Tag : newspaper

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203: Two (Misguided) Questions Auctioneers Ask About Facebook Advertising

At the end of July, a Wall Street selloff knocked $119,400,000 off Facebook’s market capitalization. Over two days, the Silicon Valley giant lost almost 20% of its estimated value (though only back to its stock price as of April). Hunted by European litigators and questioned by the United States senate, the company has spent the summer rebuilding its brand.

Facebook stock price

With the largest social media platform in the news almost every day this summer, I’ve seen auctioneers asking two questions:
• What are you doing to ensure you don’t have all your eggs in the Facebook basket?
• Where will you advertise if/when Facebook goes away?

Facebook Market Cap

As someone who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on Facebook advertising and makes a third of my income from Facebook marketing services, you’d think I’d be asking these questions, too. I’m not. Here’s why.

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon.

Even with the big drop, Facebook is still one of the wealthiest, most profitable companies on the planet. This isn’t a MySpace situation. For one thing, even a fraction of Facebook’s market share would make it the most robust platform on which to pursue clients. LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter combined have only as many users as Instagram, Facebook’s secondary platform. 1 Almost one out of every three people on Earth have a Facebook account. That’s amazing by itself but even moreso when you consider that only 54% of the world’s population uses the Internet. 2 In the United States, more adults check Facebook each day than read all American newspapers—combined—during the course of a week.

Facebook comparison

The next thing will be easy to spot.

There’s a case to be made that social media as a media category might decline someday when people grow tired of the comparison game it represents. Facebook, being the biggest player, would probably take the biggest hit. Nothing happens in a vacuum, though. If you remove social media from daily practice, something new will grow to fill that space. What won’t occupy that space is traditional media. It definitely won’t be newspaper, as the American attention span continues to shrink. Nobody confidently knows what’s next or when it will get here, but it will require at least as much adaptation and intuition to operate there as Facebook demands now. Whatever moves into that space will approach with lots of buzz and probably fanfare much like Facebook did more than a decade ago.

Facebook isn’t monolithic.

Facebook isn’t just Facebook. It’s not just Instagram and WhatsApp and Messenger, either. Facebook’s Audience Network spans scores of the prominent news and entertainment sites on the Internet. Like Google’s display ad network, Facebook ads appear all over the web to visitors with Facebook accounts. So, even if someone deletes the Facebook and Instagram apps from their phone or just never uses them, they can still be targeted by Facebook’s ads. In fact, on a per-ad basis, Facebook daily analyzes from which of its platforms people are most efficiently coming to your website and adjusts your daily spend proportionally. If you’re eggs are all in one Facebook basket, it’s a lot bigger basket than you might realize.

Facebook isn’t the only go-to pitch now, anyway.

There are some rare auctions where I advise a campaign to have at least 90% of the budget allocated to Facebook, but those represent the exception and not the rule. What you’re selling, where you’re selling it, and how you’re selling it influence the media mix. This is also true of the resources available to you like (1) email subscribers and (2) past bidder registrations for the same asset category being advertised. Sometimes, a public relations campaign does your heavy lifting on a truly unique auction. Sometimes, a purchased mailing list is the most targeted tool available. There are even a handful of newsprint outlets I still recommend. Often, media choices aren’t based on efficiency or efficacy but on assumptions and perceptions the seller has to feel like you covered all of your bases. If you are avidly tracking all media individually in Google Analytics for every auction, you’ll know what media you use for buyers & sellers and which ones you use for branding or showmanship. You’ll also be able to see trends as they happen.

When I look at the Facebook accounts of the auctioneers asking these questions, I typically find people who aren’t well-versed in Facebook advertising. I wonder if they are hoping for the seemingly-complicated reality of Facebook’s paid advertising to go away so they can get back to the set-it-and-forget-it nature of traditional media. If they got the efficient results my clients do on Facebook, I’m not sure they’d wish for this strike-out pitch to disappear. Even if their wish came true, though, it would be a long, slow decline.

The more important questions to ask are:
• How am I adapting to the changing buying culture?
• What have my experimentation and analytics shown me recently?

Marketers who don’t continually ask themselves those questions will eventually be replaced by those in companies who do. That should worry every auctioneer far more than the future of Facebook.

1 “Top 15 Most Popular Social Media Sites and Apps [August 2018]” by Priit Kallas, Dreamgrow.com, August 2018.

2 “Internet Users in the World by Regions” by Internet World Stats.com, December 21, 2017.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. All other images linked to their respective sources.

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Reach the Bidders You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

There’s a sneaking suspicion in many auction marketers—and definitely in their sellers. We wonder if there was a stone unturned, a motivated bidder that wasn’t reached by our advertising.

Did we cast a big enough or tight enough net?

Missing Bidders PosterWhat people weren’t in our mailing list broker’s database?
Who didn’t read the newspaper during the weeks prior to the auction?
Who didn’t drive past our sign out on the highway?
Did any emails go unopened or straight to junk folders?
Did we choose the right demographic selectors on Facebook?

The auction community prides itself in bringing the whole market to bear on an asset at once. We tell potential sellers that we’ll deliver true market value. We rightly trumpet our concentrated advertising campaigns.

Still, there’s that whisper, that gnawing question—especially when the auction price is low and even more so when it was an absolute auction. Did we find everybody?

One of the biggest developments in advertising over the past couple of years has been a partial solution to that mystery. This development has made mailing lists more powerful, web traffic more valuable, and Facebook just short of necessary for finding buyers.

Big Data for Small Businesses

In addition to the vast amount of data users give Facebook about themselves, Facebook also buys data from outside sources and matches that information to its user base. Bank and mortgage lender records. Vehicle ownership. Purchase histories. Web site visits. As a result, this data gets woven into an astounding web of connected dots. Using advanced algorithms, Facebook can then match people with common denominators.

So, after you find the people you think are likely buyers, Facebook can find people who look just like your intended audience. With Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool, both purchased lists and in-house lists can be matched with people just like them for use in Facebook ads.

With the free Facebook Pixel code installed on your website, you can also now direct Facebook ads to people who recently visited your auction’s page or the page of a similar auction on your site. Then, with the Lookalike Audience tool, you can advertise to people who look just like the people who came to your website.

Over the course of your advertising campaign, as more and more people view your auction’s page on your site, Facebook can learn more and more about the people coming to your site and hone the audience of your Facebook ads.

Facebook Loop

So, whether you start with just a Facebook list of demographics [B] or if you upload lists to Facebook [A], you can create a set of ads that learn and improve their effectiveness over time. You can access an automated database that keeps getting more robust. Your advertising can reach people in the cracks between the groups of people you can find yourself.

An Impressive But Imperfect Solution

Is this Facebook solution circle a silver bullet? No. This is just one medium that reaches less than 80% of the population. Does this mean you’ll definitely find more and better bidders? No, but it’s a superlative start. It’s a more robust solution than what you’ve got now.

Could this concept confront our ignorance? Absolutely.

Recently, I’ve noticed that several of my clients’ Lookalike Audience ads have significantly outperformed not only their uploaded lists but also the Facebook audiences built with the demographic selectors we chose for prospective buyers. In other words, Facebook knew who would visit these websites better than I or my clients did. For the decades of auction marketing experience between all of us, that’s humbling.

It’s also exciting. Now, our lists of past bidders and email subscribers are more valuable. Now, our web traffic can be more meaningful. Now, purchased lists don’t have to be exhaustive. We just need to find a critical mass to get the ball rolling.

Now, we can find the people we weren’t finding—even with our best laid plans.

Illustration built by request from Fiverr.com
Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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170: The Oddest Objection I Get When Consulting

I get a really odd response when I recommend that Facebook receive a sizable chunk of a marketing budget.

“Not everyone’s on Facebook, though.”

I’ve never heard a client declare, “Not everyone gets the newspaper, though.”

I’ve never heard an auctioneer say, “But not everybody opens their mail.”

The irony in my clients’ rebuttals is that Facebook is the most dominant channel in any medium in our country. As of August of 2015, 62% of the adult population and 72% of adults in the country who use the Internet are on Facebook.1 Two thirds of those Facebook users visit the site every day.2

By contrast, the most watched show on TV last year (Sunday Night Football) garnered 6.6% of the nation’s population.3 That’s 10% of Facebook’s daily reach, and it’s available only 17 nights a year. Plus, advertising to that small fraction of people would cost you just short of a firstborn child.

“But older folks aren’t on Facebook.”

64% of Internet users ages 55 to 64 use Facebook.1 Only 44% of Americans ages 55-64 read a newspaper.4 It’s safe to assume the percentage of adults who look through the classifieds of those newspapers would be significantly smaller still.

Not only is the quantity of newspaper subscribers shrinking (7% for daily papers and 4% for Sunday papers—last year alone), so is the quantity of newspapers themselves. A net of 118 U.S. newspapers closed their doors between 2004 and 2014.5 Multiple times in the past couple years, I’ve had to email a client to let them know that a newspaper they requested is no longer in print.

In contrast, the number of mailboxes in America isn’t shrinking; and neither is Facebook’s user base.

“Well, professionals and investors [rich people] aren’t on Facebook.”

2015 Facebook Users78% of on Internet users with household incomes above $75,000 are on Facebook.1 That happens to be the highest percentage of any income bracket.

Facebook will let you filter audiences by income, by net worth, by liquid assets, and by number of lines of credit. I regularly target lists of millionaires and multimillionaires on Facebook and get tons of traffic to my clients’ websites—for both commercial and luxury residential properties.

One of my clients auctioned a medical office building earlier this year. We had a direct mail campaign and ads deployed in local and business newspapers. At the first open house, every single prospect touring the property came from Facebook. They weren’t teenagers or minimum wage workers.

Am I saying advertising budgets should be almost all Facebook?

Absolutely not. No media saturates 100% of your prospect base. It’s good to cover as many bases as you can afford.

What this data should determine, though, is the priority order in your advertising budget. Actually, that hierarchy should be determined more by your internal data than by user statistics and audience size. If you’re polling your bidders at every auction and then tracking your offline & online media in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to tell which media work best for specific asset types in specific geographical locations.

I recently bet a client that, if their winning bidder came from one of a selection of out-of-state newspapers, I’d rebate all of my design fees. I wasn’t promising a bidder from Facebook. I just knew we could reach far more people and a much more targeted audience on the same spend, and I prefer efficient advertising over hail Mary throws. (They agreed.)

Most of the small business folks who object to my bullish stance on Facebook don’t have data to refute my assertions. They’re working off assumptions, anecdotal recollections, and their personal habits. (“I never get on my Facebook.”) Auctioneers who do test and measure and analyze have been moving more money to Facebook, Google, direct mail, and signs—away from newsprint.

I’m not telling you how or where to spend your money. I’m just letting you know that neither you nor I can trust our assumptions.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com
Chart linked to source.

1 “The Demographics of Social Media Users
Maeve Duggan, Pew Research Center. August 19, 2015.

2. “Facebook Passes 1.65 Billion Monthly Active Users, 54% Access the Service Only on Mobile
Emil Protalinski, Venture Beat.April 27, 2016.

3 “Here’s How Much Ad Time in NFL Games Costs Marketers This Season
Anthony Crupii, AdAge. September 15, 2015.

4 “Newspapers: Sunday Readership by Age
Pew Research Center

5 “Newspaper Fact Sheet
Michael Barthel, Pew Research Center, June, 2016.

105: Working With a Changing Newspaper Landscape

Image purchased from iStockPhoto.com, cropped, and blurredThe death knell of the newspaper business has been ringing for a decade now.

Newspaper syndicates are laying off literally hundreds of staff. Across the industry, the workforce has plummeted almost 30% in the past five years. [ref]”LinkedIn: Newspaper Industry Shrinks at Fastest Rate” by BtoBOnline.com. March 19, 2012.[/ref]  Some publications are closing their doors entirely, their company obituaries listed here. Others are selling out to conglomerate ownership groups and sharing editorial and advertising content, hoping efficiencies of scale keep them in the black.

Most of the advertising money draining from newsprint is flooding to Internet advertising outlets like Google, whose 2011 revenues totaled $4 billion more than the cumulative revenues of all newspapers in the country. [ref] “6 Trends for Newspapers in 2012, from a Sunday Boom to an Executive Bust” by Rick Edmonds, Poynter.org. March 19, 2012.[/ref] While large-circulation newspapers are developing traffic and advertising revenue from their websites, smaller newspapers are relying on home town news and photos of local citizens to keep the presses rolling.

These changes directly impact the businesses whose analytic measurement shows buyers still responding to their newsprint advertising. [You are measuring where your customers heard about your sale items or events, right?] Knowing a few of the new realities will help you better adapt to them.

Multi-Paper Conglomerates

The newspapers that have survived thus far are owned by fewer and fewer companies. Some of the syndicates are national entities that cherry pick seemingly-random cities to cover. Most, though, are regional corporations that start or buy publications in the same county or part of a state.

When I research publications in an area new to me, I regularly ask the salesperson if their company publishes other papers. That question has saved me a lot of time by not having to research other papers individually. It also puts asset-based publications like real estate inserts on my radar, as these subsidiary media aren’t typically listed in newspaper directories (even online ones).

Conglomerates organize their multiple advertising sections three ways:

  1.  Each publication has its own classifieds section but dollar amounts or percentages are deducted from the unit costs of the second, third, etc. paper you add to the mix.
  2.  Publications are grouped by geographic zones. If you want one paper, you have to pay for that ad to appear in multiple newspapers in a region (usually several suburbs or areas in a county) but not all the publications owned by the corporation.
  3.  All papers share the same classifieds. If you want one paper, you have to pay for all of them. The bigger the group, the scarier this can be. If you were planning to hit all of the publications anyway, though, the unit price value can be good.

Typically, you don’t have a choice in which of these models are available. So, it’s important to know which one you’re facing before submitting a marketing plan to your seller. Because these groups regularly acquire and sometimes close newspapers, it’s good to keep your rate cards up to date.

Column Size Shell Game


In addition to cutting costs, newspapers are looking for ways to increase revenues from the same advertiser base. One method they use is changing their column format. This works two ways.

  1.   They add a column or two to the page, which shrinks each column; but they charge the same price for that column. Example A (below) illustrates this. The advertiser gets 11% less square inch area for the same price. In other words, the newspaper raises their rates 11% without changing the price they quote you per column inch.Column Sizes: Narrower
  2. Or, as I’ve seen in the past year, they drastically drop the quantity of columns as in example B below. The publication then raises the price per column inch, justifying it as paying for the additional space. If you measure the actual cost per square inch—as opposed to cost per column inch—you might be surprised to find the rate increase is not proportional to size increase.Column Sizes: Wider

Not only does this tactic jack with your newspaper ad templates [You do have print ad templates, right?], it can cause embarrassing situations after the marketing plan has been approved. Sadly, I know this from experience. The ad size and/or price you had in the budget ends up looking very different than expected during the marketing period. This newspaper ploy gives another reason to verify advertising costs and sizes in the proposal stage—at least if you haven’t used a publication in more than six months.

High Staff Turnover Rates


With tight margins, most newspapers are paying their sales representatives somewhere between burger flipper and day laborer rates. Okay, it’s more than that but not much more. And with all the stress of coordinating literally hundreds of advertisers each week, it’s understandable that classified departments burn through employees as fast as NASCAR drivers burn through tires.

This means that if you pull up an email address from your contacts list or an old email to copy, it might not get answered. Sadly, it’s not enough any more to email before the space reservation deadline to make it into the issue. Combat this by emailing the advertising representative as soon as you know you’ll have some kind of advertising—even if you don’t know the size or all run dates yet. If you don’t get a quick answer, call the department. What I like even better is asking the paper for a generic department email address to which I can carbon copy advertising emails, something I regularly do here in Virginia.

As backup, I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet of my most regularly-used newspapers that shows the best day of the week to run, deadline days & times, column or unit sizes, pricing, and contact information. One of the information fields shows the last date I updated the record. If that date is more than six months old, I know to inquire about price changes, sales representative updates, etc.

Statewide Classified Networks


Most states have newspaper associations, and most of those associations offer distribution of classified advertising in all of their member publications for a nominal fee.  All states with this service offer in-column line ads; most also offer two-column by two-inch displays ads; and some even offer two-column by four-inch display ads. You can tell your sellers that you canvased the state for about the cost of one metro print ad.  The rep from your home state can place ads in any of the other state association networks as well.

The major drawback to this product is not knowing where that ad will appear in those publications. When you deal individually with publications, you can request specific sections or classified categories. While many network papers might go to the work of putting your ad in the appropriate column, your ad might also end up in a grouped statewide section with erectile dysfunction and “make thousands working from home” ads.

Also, if you skip an online distribution service for press release submission and want to focus on media within a particular state, many of these state networks offer press release distribution not only to their print media members but also to the broadcast news media members (for an extra fee).

All media is adapting to technological advancements and changing audience habits, but the newspaper industry seems to have the toughest road to relevance. An observant eye will help us as advertisers take advantage of the deals and restrictions that stem from this newspaper landscape to best serve our customers.
[tip]

My first published piece of writing that I can remember came in my dad’s weekly column in the Queen Anne’s County Record Observer, now part of an 18-publication media group. Dad kindly and generously ran two or three of my didactic pieces. The quality of the writing proves less embarrassing than the clichéd content. It’s been years since I perused those, but I have little doubt the paragraphs proved that they poured from an unrehabilitated fundamentalist—an extremest regurgitating talking points between Bible verses.

Every year or so, I reread parts of the book I wrote a decade ago and feel similar embarrassment at some of the things I stated or asked—even though written with prayer and intention for God’s use. While part of me wants people to know I wrote a book, a large part of me hopes they never read it. In fact, I’ve got three free copies sitting on my desk awaiting shipment to Facebook connections; and what’s been keeping me from shipping them are those sections that no longer ring true inside of me.

That old ignorance is why I don’t plan on writing another faith-premised book in my lifetime. I hope I will constantly be growing, constantly seeing Christ’s heart more clearly. I hope that, even next year, I look back with gratitude at the ignorance shed from my August 2, 2012, self.

[footer]Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com (cropped and selectively blurred)[/footer]

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