Insights from top four Borrell sessions

Legacy Media’s Role in the Digital World

By Corey Elliott

Riddle: What do you get when you combine the brightest minds in local media and mix them with the leaders in digital marketing for 2 days? Answer: LOAC. (Admittedly, not a great riddle.)

In early March, over 400 attendees descended on the Grand Hyatt in New York City to attend Borrell Associate’s 8th annual Local Online Advertising Conference. Many more tuned into the live stream from across the country (and globe) to spend two days with the best and brightest minds in and around the digital marketing community.

A post-conference survey of attendees revealed the top 4 sessions; all of which involved some aspect of “legacy media’s” role in a digital world.

A Winning Strategy for Local Media

First, Ezra Kucharz, Special Advisor to the CBS Corporation, made a case that content alone is no longer driving audience to media companies.  Content consumers are being trained to go to third-parties, and therefore, revenue is going to third-party platforms like Facebook and Google. Yet, all is not lost.

Kucharz explained that while the “old” media model breaks down in this environment, he thinks there is indeed a play for media companies that have mass and scale.  A successful effort requires a strong leader, the elimination of personal agendas and territoriality, and the utilization of small groups that can move faster.   Essentially, you need to surround yourself with pros – but just not any pros.

On the final slide of the presentation, the audience saw a photo of the 2016 Chicago Cubs and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. However, while both were champions, neither could beat even the weakest team in the others’ sport.

Kucharz’s point?  Build teams of champions in one discipline (such as digital media). Don’t expect your broadcast or print team to win on that field.

Editor’s note: Check out the Q&A with Ezra Kucharz in March issue of Local Media Today. He shared terrific intelligence for pushing the transformation needle in local media.

Understanding Advertiser Churn: What Fuels It and What’s Acceptable

It isn’t hard to imagine that if fundamentals like content strategy are not addressed, advertiser churn would be soon to follow. Jeff Tomlin, CMO of Vendasta Technologies, shared critical insights around the churn of advertising clients.

Perhaps needless to say, churn can be a significant inhibitor of growth.  Vendasta’s research into the habits of 250,000 SMBs over more than five years showed the highest churn came from those who bought digital products from traditional media sales reps.  Meanwhile, the lowest came from those who bought from digital-only sales reps (including telemarketing reps).

They also found higher churn when product prices were higher.  For every $100 a product price increases, the churn rate rose 8%. Conversely, Do-it-Yourself products had far lower churn than others.

Tomlin’s suggestion was for media companies to think more like SAAS companies, providing a wider range of services that include a DIY component, and that reps be well-versed experts in those digital products.

Again, the theme of employing skilled professionals came through.

Millennial Mindset: A Peek into Media’s Future

Perhaps the liveliest part of the conference came when five millennials took the stage for a talk led by Merrill Brown of Montclair State University. This was a unique chance to hear from five young people about the role of media and advertising in the everyday lives.

Most attendees were immediately struck by how savvy these young adults were when it came to the media.  It was obvious they had carefully considered newspapers, TV, and radio and came prepared to offer a different interpretation of those media.  To them, those media are all viable — just not in the forms that we have been thinking.

“Yeah, I subscribe to a newspaper…. but not in print.  Please don’t send a newspaper to my doorstep.  I wouldn’t know what to do with it,” said one.

They also agreed that they watch a lot of TV programming, but not at the time it’s aired and devoid of commercials.

They seemed genuinely interested in local news and information and eager to teach media companies the new definition of it, which includes mobile delivery pushed to people according to their preferences, rather than asking people to go somewhere and read everything. They want their news coming to them when they want.

How Facebook Views Its Role in the Local Media Landscape

Philip Rather, the Head of Local Partnerships at Facebook, leads a division working directly with local businesses on digital strategy. More accurately, his Austin office works with larger regional advertisers in the automotive, real estate, restaurant, and retail areas.

Facebook’s goal is clearly to make it extremely simple for SMBs to advertise, providing a set of tools that allow DIY implementation.  (That same DIY implementation that has such low churn rates, remember?)

While they are expanding their SMB initiatives by opening another office in Chicago, there does not appear to be any desire to hire legions of local sellers.  In fact, Facebook has a keen interest in empowering the estimated 90,000 local ad-sales reps who work for local print, broadcast, and other media.  Facebook would like to engage those reps to help their own clients utilize Facebook as a promotional tool hand-in-glove with their traditional advertising.

Facebook weaved its way through many of the presentations, but perhaps backing up from that angle it was easy to see how a consumer’s social media habits shape nearly all content consumption. And, per the up and coming millennials, that trend will only strengthen.

Surely these speakers, and 50+ more like them, were one of the main reasons 97% of attendees gave LOAC2017 a favorable rating and 78% said they are very likely to attend in 2018.

But perhaps the best part of the conference was the exchange of ideas that happened when you mixed the brightest minds together – even if it makes for a lousy riddle.