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March 15, 2010

New Adventures in Publishing: The importance of niche, reach, and creative advertising relationships

(Vintage Chocolate Advertising Poster from eBay)

Another interesting installment in our inFOCUS series with Meredith Barnett! So far we've learned about her role at TIS, detailed why she is really quite unique, and discussed the importance of 'editorializing the retail experience'. Meet Meredith at an end-of-the-month Ladies Lunch on March 24th.

Today we are talking about new publishing platforms and advertising trends.

How does the Inside Source fit in with other media, publishing, and retail trends?

As traditional media undergoes a major transformation (and let's face it--a shrinking--think of all of your favorite magazines that have folded in the past year!) the door has opened for a new class of publishers to emerge. At the same time, many non-media companies are taking their consumer messaging into their own hands and going directly to the consumer. Given the passionate community around the eBay brand as well as the insights gleaned from the company's shoppers, eBay is in a natural position to take this next step.

Further, because eBay is essentially product agnostic (it's not trying to get rid of inventory or push one brand over another), it's also perhaps a more reliable media source than traditional retailers who might put out catalog-like magazines in a similar vein.

What do you expect to happen in the media and publishing world over the next few years? What can we expect?

The million dollar question! There is a fundamental business model problem in media right now: Advertising is falling tremendously, yet beautiful glossy magazines and TV dramas are expensive to produce. Online advertising is much less expensive, but the quality of the content is often not up to par. These days, anyone can be a producer of content. This is a great thing in many ways, but it also means that it's harder to sift through the rubble for the consumer--and the advertiser (which already has less money to spend) has to make its dollars go even further.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do think we can expect more advertising to move online. Also, as technology develops (first online and soon after on television) that allows advertisers to target specific users based on their past viewing/browsing behavior, publishers will be able to squeeze more out of their advertisers.

What advice do you have for small business owners like us when it comes to media, publishing, and online buzz?

Don't underestimate how large you have to be to make money on the internet through advertising. There are very low barriers to entry to starting a website, which means anyone can do it--and there is a lot of competition out there. For the most part, you have to be huge (at least 1m uniques/month--maybe more) to get real advertisers on your site. You can get google ads and sign up for an ad network, but you won't make much money that way--just pocket change.

You should think about other ways to partner with potential advertisers--perhaps by integrating them cleverly with your content. Or build a very targeted site with a specific advertiser base that wants to reach your audience.

Of course sometimes, a in the case of The Inside Source, a website (or other media entity) is not always about driving direct revenue to a company. Sometimes, it is more about changing brand perception or promoting a particular program. It’s just important to be clear on your goals—and expectations—when you go down the publishing road.

As far as gaining a following...it you build it, they won't necessarily come! So think carefully about your online marketing strategy before you launch.

Thanks, Meredith!

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