shutterstock_158869706Have you heard of Digital Darwinism?

You can probably wager a guess at what it means. As it relates to multiplatform publishing, it holds that the brands that can’t adapt will not survive this content revolution. More specifically, brands that don’t seek to reach customers everywhere, and in real time, will be left in their competitors’ digital dust.

TV, print, radio, social, mobile, outdoor – the list goes on. Multi-channel marketing is not new. But the strategy of building and embracing an ecosystem of channels targeting a number of devices is becoming more of a “must” than a “should.” Sure, part of it depends on your industry. Media companies such as ESPN and Vice Media are leaps and bounds above sectors such as healthcare and manufacturing for good reason: their product is their content.

There are varying levels of sophistication that brands employ for their multiplatform strategies. Some spray one universal message to everyone, everywhere – smart phones, TVs, tablets and more. Others develop a more nuanced approach, creating content that fits a specific platform and best resonates with users.

Multiplatform publishing has a learning curve and presents a challenge to all marketers. But the ones who have already made it a priority are ahead of the game.

The Way I See It:

  • Creating messaging tailored for a platform and staying on brand can be a tough balancing act. A billboard may give you five words and an e-book can accommodate thousands.
  • It’s not enough to simply create content for multiple channels and platforms. These programs need to be built in such a way that their effectives can be gauged and changes can be made. The good news is that there are plenty of software and tools out there to assist.
  • Data is important, but with today’s emphasis on analytics and dashboards, you cannot forget to talk to your customers. After all, with all these platforms to address, you’re going to need fresh content ideas. And your customers are often your best source for these.
  • The problem with customers is that once you set an expectation, you have to meet it. Or exceed it. Make sure you’re thinking about what you can realistically manage today and tomorrow in terms of new platforms and content, to boot.

The Way The Industry Sees It:

I sat down with Michele Ramsey, Associate General Counsel at the Meredith Corporation, to talk about the rise and the importance of multiplatform publishing.

What is a multiplatform deal?

There are really two separate and equally important concepts at play in what I would call a multiplatform deal – multi-channel marketing and multi-platform marketing.  To conduct a successful integrated marketing campaign in today’s world, the marketer must interact with its customers where they are.  A campaign may include interaction with customers on any number of channels, including: print advertising, direct mail, retail, broadcast, native advertising, event-based experiences, websites, social media, email, mobile, etc. In addition to reaching customers through multiple channels, a digital marketing program in today’s world must reach customers on multiple devices.  According to the Pew Research Center, in January 2014, 90% of American adults had a cell phone, 58% had a smartphone (64% in October 2014), 42% had a tablet computer, and 32% had an eBook reader.  As customers consume content across these various devices, marketers must develop programs that provide the best experience with the brand as those customers move from screen to screen.

From a publisher’s perspective – what is critical?

First and foremost, it is critical to understand the target customers and how they behave, both online and offline.  Consumers have a vast array of choices of where to go to consume content, and the marketing message needs to be where they are and in the format and context that will get and hold their attention.  From a publisher’s perspective, it is extremely important to be able to provide measurement of the campaign across all channels to determine what is moving the needle. For example, amidst many skeptical opinions of the effectiveness of advertising in print magazines, Meredith launched its Meredith Sales Guarantee in 2012.

Talk to me more about the Meredith Sales Guarantee. What have you seen happen with this program?

The innovative program guarantees clients an increase in sales performance for brands that advertise in Meredith’s industry-leading portfolio of women-focused magazines. On average, in the first year of the program, Meredith magazine readers generated an increased sales lift of nine percent on advertised brands in categories such as food, beauty, household goods and over-the-counter drugs. In addition to increasing product sales, the research also revealed that more than half of buyers were new purchasers of specific brands.  Meredith uses many other measurement tools across channels and platforms to empower brands to optimize their marketing programs and maximize ROI. It is also critical to create a program that provides a consistent and cohesive experience for the customer across channels and platforms.  The same customer is likely to be interacting with your brand across several different channels and platforms and may behave very differently in each place.  Therefore, the program cannot simply provide the same content and experience on the different channels and platforms.  The interactions must build on one another to create a meaningful and action-inducing experience for the customer. Finally, as Bill Gates told us twenty years ago, Content is King.  No matter the channel or the platform, it is critical that a marketing program provide relevant and engaging content that will connect the customer to the brand.

Within the platforms is there one platform that dominates?

I don’t think it would be accurate to say that one platform dominates over another, because each platform plays an important part in a successful integrated program.  However, with the strong growth in consumer use of mobile devices, it has become critical to optimize marketing content for mobile consumption.

How have you seen the publishing business change from 5 years ago?

The incredible explosion of technology has really transformed the publishing business in the last five years.  The rise of social media, mobile applications, and other digital technologies has dramatically changed the way we consume content.  To keep up with those changes, publishers have had to adapt their business models to digitize their content and deliver it when and where consumers are.  We have seen an increase in the purchase and consumption of digital editions of magazines and newspapers, as well as high demand for mobile content.  Consumers now receive much of their news and sports from social media.  They find the recipes they need for dinner while in the aisles of the grocery store, and follow along with a video of the recipe being prepared as they cook it at home.  Publishers have had to rise to the occasion and provide quality content, optimized across platforms, to meet the demand. In the last five years, we have also seen an explosion of data-driven marketing.  New and sophisticated technologies have allowed for an absolutely astonishing amount of data about consumers to be collected and analyzed.

Where do you see it being 5 years from now?

With the rise of big data, we have seen the birth and growth of programmatic media buying.  Marketers are now able to determine the right ad, to serve to the right person, on the right platform, at the right time.  There are hundreds of players in the programmatic buying ecosphere, and the process is rapidly evolving.  eMarketer predicts that by 2017, 83% of digital placements will be programmatic.  With the rise in ad blocking technologies, we have also seen a significant increase in the use of native advertising. In the next five years, I see the publishing business placing an even greater emphasis on video and mobile.  We will see more advertisers and agencies bringing their programmatic buying processes in-house to gain greater control over placement and targeting.  I think we will continue to see increasing native advertising and other innovative ways to reach the consumer organically when and where they are.  Content, and data, will continue to be king.

As a lawyer, how do you keep up with the change going on in your industry?

I do my best to keep up with change going on in my industry by attending continuing education programs and being actively involved in leading industry organizations.  I am currently serving my first term on the Board of Advisors of the Brand Activation Association, an industry leading group that provides valuable perspective from the publisher, marketer, and agency players in the business.  Most importantly, as an in-house lawyer, I make every effort to engage with my internal clients as not only a legal advisor, but as a business partner.  I learn a great deal from asking questions and immersing myself in each deal, legal and business terms alike.

What is the coolest thing in your office?

Being immersed in the digital world every day at work, one may expect me to be a techie.  Being in a very creative business, one may also expect me to be creative.  I am neither.  That being said, I would have to say the coolest thing in my office has to be the 3’ x 4’ bulletin board on my wall – the old fashioned push-pin type – completely covered in artwork created by my children in their preschool years.