Search Is the New Circulation

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Recently, I had the chance to speak to two classes of junior and senior public relations majors at Boston-area colleges about changes in the media landscape. I find these sessions to be as enlightening to me as they are to the students because I learn a lot about their preferences and motivations.

With the accelerating collapse of the newspaper industry fresh in my mind, I was particularly interested to understand their news reading habits. “How many of you have read a daily newspaper either in print or online within the past day?” I asked. Nearly every one of the 45 hands in the two classes went up. “How many of you subscribe to a daily newspaper?” I followed up. Only one student raised her hand.

Welcome to Generation Y, the group of people born in the last 30 years who define the future of business and media. Every one of the students in these classes has grown up in a world where information is free and instantly available. The concept of paying for news is as foreign to them as the horse and buggy.

These students will enter the workforce over the next five years and they will shake our assumptions to the core. While they have some brand loyalty, their real affiliation is to information.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re like most communications professionals, you probably subscribe to several Google Alerts. This service e-mails you whenever the terms you specify – such as your name, your company name or a topic that interests you – turns up in Google’s search index.  Google Alerts have no concept of brand.  An article on an obscure website is as likely to top the list as one in The New York Times.  When you use Google Alerts, your loyalty is to the topic, not the source.

If you are a TiVo user, you know that you can subscribe to programs based on actors or even subject matter.  You don’t care which network carries the program; your loyalty is to the content.

These are just two examples of the ways in which attitudes toward media brands are changing.  While trusted sources will always have a special value, we are constantly discovering new sources of trusted information and modifying our assumptions about the value of trust.  For some information, we still want to consult the big media brands in order to get the real story, but for less important information we might be satisfied with any source as long as we get the basic facts.

The great equalizer in this equation is search.  Computers have no brand loyalty and search engines are tuned to deliver the results that best match our queries, even if the source is unknown to us.  Search is, in effect, the new circulation.  In the pre-Internet days, we gave publishers permission to get a slice of our attention for a one-year period.  This had great value to the publishers because they could be reasonably certain of a known audience for their products.

In the new world, there is no certainty beyond relevance to the terms that an unknown audience may or may not find interesting.  This is pretty scary if you’re a publisher.

It’s scary for marketers, too.  But it’s also liberating.  Next week I’ll discuss some of the implications of the death of media brand loyalty on our assumptions about marketing and public relations.

New Marketing Podcast

With the New Marketing Summit coming up in less than two weeks, David Meerman Scott (center) and I sat down with Michael Lewis (left) of the Business Marketing Association of Boston to talk about the new marketing landscape. You won’t find a lot of disagreement in this podcast. David and I concur that marketers need to make some fundamental changes to the way they approach their work, but the payoffs are huge in terms of lower cost, better leads and improved customer retention. We offer some good examples of what’s working and also how some companies still just don’t get it. We share stories we’ve picked up from our travels and speaking tours over the last year and look ahead to what attendees at the Summit can expect to learn. 

If you haven’t yet signed up for the event, remember that you get a $200 discount by using code PAULVIP. Go to  New Marketing Summit to register.

Download the podcast (25:00).

New Marketing Expertise and a Special Discount Price

If you’re anywhere near the New England area, I hope you’ll join me, David Meerman Scott, Chris Brogan, Don Peppers and a host of other new-media marketing practitioners for a two-day forum that’s jam-packed with advice from experts in the latest online disciplines. And here’s a bonus: you get to see the inside of the Gillette Stadium’s fabulous conference facilities overlooking the football field where the New England Patriots play!

The event is the New Marketing Summit, and if you sign up with code PAULVIP, you get a $200 discount off the $795 registration.  Beginning today, you can also use that code to shave $50 off the fee for the Monday evening exhibits reception: That means for a mere $45, you can spend two hours on Oct. 14  perusing the latest new-media marketing tools and enjoying some fine drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Compare to an evening out in Boston; you can barely park for that amount :-).

David, Chris and I have worked closely with the experts at CrossTech Media to craft a program that we think represents the best of new marketing practices. A few highlights:



There are dozens of speakers, many of them successful practitioners who will tell what’s working for them and how you can benefit from their experience.

I’ll be opening day two of the conference on Oct. 15, speaking on the topic of  Profiting from Engagement: Why Content is the New Currency of Marketing. This represents my latest research and thinking on the market changes that are being brought about by a new breed of empowered customers who use their blogs, Facebook groups, recommendation engines and social shopping sites to define the terms of marketing engagement. Customers now largely control the brand and image of the companies they do business with. Don’t you think you should know all you can about those dynamics?

Please click the button above or the image below to register. That’s the venue for the event. Look me up when you arrive!


Gillette Stadium conference facility

Gillette Stadium conference facility

In Time for Playoffs, SkyBox Comes to iPod

More than two years ago, I wrote about SkyBox, an innovative handheld computer that gives fans access to statistics, replays and even concession menus from their seats at a sporting event. I know that as a rabid baseball fan, I frequently want to see replays that the big board in the stadium doesn’t always oblige to show me.

Now, the producer, Vivid Sky, Inc., has announced SkyBox for the iPhone and iPod touch. SkyBOX Baseball offers on-demand video replays, real-time analytical stats on players and teams, in-depth player bios, current scoreboards, trivia, games and more goodies.

Fans in stadiums outfitted with the company’s proprietary SkyBox Stadium Technology can access video replays from multiple camera angles on-demand, view precise pitch and hit-tracker graphics and browse the team store, according to a press release. The iPod application costs $2.99 from

BTW, I’m not getting paid to promote this service. I just think it’s cool.

IDG Reinvents Itself Online

Last week, The New York Times wrote about International Data Group’s (IDG) successful transition from a print to an online model. I was intrgued to read about IDG Chairman Patrick McGovern’s enthusiasm for the economics of new media. Having gotten to know McGovern a bit during my 15-year career at IDG, I asked him to appear on the weekly MediaBlather podcast that I co-host with David Strom. He immediately agreed. That’s the kind of person McGovern is. With all of the weighty issues that he must deal with every day, he is never too busy to chat with a colleague, whether current or past. In fact, McGovern still visits every IDG operation in the U.S. each December to distribute bonuses individually to every employee.

Our interview was about the business issues of IDG’s transition from a print powerhouse to an online specialty publisher. McGovern’s perspective is be inspiring. While the print industry collectively moans about the pain of transitioning from print to online, IDG has quietly taken its medicine and reinvented itself. Today, the company derives less than half its revenue from print titles, and McGovern expects online business to make up 70% of sales by 2012.

At InfoWorld, which was spotlighted in the Times article, the closure of the print edition and shift to a wholly online model actually increased margins from a small net loss to a 37% net profit. “Not only is there survival after going online, but it’s a much better environment,” McGovern told us.

IDG’s strategy is now to launch all new titles online first, build an audience and then take the business to print if the market demands it. “That way, we already have the audience and we can show the advertisers who’s asking for [the print title] and who’s going to read it,” McGovern said. “It takes away the risk.”

What works in the U.S. doesn’t work the same way globally, of course. Scandinavia and Korea are among the regions of the world that are innovating most successfully in online publishing, McGovern told us. In contrast, India is still a healthy print market but with a budding cell phone culture that may make it the first major economy to jump from paper to mobile devices without an intermediate PC stage.

There are some other gems in this interview. One is about IDG’s flirtation with a public offering through its books division a decade ago. McGovern, who has always taken a dim view of the public markets, relates how the experience distracted the group from its traditional market into ancillary businesses where it had no expertise. “If they had stayed private, I think they’d be a larger and more successful company today,” he commented.

We also talked about IDG’s phenomenal success in China, where it publishes a host of consumer titles in addition to its big technology brands. IDG’s venture capital arm now makes more money for the company from investing in Chinese businesses than the rest of the company does from publishing.

If you want to hear an optimistic perspective on the future of media from someone who is leading the charge, listen to this podcast (right click and choose “Save As…” to download to your computer). I think you’ll find it to be 25 minutes well spent.