Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self - one's own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words and acts. It is a never-ending, difficult, oft-shunned task. The reason is not complicated. It is ignored precisely because it is incredibly more difficult than prescribing and controlling the behavior of others." Dee Hock

"Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string!" Emerson

"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." Machiavelli

Today's image: no where man by La caitlin. Great shot. Thanks for sharing.

Gird your loins: David Rosenberg, chief Northern American economist at Merrill Lynch, tells Barron's (Get Set for a More Frugal America)...

"...I do believe we are on the precipice of the first consumer recession in 17 years. It may end up being the worst consumer recession in 30 years...The FDIC is in the process of dramatically bulking up its staff load in preparation for bank failures...Frugality is going to be a source of pride...we're going to learn to live within our means a lot more than we did in the past 20 years."

Meanwhile, Bernanke, on the hill this morning before the joint economic committee, says "It now appears likely that real gross domestic product will not grow much, if at all, over the first half of 2008 and could even contract slightly" (Bloomberg)

Should a "bad weather" economy actually develop and appear is your organization prepared?

Here's how this relates to media. Consumer spending > Retail sales > Ad spend. It's perhaps too late for your team to get better. Making progress (and this might mean just staying even with last year) in 2008 demands that you get different. Your team will be best served by getting ahead of a soft market. The time to act is now.

How? Fair question, here's one measured take...

Borrell Associates, in association with TvB, recently published Benchmarking TV Web Site Revenues. Here's a bit of that report; Chapter 4, Conclusions & Recommendations...

"The uniform traits among best practice Web sites are:

  • An ability to work with non-traditional customers
  • Dedicated online-only sales staff
  • Thirst for data/research
  • Consultative sales strategy
  • Greater autonomy
  • Higher ad rates
As the Internet becomes more video-centric, this is clearly local broadcasters' game to lose. Newspapers may be losing advertising share on the Internet, but that's only because they grew so fast for so long...Broadcasters would be well advised not to underestimate their potential from interactive media. Gauging that potential and investing appropriately are the first steps. Our recommendations:

  • Gauge your market potential
  • Gauge your staffing investment
  • Get the org structure right
  • Adopt a niche mentality for Web content
  • Establish online sales goals on market share, not growth or percent of company revenue"
My thanks to Borrell Associates for sharing their well reasoned and wise counsel.

The guys that don't get this sea change are going to continue delegating blame. It's a safe wager the traded firms will lead quarterly calls making excuses about their poor performance, suggesting their revenues are down because of a soft or down market. Nonsense. They're down because they are continuing to do business the same way, only better. They will likely suggest they are now better prepared and better ready to make things happen once the market "comes back."

Hint: Beware the flawed arguments including the always popular "the market was down but we were down less, we beat the market." Again, nonsense.

Analyst should stop accepting these excuses and begin to do their homework, demanding disclosure of, at least, two different market metrics. The individual media silo (e.g., radio, TV, print, et al) and the aggregate, the total DMA ad spend. In other words don't just tell me how you did against your peer media competitors (i.e., TV v. TV), tell me how you did against the entire market (i.e., your stations vs the total of all ad spend in the DMA).

The most deceptive of shell games is the way broadcast is currently reporting online progress. "Revenues up 22%" fails to put the performance into proper context. In broadcast these numbers remain so small (in relative terms) that it is possible for a few thousand dollars attributed to online to bump performance up into those double digits. Again, nonsense.

How did online perform against the total local online market (silo) and then against the entire DMA ad spend (aggregate)? Knowing how one did online against only those in your peer group (e.g., local TV online v. local TV online) is a one dimensional measure that fails to recognize the whole, the true and honest picture of total local market dynamics. It's one thing to be up 22% against yourself, another to be up 11% and leading against your peer group, it's a different ball game to discover your peer shares are actually down in a total online market that is up and growing. Don't kid yourself, context is everything.

To understand what's happening (and not happening) you need to study the big picture. Face reality as it is, not as it was nor as you wish it to be.

Good news. No, make that excellent news! Now is the time to gain significant ground and build a sustainable strategic advantage against those busy making excuses.

The objective should be: change the denominator.

Don't delay

Get serious

Get different, now!


Anonymous said...

Excellent post David! Totally on the mark. I'm a manager at a pure-play local internet business (and longtime reader). We are having a killer year - so far - writing business in the automotive vertical. The automotive dollars in our market are not down but actually up almost double digits. We are taking dollars from broadcast and print almost without a fight. It is funny to hear broadcasters and newspapers complaining about the soft market because believe you me we are off to a great 08.

Anonymous said...

David, agree with most everything you said. From my vantage point leading online initiatives at a daily I'm seeing some softening in the market. Our real estate and banking verticals somewhat weaker. The competitive lens we use is loaded with online (ala Borrell) and all others (as you suggested). Broadcast in our market is not selling online instead they are value-adding comps to close broadcast schedules. Not to disagree completely with your "get different" approach but the broadcasters in our market would have to fundamentally change the way they do business to compete for the same dollars we do. This is possible but my gut tells me it is not going to happen, not this year any way. Love your blog. Cheers! Craig

Anonymous said...

playing devils advocate.what if
there is no recession? no contraction? the market just flatlines another zero growth year? so then we are playing the same game we played last year why have the rules of play suddenly changed? what says getting better will not win the day? interesting thesis you present but not enough detail for this reader.

dave said...

Thank you all for the comments.

The lift in automotive rings true since about the same dollars are being reallocated (reprogrammed in OEM speak).

Sorry to hear local broadcast is no-charging online to close sales. My guess would be the stations doing so do not enjoy the benefit of an online-only sales team. You may well be right, your local stations may not make changes this year (or next?) however I hope you are wrong. Competition is good for business ;)

OK. Let's agree no big R no little C just another no growth year. How are you not then ahead of the curve, strategically advantaged, because you change before you have to? No matter what you may make of the economy today you still need to compete for the future. Getting different is a two word shorthand for developing an alternative business strategy (or two, or three) which helps you to create new revenue engines, helps you to invent new revenue streams to supplement those already producing. This is additive, it's about AND rather than OR. Please email me should you wish to continue this conversation. Again, thanks.