and the ads that marketers spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in front of us quickly zip by.
As our TV viewing habits are changing, advertisers are trying other ways to force us to watch their messages. Video on demand (VOD) from the networks usually disable the fast-forward feature on your clicker, so you have to watch TV the old-fashioned way -- ads included.
But the hot area these days for ads is online. We're close to the point where advertisers will be spending more money for online ads than for ads in traditional media. But even as this is happening, we consumers are finding ways to avoid the ads aimed at us on our computers, tablets and smart phones.
Banner ads have been shown to have limited impact on consumers. They're on our screens, but we tend to ignore them. Advertisers now use pop-ups that dominate the screen and override the content you're trying to view. Those pop-ups often have a box or circle with an "x" which you can click to have the ad go away. But advertisers are making those boxes smaller and harder to click on, especially if you're seeing them on a tablet or phone.
As a story in The New York Times recently said, it's becoming like the wack-a-mole game... trying to find the little "x."
This silly game becomes frustrating for consumers, and it hardly endears them to whatever product or service is being advertised.
One possible solution is to take a cue from pre-roll ads that pop up on some You Tube videos. There's a message, easy to see, that indicates that you can close the ad after 5 or 15 seconds ... and you see the time counting down. The viewer knows there will be an option and that he or she will just have to endure 5, 15, or 30 seconds before getting to the desired content. It's not as annoying as other pop-ups, and if the advertiser has created a compelling ad that catches you in those first 5 or 15 seconds, the consumer may opt to watch the entire ad, which could be 30 or 60 seconds, or even a lot longer.
It takes creativity. You can't simply use a regular TV ad and put it online. But if it works, it's win-win for both the advertisers and the consumer. It's a lot better than playing cat and mouse to try to avoid an ad.
We keep hearing how Print in dying. Newspapers are struggling, that's for sure. And many magazines are not having an easy time.
But tell that to the publishers of 60 new magazines that launched during the first half of 2015, as reported by MediaFinder. That number is down about a third from the 93 new titles during the same period last year, but people are still trying to make a go of new titles.
Of the new launches, five were business-to-business magazines, down from 15 new B2B books a year ago.
The number of magazines that shut down during the first half of the year was 23, which is ten less than a year ago. So there's been a net gain of 37 new magazines so far this year.
Why do people keep trying with new magazines in print? They're costly to print and distribute -- much more so than digital publications with no printing cost and very little distribution expenses.
It probably comes down to advertising. Ads in print generally command much higher rates than their digital counterparts, even when digital can reach many more readers. Many advertisers still prefer the glossy printed page for their ads, especially for products that rely on strong visuals -- food, fashion & beauty, travel, cars. Print still gets a higher ad readership, while research shows most of us totally ignore ads that run in digital media.
Digital does offer some benefits that print doesn't -- mainly, the ability for readers to click through for more info, sales pitches and even place an order and make a purchase. Print can offer that via QR codes, but the process isn't seamless since it requires extra steps and a smartphone.
Launches this year have been mainly specialty titles rather than general-interest books. Most, I'd bet, also have online components. Maybe once they've established themselves in print -- and as the gap between print and online ad readership and rates narrows -- they'll try to convert to digital only. But until that gap is much smaller, there will still be a place for print magazines.
That's good news for newsstands, printing companies and the Post Office.
A new report from Nielsen, the TV ratings people, shows not only what we're watching, but how we're watching it.
It used to be very simple. A program was on at a certain time and either you watched it when it aired or you didn't see it at all. No DVRs or video on demand. Not even home recording on VHS or Beta.
But today, viewers have so many choices -- not only what to watch from among hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand and Netflix and Hulu. The choice now is also about how to watch -- live or delayed on your giant flat screen or on a variety of other smaller screens from computers to laptops to tablets and phones.
The report says Americans watched "traditional" TV 141 hours a month in the 3rd quarter of 2014. But live viewing dropped a little more than 4 percent, or 12 minutes a day, to 4 hours and 32 minutes on average. Instead, we spent an hour more per month watching time-shifted programs via the internet, which includes streaming services like Netflix.
For advertisers, the obvious challenge is getting their ads seen despite fast-forwarding. Many on-demand outlets now disable the fast-forward function so we can't zip through the ads. So instead, it may end up working the way it did in the "old days," when commercials breaks meant a run to the bathroom, refrigerator or a fast click around the dial to see what else is on. Or with today's technology, we might be checking texts and emails.
Bill Bergman, a marketing instructor at the University of Richmond's B-school, notes an interesting trend in a recent commentary in MediaPost's Agency Daily. He says college students he's teaching seem to be afraid to speak out in class for fear of being embarrassed by classmates who might call them out via social media. So they keep their hands down in class and their mouths shut.
These are kids, he says, who have grown up seeing the impact of a mistake or bad judgment on social media. They've seen firsthand that once something is online it can haunt you forever, possibly impacting one's ability to land a job or get into grad school.
So rather than get called out via a tweet, they seem to keep their opinions to themselves, Bergman believes. He thinks, from what he sees in his students, that by the time they reach their senior year in college, they hit a social media saturation point. It's not that social media has lost its importance to them, but rather they're getting caught up with other priorities and pressures that demand their attention -- studies and the upcoming hunt for the next step in their lives, finding a job or continuing thier education.
Bergman notes recent grads seem to be less involved with social media than current students. The explanation, he writes, may be "a boss, a cubicle and a 10 p.m. bedtime help diminish the social media habit." And they realize, as they mature, that it's more important to protect your real personality than to build "a contrived popularity" through silly or controversial tweets and potentially awkward photos posted on Instagram.
After college, he writes, young adults "begin to recognize that college is really created for the young - and so too is the extensive use of social media platforms."
Less than half of us now watch TV programs as they air live, Media Daily News reports.
Only 41 percent of us watch the live broadcast, as time-shifting grows in popularity. Watching via DVR is what 43 percent of us now do, as 19 percent use video on demand.
The move to viewing TV on so-called second screens -- mobile devices, PC, laptops and tablets -- isn't happeniong quite as quickly as pundits had been predicting. The vast majority -- 91 percent -- still watch TV on a TV. Laptops account for 12 percent of viewing, tablets 5 percent and somehow 3 percent manage to watch programs on their smartphones. It adds to more than 100 percent due to duplication -- watching on a regular screen and also on a second screen.
Programs like sports and major news events understandably score a higher amount of live viewing.
More about Twitter than I can say in 140 characters...
The latest internet consumer study, reported in Mediapost's Social Media & Marketing Daily, shows Twitter, which was touted as the next best thing when it burst onto the scene, has slipped a bit.
The percentage of respondents using Twitter dropped two points to 34%. Twitter remains a major social media factor, though, behind Facebook and LinkedIn. FB remains the gorilla in the room, dominating with 77% of consumers saying they use it. LinkedIn is a distant second at 37%, followed by Twitter. Newer platform Pinterest jumped to the number four spot with 26%.
Highlighting the fickleness of social media (or maybe more the fickle nature of teens), FB continues to lose younger users who are migrating in droves to Pinterest. It's the platform of the day. (Remember MySpace?)
Twitter has proven popular as a way for fans of TV shows to share their thoughts in real-time as a show airs. And reality contest shows like NBC's "The Voice" have used Twitter not only to engage viewers, but also as an instant voting tool to let viewers decide if a contestant stays or goes.
The survey found that 52% of those who don't use Twitter make that choice because they feel it's "a waste of time." I have to admit that was my initial impression when I joined soon after the platform launched. It seemed that all I saw was people tweeting really inane things like "The sun just came up" or "Can't decide whether to have a blueberry or corn muffin." Like I care (about the muffin, not the sun).
I have found Twitter useful as a way to point people to my blog posts. And early on, I participated in a few PR chats in real-time. Didn't learn anything about PR, but it got me many of my almost 1,000 followers.
So despite the dip in the latest user survey, I'm pretty sure Twitter will be around for some time, even as new platforms continue to pop up. By the way, I couldn't have expressed these thoughts in 140 characters. Blogging is still alive and well, despite predictions that it, like Twitter, would disappear.
I think the book should be required reading for anyone applying for a driver's license, as well as for those of us who already drive. It's easy reading. The book, although non-fiction, reads like a fast-paced novel and the reader gets to really know and understand the various characters in the story. It tells of Reggie Shaw, in every way a model teenager who, like so many of his peers, used his cellphone to text while he was driving. Distracted, he crossed the yellow line and sideswiped an oncoming car, which caused a crash that killed two rocket scientists. The book chronicles the story of the driver, the victims, their families and the lawyers and prosecutors involved in the legal case that ensued.
What's important about this book is that it explains the science behind our addiction to texting and other mobile device functions. Yes, there is scientific proof, which the book explains, that texting or even just talking on a phone while driving is extremely dangerous. It takes us through, in easy to understand terms, the reasons we cannot multitask, despite assertions from so many -- especially young people who've grown up with texting -- that we can drive while doing other tasks.
Working on the PR side of traffic safety for some 20 years now, I've met with and heard from so many people who've had their lives dramatically changed by bad decisions behind the wheel. For many years, the culprit was alcohol, which still remains a real problem. Drowsiness is a significant factor as well, although driving drowsy is usually not a conscious decision we make.
Texting while driving is a conscious decision. And now that it's become clear that it does impact our ability to drive safely, there is absolutely no reason to do it. Legislators in 44 states have recognized that by making it illegal to text while driving. So if for no other reasion than risking a ticket and points on your license, all of us should refrain from this dangerous behavior.
But as Matt Richtel points out in his book, so many of us, knowing the physical dangers and the risk of a ticket and points, continue to text and talk on cellphones while we drive. There are now devices that can prevent people from texting or talking while driving, like an app made by one of my clients, LifeSaver. It's very inexpensive and simple to use, but it still requires a voluntary step by a parent or spouse.
Richtel reported last week about plans by the cellular industry to have a device that comes with new cars that will prevent any cellphone usage while the car is in motion. But, if it ever actually happens, it's still at least a few years away.
What I think is needed to stop what former Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood called "a national epidemic" that kills several thousand people every year is tougher laws with much higher fines and license suspension for a month after the first offense and license revocation after a second infraction. No excuses, no exclusions.
It's that serious. Read A Deadly Wandering and you'll understand and I'm sure you'll agree.
We keep hearing how print is dying, but it looks like that doesn't apply to magazines.
Data from a media research firm that tracks some 200 magazines, reported recently in Media Daily News, shows print magazines had a combined increase in audience of 1.1 percent -- up some 20 million readers from a year ago. The combined print audience is now 1.19 billion.
Total audience of digital-only magazine readership went up 37 percent to 23.2 million. Digital-only is still a small piece of the total audience pie for magazines, but it's growing.
Some of the biggest gainers are familiar names: The Atlantic, up 42 percent; Esquire, up 29.5 percent; Harpers Bazaar, 25.2 percent; Fitness, 21.6 percent; Forbes, 20.5 percent; Travel & Leisure, 19.3 percent; and yes, The New Yorker, up 18 percent.
Magazines in print are still alive. That's good news.
I’ve read a lot over the past several weeks about Google Glass, which keeps you constantly connected and puts the internet right in front of your eyes (or more accurately, eye). The idea is that you can do whatever you’re normally doing, while remaining in touch visually.
In theory, it’s a great idea for those who feel such a need. But in reality, I think it’s a recipe for disaster…literally.
As someone who spends a lot of time working in the traffic safety field, through clients like The National Road Safety Foundation, a non-profit group, and the government’s NHTSA, I’ve come to understand that driving a car requires full attention. Driving is not something you can do safely while you’re multitasking.
There are three types of distraction, and Google Glass falls into at least two of them. There’s visual, aural and cognitive distraction. All can and do take your attention off the road in front of you, and when you’re moving at highway speeds of 60 miles an hour, you travel the length of a football field in 3 or 4 seconds. That’s how long it takes to read or send a text. So while you look at or send a text, you’re basically driving blind the length of a football field. Doesn’t sound too smart or safe, does it?
Google says that since its Glass displays information in front of you, you don’t have to look down and you can still see what’s in front of you. I don’t know about that. I had the chance to try an earlier version of Google Glass a few months ago. It’s cool, but it IS distracting. And when your eye is looking at the displayed information an inch or two in front of it, it can’t also focus clearly on thje road and cars or people 20 or 50 feet in front of you. The eye just doesn’t work that way.
I also read this week about new displays that automaker Jaguar hopes to introduce soon, that show key information like speed, gas level, perhaps travel or map info – all on the windshield in the driver’s line of sight. To me, that sets up the same risk for visual distraction as Google Glass.
So I have to wonder … where is the Government here? Very simply, laws should be passed, based on NHTSA recommendations, that make driving while wearing Google Glass illegal, just as in 38 states it’s now illegal to text while you drive. And they should also be discouraging or preventing automakers from introducing line-of-sight displays that take the driver’s eyes – or the eyes’ focus – off the road ahead. The same should be done to prevent visual controls and displays for non-driving functions like the sound system, hands-free phones and even GPS maps and driving info. Audio cues are ok, but the maps and mapped driving directions are a serious distraction.
I hate to sound like a “bah humbug” about this exciting and helpful new technology, but some limits need to placed on it. Why? I’ll tell you why… it could be your kid or mine who gets killed by a driver distracted by Google Glass, line-of-sight displays or a GPS.