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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Do Newspapers Have a Future in the U.S.?

With all the changes swirling about in the world of media, no group has been affected more than major metropolitan newspapers. Until very recently, newspaper billed more than any other media type and shrewd investors like Warren Buffett took big stakes in major market papers or bought them outright. It is doubtful if Buffett, known as "The Oracle of Omaha", would chase a newspaper today.

Some of the problem is the fault of the newspapers and some is simply shifting consumer behavior. They of late have been hit by a double whammy of declining readership in general of the daily press plus a weak economy that has hit local car dealers and retailers very hard. But, newspapers were always a bit arrogant. They knew for a long time that they were "the retailer's bible" so they never worked hard for business. For a few years, some did well as their competitors went under and they became the only newspaper choice in town. Several years later, a lot of the advantage wore off as young people avoided them.

For a while an argument was used in newspaper circles similar to one used by radio people. As a teenager, I loved The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Radio people early in my career told me that by the time I was 60, I would be listening to the Big Band sound of the 1940's. It did not happen. My habits have stayed with me.

When newspaper reading began its slow death 20 years ago, a lot of newspaper people said the young generation would eventually come to them. When they became homeowners and parents, newspapers would become an integral part of their daily lives. Well, I speak a lot as a guest lecturer on college campuses. I always ask for a show of hands to see who reads a daily newspaper. Most of the time it is under 10% and these classes are often full of journalism or communications majors. That bodes very poorly for newspapers long term. Ask a group of marketing people in the work force and you will see that if someone is under 40, the odds of he or she reading a daily paper are also very low. The Wall Street Journal bucks the trend, of course, with rising young professionals, but that is a special case for sure.

The college kids almost always say the same thing when I ask why they are not reading a paper. I get comments such as "you have to wait for a specific time each day to get it and news is always happening" or "I can read the parts that I want for free online" and "where are the hot links?" Another comment said in different ways is "a newspaper does not fit into my life." More damning is "reading a daily paper is something my grandparents do!" Does this sound like a group who will suddenly jump to newspaper some day? Not likely, with all the new options shaping up.

Many fairly major papers are really on the skids. They are largely wire service copy with a few local and syndicated columns thrown in. As I travel around the country and read many of them, a fair assessment is that many have become embarrassments.

How can they be saved? Many analysts say that they need to focus more on local events and simply use the wire service copy for national and international news. But that ignores the demographic tidal wave that is headed right at them. They are skewing older and older and young adults are not going to get turned on to newspapers because they cover school board issues or local fires in great detail. Suburban weeklies already cover that well anyway which hurts the metro dailies.

Others say that they need to bite the bullet if the economy continues to be weak and go 100% digital as a few have done. But, the problem with that is the reality that the core base of many newspapers is older, sometimes much older. If you go exclusively digital you lose thousands of the elderly who do not know how to turn on a computer.

Another portion of the digital argument is that dailies need to come up with a roster of new carriers--RSS, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, iPhone-- the list goes on and on. Can they brand themselves that way? It is possible, I suppose but not enough publishers think in those terms yet.

One publication that stunned me with their excellent transformation to digital was The Christian Science Monitor. To me, it has always been a thoughtful publication that played politics straight down the middle. The new digital version is compact and wisely does not try to do it all. They have a fairly small staff but have kept several foreign bureaus open. They focus on national news and do it very, very well. I wish them well and rarely miss an issue these days. (Check it out at csmonitor.com)

Realistically, some papers will begin to cut back in 2009. Some will kill the Saturday edition; others may go to a frequency of three times per week. But, if the economy stagnates well into 2010, several will simply close their doors. Some fair sized markets will simply not have a daily paper.

There is a social issue that goes beyond the failure of daily papers. Consider the Washington Post in the early 1970's. Katherine Graham was a courageous publisher who had the money and the guts to take on the Nixon administration over The Pentagon Papers and then Watergate. Two young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, doggedly pursued the Watergate story with support from editor Ben Bradlee. It took lots of time and money. They unearthed a great deal of criminal activity and helped bring down the Nixon White House.

What about today? There may be publishers with guts but how many mid-size market publishers have the financial resources to do exhaustive investigative reporting about the corruption of their city's mayor or city council? As each week goes by, the odds seem less and less.

America will be poorer in many ways without a free and vibrant daily press in every city of size. Bloggers are great for an open society and for bringing unorthodox viewpoints to the forefront. But, bloggers have limited resources and while they can raise issues and concerns, they can only go so far. Will there ever be another Woodward & Bernstein with a wealthy and gutsy patron to back them up and allow them to keep digging for extended periods of time? Will corruption go unchecked here or there because no one has the resources to blow the whistle or even know there is a problem?

Sadly, most American newspapers are dinosaurs. They need to reinvent themselves quickly or they will surely become extinct.

To contact Don Cole directly, you may e-mail him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Friday, January 30, 2009

Schumpeter Lives in 2009 Media!

A lot of us took some economics in our college years. I actually majored in it. If you were very lucky as I was, a professor here or there might have made a passing mention of Joseph Alois Schumpeter. He was an Austrian who moved to America as the Nazis rolled across Europe. Harvard became his home until his death in 1950.

Schumpeter is getting more attention these days as he popularized though did not invent a concept known as "Creative Destruction." To wildly oversimplify, creative destruction might be summarized as a process by which a new idea enters the marketplace and makes existing capital relatively worthless. The new idea tends to be innovative and radically so.

We have seen creative destruction in mundane ways. Wal-Mart essentially took out Sears and Montgomery Ward and local department stores via tight inventory control management and low cost operations. Radical innovators cost some real hardship to those involved with the existing status quo companies. Layoffs rise in the obsolete companies and many suffer in the short term. Others suffer long term as they are unable or unwilling to be retrained in the new emerging world.

Schumpeter laid out this concept way back in 1942 in a book entitled Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Actually, it is not that radical. It merely articulated that innovation by entrepreneurs is the force that fosters growth in a free market. The innovators eventually destroy the value of established companies who are losing their quasi-monopoly power.

As I mentioned above, it happened in retail and it happened in automotive with foreign competition. But, you can bet someone will be gunning for Wal-Mart and soon if their market share holds up.

Right now, creative destruction is occuring in media as well. The big brands of Disney, GE, Newscorp, Viacom/CBS, and Time Warner are all under siege. Digital and other new media, some of it advertising free, are now doing real damage and the pace of hurt is quickening. With the slowing economy, painful layoffs are occuring across all media and advertising agencies are full of jumpy people looking over their shoulders.

Newspapers (about which we will soon devote a separate post) are fighting for their lives in many areas and have lost forever most young Americans to on line alternatives. Local TV and radio stations are having problems with debt service in some markets and in 2009 some mid-size ad agencies will close their doors or be so downsized as to be unrecognizable but for the name on the door.

The major media both nationally and locally have had a lock on the consumer for more than 55 years. As the digital innovators have gotten some traction, the major media are weakening rapidly. There is nothing sinister going on here; it is merely the same process that has invaded countless other industries.

How do you fight back? Learn new skills. Embrace change with gusto. Read, read, and read some more. And if your management will not look for new clients who accept the reality of today's marketplace, change jobs ASAP (admittedly easier said than done today). If you make a spirited effort and go with the change rather than deny it, you can wind up on the creative side of the term creative destruction.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you can reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Monday, January 26, 2009

Will It Be Different This Time?

Since I was in college (a long time ago), I have been reading hundreds of books about the stock and commodity markets. One thing always stands out every few years. Some one writes a hot new bestseller about how "this time it is different" and a certain category of stocks will go to the moon.

I saw it with the "Nifty 50" in the late "60's ( advice was buy Polaroid and hold forever), gold in 1980 (it hit $850 an ounce and then fell to $280 and took 28 years to rebound), virtually all stocks in 1986-87 (crashed in October, 1987), the Internet craze of 1999-2000, and the real estate boom of the new century that the entire economy is paying for now. Clearly, a lot of booms and manias are caused by people believing that the good times will last forever. If I have learned one thing the last forty years about the capitalistic economic road it is simply that markets always go to extremes. When people say that this time it is different, it should serve as a warning bell for all to get liquid and wait for some reversion to the mean that corrects pricing back to more modest levels.

What does all of this have to do with the world of media? Well, the more that I think about it maybe it WILL be different this time for media (definitely not for the stock market). Here is where I am coming from: over the last several weeks everyone that I speak and correspond with is talking about how bad things are in both the print and broadcast marketplaces. No argument from anyone seems likely on that point. But broadcasters, eternally optimistic, keep saying that when the economy snaps back and big players, especially domestic auto, returns to the airwaves, all will be well.

I do not feel qualified to comment on the future of the Big Three in Detroit. But, to me, the broadcasters are forgetting something. All through this dramatic ecomomic downturn people continue to abandon broadcast TV and newspaper, and to a lesser extent, radio. The fragmentation continues to march across all major media but outdoor. So, when we do get a return to normalcy whether it is later this year or in 2010 or, sadly even 2011, the playing field will look and feel different.

Some local advertisers will be out of business. Others will have experimented with more digital advertising and will have a healthy component in streaming video and will never go back to an 80% broadcast, 20% local cable mix.

I remember the recession of 1974-75. We suffered from the three I's--inflation, interest rates, and impeachment (Richard Nixon). When the economy came back, the broadcast market roared. Some DMA's saw cost per points jump 40-50%. Today's economy strikes me as worse than those difficult times. But structurally, the media world is undergoing changes over the next one to three years that will cancel out a dramatic surge when the good times roll again. So, for the media world, at least, this time it REALLY is different.

You can contact Don Cole directly at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Should You Ride on the Value Added Express?

This past week several people in my sample of sales people, broadcast and cable media management, and agency media departments mentioned the same issue to me. They said, in essence, that as the economy has weakened, advertisers are getting increasingly noisy about needing value added extensions to media buys.

The value added takes all forms from complicated promotions to as little as a billboard leading in to the sports news or the weather update. Do they work? Usually they do not hurt but their utility certainly varies.

Radio stations have historically had to do frequent promotions and, as a general rule, are far better at them than TV stations. Also, they have more flexibility with their air time than their TV and cable competitors.

Advertisers are also forgetting than TV and cable enterprises have been effected by this recession too and have cut back staff, sometimes significantly.

So, what should advertisers do? It seems pretty obvious to me. Negotiate hard for price. People need your money now more than ever. And, ask for bonus spots and ask again. With domestic auto spending at historic lows and other categories savaged as well, there is inventory available to reward current advertisers. They can execute it--little staff time is involved to drop in some no charge units. In a previous post, I mentioned that DVR penetration and channel surfing is hurting TV's effectiveness. While this is true, someone will see your bonus spots.

A clever boxer does not need a knockout punch. You can win by pouring on the points with the ultimate value added tool--no charge units. Play to the current weakness of the broadcast and cable marketplace and save your promotional energy and that of the media for better times.

For the moment, our suggestion is to hop off the value added express.


If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, he can be e-mailed at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spot TV Post Buy Analysis--A Waste of Energy?

Sometimes good ideas outlive their usefulness as the underlying terrain changes. In my opinion, such is the case for most Spot TV Post Buy Analyses.

For a long time, post buys known as "posts" were a good thing in the local marketplace. It kept spot market negotiators on their toes, kept agencies honest, and it was a useful tool to determine the skill of a buyer. For clients it served as something of a report card for their agencies. Broadcast stations also used it to monitor their performance and to get the measure of with whom they were dealing. Station personnel were often surprised to find that agencies of even modest size had the best forecasters on staff and could see who was truly stewarding buys compared to those who played "set it and forget it' and moved on to the next market's negotiation.

In recent years, the value of posting has lost some of its luster among thoughtful media people at agencies, stations, and advertisers alike. It is particularly acute in markets that still use diary measurement. The diary method of measurement launched in July 1950. A lot has changed since then and Nielsen has made an effort to improve the methodology. But, it is absolutely incapable of capturing activity across a few hundred separate channels in 2009.

And, think of the response error that you get with a diary base! What self-respecting 21 year olds are going to dutifully fill out a log of their viewing for a week and mail it back to Nielsen? Probably a bunch of young nerds who fantasize about becoming IRS agents or life insurance actuaries. Do they represent the habits of their generation? Of course not, but Nielsen reports them as doing so.

Also, the diary does a terrible disservice to local cable sales as only a handful of channels show up in a diary based rating book. It has been very instructive over the last several years to watch what happens when a market switches from household Nielsen meters to Local People Meters (LPM). The affiliates take a hit, local news tanks big time, and cable numbers absolutely zing upwards. So, diary numbers are two steps removed from LPM methodology. But LPM, as it rolls out across the country is itself being questioned as fighting the last war as streaming video and DVR penetration change the advertising game dramatically.

So, smaller advertisers, operating in markets ranked approximately 65-210, only receive diary data. Admittedly, not as much money is spent here as the top 25 DMA's (Designated Market Areas), but broadcast negotiators are often asked to post as well in these smaller DMA's as they are in the giant markets with daily meter data on both a household and demographic basis.

The situation is not all Nielsen's fault. It is expensive to go to household meters and more so to LPM. One market, #39 ranked Grand Rapids, still uses a diary as local players will not pay for a meter. (Many markets ranked in the 60's have household meters) But, as they roll LPM out to more DMA's, it is a tacit admission that the diary is obsolete and has been for some time. (Arbitron faces a similar issue in Radio)

Across the country many fine broadcast negotiators get beat up in client meetings because they did not post above 90% in a diary market. Yet, with every passing rating book crazy things are happening. Zero cells abound even in primetime. I dare you to look at a 3rd quarter rating book in a diary market. It is stunning. Sometimes, a strip program (telecast same time Monday-Friday) will have a 3 on Monday and Tuesday, a zero on Wednesday, and 2's on Thursday and Friday. To post in early fringe these days often mean getting a lucky rotation. It is madness.

Over the years, I often quietly conducted analyses that looked at post buy performance and pitted it against retail sales. Sometimes they matched but often sales jumped when posts were under the 90% performance standard and other times they tanked when the post was 120%+. Of course, there are many exogenous factors in play--strength of the creative, appeal of the offer, execution at retail, state of the economy, and always, what was the competition doing.

I can only say this--sales results are a far better indicator of media performance than any post buy analysis can ever hope to be!

Finally, here is an issue that media people often ponder but never say out loud. Agencies, buying services, and clients want each station to post at 90-100% of forecast. But, what of stations that consistently deliver? Do they get paid more? Do they get a thank you? Shrewd negotiators often increase the shares of those stations that monitor the buys closely but given the vagaries of the Nielsen diary base, perfect posting is often impossible in the world of 2009 TV.

I am not naive. Nielsen is the currency that we have to use for the next few years. But, if you are an advertiser reading this, have some common sense. As TV viewership crumbles over the air and scatters everywhere else, lessen the importance of post buys in your agency evaluation especially in diary based TV markets. If you must use it, look at it over a year or 18 months rather than a 4 week flight. The measurement is deeply flawed and the world is changing rapidly.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, e-mail him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TV Reach & Frequency--Obsolete?

I have been itching to write this post for a long time--perhaps 10 years. Stunningly, people are still making media decisions based on data that is 15 to 37 years old and that overstated performance in the first place. The topic is the murky world of TV Reach & Frequency.

To begin, let's define a few terms. Reach was a percentage of people exposed to a TV campaign in a particular time frame (often a four week flight). Frequency was simply a statistic that calculated the number of times those people who were "Reached", had an opportunity to see and hear the commercial. Multiply Reach x Frequency and you calculated Rating Points. This became the basic media equation that ruled our lives in media planning for a couple of generations.

Along the way came refinements. The erudite Herbert Krugman brought us the "three hit theory". The first time a person saw a commerical they said to themselves "what is it", the second time, "what of it" and by the third time they knew enough to make a purchasing decision. After that, the viewer (potential consumer) began to disengage from the advertising.

Others took this theory further. Alvin Achenbaum talked about the "heart of the frequency distribution" and how optimal media performance was often had by clustering 3-8 messages to as many people as possible within a brand's purchase cycle. This had us looking intently at the patterns of frequency distributions and often drove daypart mix selection.

There was also a remarkable article by Howard Kamin in the February 1978 issue of Journal of Advertising Research in which he talked about people may need 12 exposure opportunities to deliver three authentic hits. He also the raised the issue of why Reach & Frequency estimates were always so much higher than recall data.

Media researchers talked about these issues in very lively debates. They also discussed the leading formulae to calculate the projections-- Modal, short form Modal, and Metheringham. (Media researchers tended not to be chick magnets)

The Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) put out a series of curves in 1971 and then updated them again in 1978. They were very helpful in determining some daypart mixes and to give clients numbers for sales meetings where they could say this year's campaign in Chicago would reach 93% of target males with an average frequency of 12.3.

The reality is that reach was never that high. All reach & frequencies (R&F) ever did was provide an estimate of exposure opportunities, not actual delivery. Just as Nielsen rating points never took into account the level of viewer attentiveness, neither did on line R&F's.

So far, so good. And then something happened. What happened is not much. Many in the industry tried to get services such as IMS and Telmar to develop market sensitive reach & frequency estimates. The theory was that a schedule in Los Angeles with more viewing options would have lower reach than one in Ottumwa, Iowa with two stations and low cable penetration. They were cooperative but agencies and their clients were not willing to step up to the plate and pay for their development.

As time went on, TV began to fragment. The now ancient curves popped up in small and mid-sized agencies in notebooks and early computer simulations. Yet, few made adjustments for the changes in the viewing patterns of America.

This past fall, I had a conversation with an executive at a company which does billing systems for many agencies. He candidly told me that the R&F's his systems provides are from curves built in 1992 or 1993. "A lot has changed since then", I commented. He agreed but said that stations cumes (total reach across the week) had not declined that much so what difference did it make. I agree about the cumes but who buys a spot every 15 minutes on a station? That is how you can truly deliver cume. As average ratings continue to plummet in broadcast and cable, reach of a 200 point schedule has to decline a bit. Separately, an executive at well known broadcasting giant said that his group is allowed to do several empirical reach & frequency analyes each year on the Nielsen Plus system that actually goes into meter households and follows viewers day to day. Reach in these "empirical" analyses is at least 20 points below where it was 15 years ago even for aggressive schedules.

A Further Insult

Some people also still show clients Intermedia Reach & Frequency data. This one is a really absurd. How do you combine TV reach with radio, for example? Very simple. Use a sophomoric formula known as random overlap (A+B)-(AxB) where A is TV reach and B is radio reach. I often do them in my head in meetings which astounds people. It is pretty simple arithmetic, really. Random overlap may be fairly close but no one knows what reality is. Also, a basic tenet of research is that different methodologies yield differing results. All media are measured differently and the audience estimates are just that--estimates. If we use random overlap we seem to be multiplying error as each medium has a unique methodology in its measurement and no two media intersect the same way. Also, some wags blend, spot TV, network cable, and local cable together as if they were three separate and distinct media types. It is still all television, folks.

Conclusions

Be very wary of anyone who tries to make media decisions based on R&F data. Steer clear of those who look all too closely at intermedia projections. They want media magic not solid thinking and execution. And, if someone is touting a 92% reach, look out. The curves they used to come up with the projection may be older than you are!

Only twice in my long career has anyone ever questioned the validity of what came from a computer printout. The underpinnings of 90% of broadcast R&f's are obsolete yet few know or care.

Longtime U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and diplomat Henry Clay was famous for saying "I would rather be right than president". A better Clay quote is "Statistics are no substitute for judgement."

As digital R&F data gets better and better, TV data is largely stuck a generation ago. Be careful!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Elephant in All Our Offices

Each morning as we stumble in with our coffee and turn on our computers, there is an elephant in our offices.  And, it gets bigger every month.  We get wrapped up in our day and often ignore it completely despite its size.  The elephant, of course, is DVR penetration and usage.

First, let's step back several years. At the turn of our new century, I was asked to speak at an industry gathering and it was requested that I finish the presentation by making a few predictions about the future of media. So while the Internet was on everyone's mind, I did cover that arena.  But, I finished with a forecast about Digital Video Recorders (DVR) which were then generally referred to as TiVo and occasionally as time shifting devices.

My forecast was pretty straightforward.  I said that "when DVR penetration hits 40%, television will cease to be the powerful advertising force that is has been the last 50 years."  Even though the crowd was largely made up of broadcast and cable people, no one was really upset.  At the time, DVR penetration was hovering around 4% and TiVo, the company, was struggling financially. During Q&A and in conversation with participants after the meeting, the discussion centered around whether DVR penetration would ever get that high or would it take 15 years or so.   There were few concerns among the crowd and we parted very amicably.

Fast forward back to January, 2009.  Nielsen now pegs DVR penetration at 28.9% nationally. This may be slightly below some of the futuristic forecasts made but a seven fold increase in eight years is impressive.  And, as always, Nielsen tends to lag a bit in monitoring penetration levels.

The real story is not that nationally we may have already crossed over the 30% threshold. It is what is happening in key local markets.  Nielsen currently pegs Dallas-Ft.Worth at 37.2%, Los Angeles at 38.2%, and Orlando at 38.8%.  Any or all of these could be over 40% in the real world.

Was there anything sacrosanct about my 40% tipping point that I forecast so long ago?  Not really.  It just seemed to be common sense. When you are effectively having the potential to lose 40% of an audience, particularly in key prime-time shows, yet still pay a premium for them, something has to give.  Also, the early adapters to a new technology tend to be marginally more affluent than the rest of the population and certainly are open to new ideas.  So, they are often your best advertising prospects.

Agencies have reacted somewhat childishly to the impact of DVR's on the marketplace.  Some say proudly that if one makes a better commercial people will stop in the fast forward process and watch it.  Hmmm.  Do you really think time challenged people, particularly working moms, are going to go back?  They are incredibly time deprived and, to me, the real heroes of our society. Saving 15 minutes by using a time shifting device gives them back perhaps their most precious perishable commodity--time.

Others say that they are loading up with more sports because everyone watches them live and the interest level is intense.  I admit that rabid fans often call or text each other during a game so watching it live is imperative for them.  But more casual fans tell a different story.  Anecdotally, several men have told me that they now tape football games each weekend and spend more time with their children.  One said "it is amazing how fast you can go through a football game if you only want to see the action."  Another gentlemen in the southeast told me rather sheepishly that he now spends Sundays, shall we say, renewing his marriage vows with his wife.  His wife is thrilled that he no longer spends a dozen hours on the couch on fall weekends swilling beer.  He still gets to watch his football so both are happy.  As more granular data comes out from set top box samples, I think you will find that the real world premium for sports advertising may be higher than any of us dreamed.

Finally, Nielsen has come to the aid of advertisers and their agencies with their live +3 and live +7 rating calculations.  Give me a break!  Certainly, some people tape shows and play them back in their entirety.  But that number has never been high and has to decline a bit each day.

To those readers who cover a local market beat as I have for many years take a look at sales performance. I am willing to bet that even prior to the recession it took more rating points to move the sales needle in a market such Dallas-Ft.Worth or Los Angeles  than it did a few years earlier.  DVR's plus some help from trigger happy viewers with a remote in their hands  have forced local advertisers to spend 1400 rating points in a flight to replicate the sales performance that they used to get with 1050.  It will only get worse as DVR penetration grows.

Today, I do not have any specific solutions but will cover some ideas in upcoming posts.  What I can tell you is that people need to stop the mindless and endless arguments about daypart mix issues and start planning a long term strategic withdrawal from broadcast.  It may only be 15% of the current TV budget  allocated somewhere else for 2009 but the train has left the station.

Act now and protect your brand!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Integration Problems? Maybe the "Over the Hill" gang can help

There is a growing problem in advertising these days that virtually no one is talking about. It concerns the integration of conventional media for a company with elements in the digital arena and emerging media.

How much should an advertiser put in each bucket?  In the last few weeks since I have hung out my consultant shingle, I have asked this question and the answers have been stunning.  Some people say "we have a digital agency that handles new media and a traditional advertising agency placing conventional fare." Okay, but who decides how much goes where?  Answers include: shrugs, "we gave the digital shop 20% and may increase it next year", "if sales rise this year we will add to digital", to the honest "we just guessed at it."

Others keep all activity in an old line agency saying that their shop is developing a digital capability and will move from TV and radio when "the time is right."  

There appears to be a naive assumption as well that the one stop shopping approach will always yield an even handed analysis. No one argues that digital shops will recommend a plan that skews heavily toward new media and a conventional shop will dabble with digital but still keep the big bucks in the tried and true TV, cable, radio, magazine, and newspaper.  But within many shops, there is a silent battle going on. Can a 28 year old media planner stand up to his media director or the account's management rep and really recommend the right mix of elements for a plan for 2009 or beyond?  Does he or she really know enough about our emerging media world to make a truly informed recommendation?  Some will, some won't but many clients will suffer.

Some 20 years ago, I once had 9 clients operating in the arcane world of regional network television. The sales people at all the networks were excellent and provided good value to our clients who would have paid a huge premium compared to their competitors if they had to place all their dollars exclusively in spot markets.  Regional network helped level the playing field for a great deal of our client base for at least a portion of their buys. 

Over time I learned that some mega-shops never used regionals but continued to make huge spot purchases across many markets in addition to full national network TV buys. When I asked why, I was told that politically it was difficult within shops to sell in regionals. The spot buying directors did want to lose billing and the network buyers were not always interested in smaller buys even though they could help their clients save money.

Don't you think that the same thing is going on today?  Are some people continuing to load up on network TV, spot TV, radio, etc. at the expense of digital?  It is not all sinister. Some of it may just be human nature. Many people cling to their area of expertise; it is where their comfort zone resides.

Last week I finished a very thoughtful new book called Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  In it he provides guidelines for marketing pros.  His #3 recommendation was:

"Radically reduce advertising in broadcast media--most TV and much of radio and print advertising is a waste of time, energy, ink, and money.  Move "Marketing Communications Spending" to digital media."

Well. While I agree directionally with his comments, individual analysis is definitely required.
Some plans should be 60% digital, others 15% at this point in time.

Where can one go for help?  May I suggest the following?  In the last five years as TV continued to weaken and newspapers absolutely cratered, I would asked media executives and agency types what to do in our brave new world of media. Almost all were defensive and fought vigorously to defend their media property or what they were recommending to their clients. But, a half dozen or so were brutally candid. Some TV executives actually told me the salad days were long over and that they were glad that they were not 25 again and starting out in the business. A few agency media pros said their CEO's "did not get it" as they pushed for more TV.

Interestingly, there was a common thread among this handful of men and women who hopped aboard a media version of the straight talk express. They ranged in age from 58-62 years old, were about to leave the business, and all were fairly well off but not fabulously rich.

These might be just the people to help you sort out how much goes to each discipline. They have nothing to prove to anyone, they are not empire building, and they would like but not need your money.  Candor comes naturally as they have no fear.

Caution--avoid those who talk constantly of the good old days or those that say they have "relationships" with the media and can work things out. They are telling old war stories because they have not stayed current.

There are some good graybeards out there. They have watched the erosion of the conventional forms of media in recent years and are stunned at how the pace of disintegration is picking up. If you can find the right one, embrace him or her. They can save you a great deal of money and lead you in to the next era.