LOAC 2017

Digital Media: So Many Ways To Screw It Up

Three legacy media executives at the Borrell Associates' Local Online Advertising Conference in New York Monday shared what they believe were sure-fire signs of impending digital failure. Among them: Selling just time or space, salespeople need to be omni-market; not reaching for viewers on all devices; over-reliance on display advertising and ignoring pay walls.

Local legacy media — newspapers and radio and TV stations — are still feeling their way in digital, trying to figure out how they can grow and prosper in the markets they once dominated.

They have not yet come up with a sure-fire strategy for digital success, but three legacy media executives at the Borrell Associates’ Local Online Advertising Conference in New York Monday shared, at the invitation of conference organizer Gordon Borrell, what they believe were sure-fire signs of digital failure.

Rob Weisbord, COO of the Sinclair Digital Group, said one sign is companies that dispatch salespersons who simply sell time or space. At Sinclair, everybody has to have a “marketing mind-set,” he said. “If you are a spot jockey, that just doesn’t exist in today’s world.”

The rewards are there for those who get it, he added. “If you can say that I am not a radio salesperson or TV salesperson or newspaper salesperson, but am an omni-channel market, you are going to get that share of the wallet.”

Companies that do not reach for viewers on all devices are also doomed, he said. “If you think that you are a television company and you are delivering in home, but it’s not out of home, it’s not on mobile devices, it’s not Roku, it’s not Apple TV, it’s not on Android or OS, then you are going to fall behind.”

Chris Hendricks, VP at newspaper publisher McClatchy Corp., said he predicts failure when he sees companies that believe their competition is other legacy media and adopt a “go-it-alone mentality.” He said he doesn’t see Sinclair’s Wiesbord as a rival. “We try to learn from each other.”


Another sign is “over-reliance” on display advertising, he said. “What would you do if display advertising as we know it today went away? Would you have a business?”

How many of you looked at a news site today? How many of you remember what ads you saw? I don’t. I rarely click through.”

“I look at the long-term trends and I look at the efficacy of display advertising. We now know what we didn’t know when we were in the analog world. We know that performance for top-of-the-funnel awareness advertising is abysmally low.”

Advertiser know it, too, and are taking the dollars they once spent on display advertising and spending them elsewhere, he said.

At the same time, some companies are relying too much on display, they are ignoring the pay walls — another sign of failure, he said.

“Have a digital subscription strategy. Weigh into it, because ultimately you are going to want to get money out of it. That’s where there is real value between you and the customer.”

McClatchy now counts about 85,000 people paying $13.99 a month with “very little churn,” he said. “They are paying because they believe in the value of [the content].”

Companies also suffer because they don’t have a definitive policy on distributing content natively on other media, he said.

McClatchy does, he said, and it’s a no-go policy. McClatchy does not allow its stories to appear on other sites in their entirely, he said. “It will not show up solo in Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News or Yahoo. If you want to read the story, you come to our site via a link.”

Finally, he said, a sign that a company’s digital strategy hasn’t fully matured is the existence of a digital division within that company. It shows that the company has still not fully integrated digital into its thinking and operations, he said.

If you think you are digital company and still have a digital division, “you are lying to yourself because everybody is wondering, if we are all digital then who are those people [in the digital division] and what do they do.”

Taking to heart Borrell’s suggestion that he define a failing digital strategy, Tom O’Brien, VP and chief revenue officer at Nexstar Broadcasting, displayed slide with 15 orange hexagons, each with a different sign of trouble.

The 15:

  • Believing Your Home Page is the Primary Gateway to Your Brand
  • Thinking Desktop vs. Mobile First
  • Being an Historian (Trying to Relive the Good Old days)
  • Having 2 Meetings — One Digital and One Traditional
  • Ceding Your Brand to Facebook and Other Social Platforms
  • Not Expanding the Digital DNA in Your Company
  • Believing More Ads on Your Site Will Increase IT Revenue
  • Failing to Develop a Robust Social Strategy
  • Relying on Banners Alone to Drive Revenue
  • Not Developing a Strategic Content Distribution Strategy
  • Poorly Trained Sales Team
  • Focusing on Impression vs. Audience
  • Poorly Trained Editorial Team
  • Ignoring Viewability
  • Not Protecting Your Brand Credibility

O’Brien did not elaborate on most of the signs, but singled out the “historian” who believes that if he “waits a little longer, things are going to get back to normal. “

“They aren’t,” he said. “We are in a [world] of disorder. Get used to it. If you don’t like it, it’s going to overtake you.”

Comments (3)

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Cheryl Thorne says:

March 6, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Mr Weisbord is 100% on the money..I would venture to say most sellers, certainly the spot jockeys at interconnects, and most of the medium to small broadcasters are spot jockeys… Saw last week that Gray was lamenting on their spot forecast for 2017, complaining about Ford Tier 2 money ..You determine based on that comment if they have an omni channel mind set…as an example of small to medium broadcasters..I think not!

Tom Hardin says:

March 7, 2017 at 10:21 am

As the dad of 5 Millennials, I am aware of how my children approach media. Everything for them is internet (IP)based. They all do not subscribe to “cable”. Two are ALL Apple based. Apple TV, iPhones, etc. Two are Android and ROKU. The 5th does have HULU and ALL have Amazon Prime. If they watch TV, it is OTA (I set them up for that).
So that is the market that will be available. We “old timers” are dying off and dropping cable. How many of us have home phones? In the media world I live in, I know only two (for their old time security systems). The rest of us are cell phone /smart phone enabled.
Get with it or go the way of the dodo bird.

Allison Coquet says:

March 7, 2017 at 1:50 pm

I’m 26 and work in broadcast. All of my TV watching is OTA. All of it. The only things I subscribe to are things like Netflix, Hulu, etc… I do that because it’s honestly the best way to get the most for your money. Netflix raised the bar on content quality with their Netflix Originals. There is no need to pay for the standard TV quality shows that cable and broadcast got away with for so long. It’s poorly funded and poorly written. Thanks to Netflix and OTA, I get all the content I care about for about $10 a month… can’t beat that.