Tuesday, June 07, 2011
What is the magazine industry's strategy to defeat Google?
The changes in the ad market due to the internet has caused a lot of pain for newspaper and magazine publishers. From my day selling ads for the Linux Journal in the USA during the dotcom boom, I have seen the growth of the internet and the impact Google has on the magazine industry first hand.

I always looked at Google as the wolf in sheep’s clothing as it has convinced publishers to give their content away for free and riches will be found, but the only problem is that Google is reaping the rewards and not the publishers with free content. Sounds like a con job to me.

As with all winning streaks Google’s reign at the top may be coming to an end. Just ask AOL, the first darling of the internet generation. A recent USA Today report had Google accused of fixing the search results and being fined for $500 million. It is, perhaps, the turning point, as Google's credibility is being challenged.

This may be the opening magazine publishers must seize if we are ever going to fight back and regain the attention of advertisers. A ground breaking study, “The case for advertising in interactive digital magazines,” written by Josh Gordon from Smart Media Sales, provides a business model that we can embrace going foward. He looked at eight different interactive digital magazines and his results will help magazine publishers fight back with numbers that media buyers crave.

Josh, who spoke at the recent Quebec Magazine Day, offers a new vision for the industry to consider:

“Anyone who sells media who thinks they do not compete against search for ad dollars is in the wrong business. Look at the numbers. In the US, search now accounts for about half of every ad dollars spent on digital media. Search gets far more ad dollars than they deserve because they get credit for 'Last click attribution.' Because they are the last trackable click before an online sale is made they are often seen as the sole media that helped make the sale. The question other media need to raise is what motivated a buyer to enter a company or product name into a search engine in the first place?

“But the real way we compete against search is by creating interactive editorial and ads that create more of an experiential relationship with a media user. Ads in a digital magazine are in a unique place to do this because we have so much real estate we can offer an advertiser. A page in  digital magazines can show a video, offer a registration, explain a contest, offer downloads, offer a newsletter sign up etc. If the sum of all the interactive options you put into ad can create a meaningful experiential environment, advertisers will see you as different from a 'by the pound' purchase which is what search has become.”

In his study Josh defines an interactive digital magazine as follows,
  • An interactive magazine is designed to compete for the attention of online readers not print readers
  • Interactive magazines are designed for easy interaction between readers and the magazine, not just for one-way content delivery
  • Interactive digital magazines contain ads that readers can interact with.
Some of the key finding of the study show that a digital magazine is a better reading experience than a web site, video is the top choice for rich media and ad recall is higher than TV and radio.



Here is a chart for magazine publisher ad sales reps that I used in my online ad sales seminar at a magazine conference in 2010 that can be used to sell against Google to help make publishers' brands more relevant and remind advertisers that we will not go away. My favorite line is if you want to target teachers for example in Ontario, how is a paid search campaign going to deliver you the eyeballs.


We should also look at creating an industry task force to compete against Google. Microsoft and Yahoo. The industry needs some leadership in this area, but Canadian publishers are typically fast followers of trends instead of innovators. Anybody want to join the task force?
- Martin Seto
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at)
reflexmediasales.com or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

Most Recent Blog Comment
Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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