Tag Archives: New Zealand

Social Media Reaches The Tipping Point

Social-media use in the U.S. has reached a tipping point, according to eMarketer estimates, as more than half of U.S. Web users log onto a social network at least once a month.

Where the U.S. goes, can New Zealand be far behind? Actually, no, not very far at all. The World Internet Project’s New Zealand results indicated that by August/September last year 48% of our fair citizens were already social network users; nine months on, we can expect to have passed the magic halfway mark ourselves.

So at least half of us can now be found hanging out on social networks. Should marketers be there too? Absolutely, notes eMarketer, channeling the results of a February 2010 survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a market research firm. According to their data, 33% of U.S. Facebook users have become fans of brands on the network.

And plenty more social network users are talking about brands online. Whether it’s good news or bad news, if it’s hot it spreads in milliseconds across the social networks.

An unfortunate example? On September 26 2009 Kraft launched the glorious new Vegemite iSnack 2.0 in the quarter-time adbreak of the AFL Grand Final. Before the adbreak was even over, tweets of death were resounding across Australia and thence across the world:

NO! Vegemite cream cheese product CANNOT POSSIBLY be called “Vegemite iSnack 2.0″. Bad joke or most epic FAIL in FMCG branding history” – tweeted by downesy

I said “do you speaka my language?” She just smiled and gave me an iSnack 2.0 sandwich. #vegefail – tweeted by jmappellekim

On the rather more positive side, a recent Nielsen/Facebook joint study showed significant uplift in Advertising Recall, Awareness and Purchase Intent amongst those brands “liked” in Social Media.

Nervous yet? Worried about your brand? Or just eager to take advantage of the added value if fans ‘love you’ socially?

It’s time to upskill yourself on social media — it’s too late to be an early adopter, but now would be a good time to start getting yourself socially adept. Check out our seven-week ecourse, now in its third series release of 2010:

Course SM-3: Social Media

This is a seven-week eCourse providing a comprehensive introduction to Social Media Marketing, from the Basics to detailed instructions on how to build and run a Social Media programme.

This eCourse is conducted on a web-based e-learning software platform, enabling course participants to proceed at their own pace, accessing materials online. This particular eCourse provides content in a variety of multimedia forms, including videos, slideshows, flash-based presentations and PDF files. No special software is required to participate.

Course lessons are released weekly, for participants to access in accordance with their own timetables. Interaction with the course tutor is available by email or telephone.

TIMING
The next eCourse in the 2010 series starts on Monday July 5, with the delivery to participants of the Introduction and Lesson One. New lessons will be delivered weekly on Mondays.

COURSE CREATION AND TUTORING
This course has been created and will be tutored by Michael Carney.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND:
Any Marketing, Advertising, PR or Communications professionals who, while they may have a fair knowledge of what social media options are out there, don’t know how to use them effectively (and have a perfectly reasonable fear of doing the wrong thing in a very public arena).

WHAT YOU SHOULD LEARN AS A RESULT OF THE COURSE:

  • The principles of effective marketing in social media
  • Which social networks are strongest in New Zealand, who uses them and how to sign up
  • What social media can do for your (or your clients’) business
  • How to build a social media programme (you’ll start constructing your own during the course)
  • The best tools and techniques for monitoring social networks
  • How to really understand and engage with the consumer
  • How to create relevant, informative, killer content for your social media programme
  • How to define and measure meaningful numbers to determine the success (or otherwise) of your social media activities
  • Answering those questions that (if you’re not prepared) could kill your career
  • How to watch for, and adapt to, the Next Big Thing in Social Media (whatever that is)

COURSE CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION:
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA SILENCE IS DEADLY

In which we put Social Media in context in the modern world; discuss the reality that the medium is a runaway success (regardless of whether marketers choose to participate or not); deal with marketers’ biggest fears about the medium; and discuss the key principles of effective marketing in social media.

LESSON ONE: THE BASICS
I’VE JUST ARRIVED FROM OUTER SPACE.
TELL ME ABOUT THESE “SOCIAL NETWORKS”.

For those a little fuzzy on the basics: we introduce the concept of social networks; talk about the main players; give special recognition to Facebook and review its New Zealand numbers and offerings; look at what else is out there (including the newest, Google Buzz); show you how to check out and claim your digital identity at key online sites and services; and (if you’re not already there) invite you to sign yourself up to the primary social sites.

LESSON TWO: SOCIAL MEDIA AND YOU
I’M AFRAID OF INTRUDING IN SOCIAL MEDIA –
ALL THOSE CONSUMERS WILL TRASH MY BRAND

Social Media and Marketers: are we there yet? We review the importance of social media for brands; ask the eight key questions of vital importance to marketers wanting to join this social media party; consider how to choose which social media to support (sorry, you can’t do it all, at least not on Kiwi-sized budgets and resources); look at what sort of social media personality you should adopt to flourish in the new environment; and look at the benefits, the pitfalls and the barriers when it comes to social media marketing. Applying those last attributes to your own business will be your assignment from Lesson Two.

LESSON THREE: BUILDING THE PLAN
ENOUGH TALK ALREADY, LET’S START BUILDING SOMETHING

So far, we’ve examined the principles of social media. Now it’s time to put those into practice and start building your own social media programme. This topic will occupy us for most of the lesson, as we cover the six key elements of a strategy framework. Your homework will involve turning that framework into a provisional plan.

LESSON FOUR: MONITORING
DON’T SAY A THING. JUST LISTEN FIRST (EVEN FOR JUST 10 MINUTES
A DAY), THEN THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE HEARING. MAYBE THEN YOU CAN TALK.

We know you want to get your teeth into Social Media fast, but you need to start by just listening. And yes, you can do it for just ten minutes a day (if you’re very focussed). In this lesson, we show you where and how to listen (and where to find the mostly-free tools to do so); what to listen for; who to listen to (identifying opinion leaders); and we talk about how things can go wrong and how to react to problems when they arise. Your homework will involve listening, listening, listening.

LESSON FIVE: ENGAGEMENT
WILL CONSUMERS REALLY ENGAGE WITH ME AND MY BRAND, OR WILL THEY JUST BE POLITE? (IF THEY THINK YOU’RE ANNOYING OR INTRUSIVE, DON’T WORRY, THEY’LL TELL YOU)

Like most marketing, social media starts with a clear understanding of consumers: who they are (by whatever metrics available) and what they need and want. Social media marketing works the same way, but even more so. In this lesson we dig ever more deeply into understanding the audience; at this point you’ll be adjusting the plan you assembled a couple of lessons ago, to take account of your new knowledge.

LESSON SIX: CREATING KILLER CONTENT
TELL ME STUFF THAT’S REALLY INTERESTING –
AND STOP SELLING AT ME, THIS ISN’T A USED CAR LOT

None of what we’ve covered so far is of any use if your contribution to the online conversation is merely self-serving and sales-oriented. In this lesson we cover the sort of content that is essential in social media, and how you can build it into relevant, informative, compelling content. Your homework will require you to create such content for your business.

LESSON SEVEN: METRICS AND ROI:
OVERCOMING THOSE QUESTIONS THAT KILL MARKETING CAREERS

Social Media in its early stages avoided those awkward issues about Return on Investment and whether it really delivered value for the time and money involved. Now times are tougher, the budgets are tighter and CFOs are asking the hard questions. In this lessons we look at the metrics that are nice to have but more importantly at the ones that matter. We also identify strategies you can follow to develop useful, meaningful measures that satisfy the C-suite. You can guess what your homework is.

CONCLUSION:
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Social Media (it seemed) arrived faster than a speeding bullet. What’s next for the medium, how do you tell, and what can you do to prepare? We look at the trends and offer some advice.

————————

INVESTMENT
This seven-part eCourse is available for $347 +GST.

However we are making a special EARLY BIRD OFFER available for just $247 +GST, for bookings and payment received before 5pm MONDAY 28 JUNE, so if you are interested we recommend you book right away.

To book and pay by credit card (via secure provider PayPal), simply click here:

BOOK NOW

If you would prefer to pay by cheque or bank deposit, please send an email to bookings@marketingrebooted.co.nz with your contact details. We will provide a tax invoice (please indicate in whose name you would like the invoice to be made out) which must be paid before 5pm Monday 28 June to secure your Early Bird rate.

Inching Towards Recovery

Statistics New Zealand released the December 2009 consumer expenditure figures last week, showing “core” retail spending on credit and debit cards continued to be flat through the month, with a trend rise of just 1% since June last year.  Reserve Bank figures also showed that fewer consumers were using credit cards to splash out at Christmas, displaying rather more responsible behaviour than we normally see.

In our favourite quote of 2010 so far, ASB economist Nick Tuffley captured the spirit of the times when he observed “People have been resorting to spending money they actually have.”

Similar slow cooking trends were evident across the economy. The NZ Institute of Economic Research [NZIER] said it found business confidence had “stabilised” [our translation: “dropped”] in the December quarter, following rapid recovery earlier in the year. 31 percent of firms were optimistic in the December quarter, down from 36 percent in the September quarter.

“The economy remains in a holding pattern: expectations are rising across most indicators, but these are yet to be translated into action,” NZIER said last week.

In other words, as we’ve been saying for some time, the economy is recovering, but at a turtle’s pace. Executions will continue until morale improves.

Economic Recovery: Are We There Yet?


“Media owners have provided a great deal of additional value during the past six to nine months but we’re now entering a more ‘normalised’ environment. So trading will have to return to contracted levels.” TVNZ Head of Sales Dave Walker, quoted in Planit (14 October 2009)

MediaWorks CEO Brent Impey was similarly bullish at the TV3/C4 New Season launch, reporting that business has really picked up over the last eight weeks; and more money has been booked on television with MediaWorks in the last seven days than ever before in its history.

So — back to business as usual then, at least for television?

Alas, if only it were that simple. As we’ve learned from past “economic corrections”, the fourth quarter of each year is always a time of hope, when those marketers who have held back during the earlier part of the year spend what pennies they can scrape together, hoping for at least some Christmas sales to offset what’s been for most an annus horribilis.

Much as we’d like to believe that those “green shoots” of economic recovery spotted by optimistic observers will blossom forth and bear sumptuous harvest (if we may be forgiven for threshing the metaphor) — we fear that this new growth spurt won’t last past Boxing Day.

We’re not just being cantankerous. Despite the well-documented restoration of consumer and even business confidence, in our opinion it’s only skin-deep; the underlying realities suggest a slow recovery. As Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard observed recently, “we expect the economy to begin growing again toward the end of [2009], but the recovery is likely to be slow and drawn out. It could also be erratic. To many households it may not feel like a recovery at all, with lower employment, house prices and wage increases into next year.”

Businesses will be starting to plan now (or soon) for 2010/11 financial years starting in April or July 2010. Based on current trading conditions, company finance directors are unlikely to approve significant marketing budget increases for next year — green  shoots may look pretty in the garden but they don’t stand up too well under the harsh spotlights of the boardroom.

As a result, we don’t expect marketing budgets to show much improvement until 2011. Consumers and businesses may well be telling researchers that they expect conditions to improve over the next twelve months — but that’s largely expressing an expectation that things won’t get any worse, not that they’ll suddenly turn absolutely fabulous.

Even Christmas 2009 may not provide the boost that business is anticipating. The latest Kiwi consumer credit figures (to August 31) show a 4.6% slump in borrowing; and Kiwis are saving just 0.2% more than they were twelve months ago. Philip Borkin, economist at ANZ National Bank, summed up the challenge we all face: “A lot of people are paying down debt, and until we see the credit numbers improve, we’re not expecting much to change. For retailers this is a critical time – if we don’t get a pick-up then this could be a very challenging time for them.”

Economists’ cautions are supported by other indicators. Jasons Travel Media recently asked Kiwis what they’re planning to do for the Christmas and summer holidays. A staggering 60% of respondents are changing their plans from the norm this summer – opting to spend their time somewhere other than where they have gone for summer holidays in the past. When asked, there were a plethora of reasons for the break from traditional plans including ‘better deals on accommodation elsewhere’, ‘decided to go somewhere close’ and ‘money is a bit tight this year’. In those Clintonesque words, “It’s the economy, stupid”.

It’s not just us, of course. The latest news from the land of (former?) Hope and (lost?) Glory suggests that parsimony rather than plenty is a global reality these holidays.

The just-published Holiday Forecast Consumer Behaviour Report from PriceGrabber.com finds that this holiday season American consumers will NOT be buying Christmas goodies for:

  • Acquaintances, 57%
  • Co-workers, 53%
  • Service providers (eg parking attendant, housekeeper), 44%
  • Extended family (sorry auntie), 42%
  • Friends, 31%

Other Holiday Trends from the PriceGrabber.com survey of 2,018 online consumers, conducted from Sept. 24, 2009 to Oct. 12, 2009:

Consumers are more price-sensitive than ever
More than ever, comparison shopping is on the forefront of consumers’ minds, with 70 percent of consumers doing more research and comparison shopping online, compared with 38 percent last year. And fifty percent of consumers are planning to shop at discount or outlet stores this year, while only 43 percent did so last year.

Consumers are cutting back
Fifty-three percent of consumers are planning to spend less than they did last year. Of the consumers who are planning to spend less this Christmas, 48 percent reveal that one of the reasons that they are spending less is due to an increase in prices (necessities, gas, etc.), 45 percent cite lack of confidence in the economy, and 38 percent indicate making less money as a reason for spending less.

Shopping has started earlier, to ease the impact of holiday spending
In past years, Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, late in November) has been the unofficial start of the American holiday shopping season. This year, US consumers are planning to start their holiday shopping long before Black Friday, with 22 percent of consumers starting their holiday shopping in October and 29 percent starting in November.

In New Zealand, retailers have been in Christmas shopping mode for some time. The ubiquitous Cameron Brewer, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association, warned in late September that “for better or worse consumers can expect to see Christmas decorations and displays popping up in some New Zealand shops over the next few weeks.”

Kiwis usually do their shopping somewhat ahead of the Christmas rush anyway. A 2007 study by AMP Capital Shopping Centres found that:

  • 25% of Kiwis have begun their Christmas shopping by September 25, three months out from Christmas
  • 16% start shopping in October
  • 21% hit the malls in November
  • 33% wait until the last fortnight before Christmas
  • 7% of us (three-quarters male, inevitably) leave Christmas shopping until the last minute
  • Meanwhile an impossibly virtuous 3% head to the Boxing Day sales with vim and vigour, buying their gifts for the following year 364 days early.

Gift lists are trimmed down to manage budgets
When it comes to holiday spending this year, 36 percent of US consumers expect to spend between $100 and $499, 28 percent plan to spend $500 to $999, and 30 percent anticipate a holiday spend of $1,000 or more.

We don’t have any recent NZ data for Christmas spend levels, but a five-year-old study by UMR Research on behalf of Visa International found that:

  • More than 50% of Kiwis expected to spend less than $300 on Christmas gifts
  • 16 percent intended to spend less than $100
  • One in twenty said they were planning to “splash out” and spend more than $1000
  • Credit card holders were more likely to expect to spend over $500 than non-cardholders (22 percent compared with 12 percent)
  • Men generally planned to spend slightly more than women
  • The most profligate age group was 30-44 year-olds.

Add a few dollars for five years of moderate inflation, deduct as required for economic downturn du jour, season to taste.

THAT’S THE CONSUMER, WHAT ABOUT BUSINESS?

The biggest declines in Year On Year reported advertising expenditure (according to Nielsen Media Research data, Jan-Aug 2009 vs Jan-Aug 2008, at ratecard values) are:

  • Automotive (down $20.1 million)
  • Investment/Finance/Banking (down $17.8 million)
  • Government (down $11.8 million)
  • Home Improvements (down $7.7 million)

In terms of individual advertisers, Telecom has had the biggest drop in reported spend, down by 32% ($10.7 million) YOY. 16 of the top 20 advertisers would seem to have recorded YOY expenditure increases, but we suspect this has more to do with better deals being negotiated in recessionary times rather than extra dollars squeezed out of corporate coffers.

Are we likely to see any of those lost ad dollars return in 2010?
We don’t expect the Financial sector to dip into its battered piggy banks in the near future. As we’ve already seen, consumer borrowing remains down as we pay off our debts (just in case). The housing boom is over so we won’t be desperately seeking mortgages every six months; and our memories of the financial sector meltdown are all too fresh, so the non-bank financial intermediaries are rather less likely to advertise just now.

The Government? Officially on a fiscal diet. We’ll see a splurge of local body activity in Local Election Year 2010, especially as the SuperCity emerges from its chrysalis, but that doesn’t usually translate into big dollars.

Automotive? Well, you know what’s been happening offshore. Within New Zealand, if we look at how many Kiwis say they’ll be buying a new car within the next six months, that number’s dropped from 41,000 in July 2008 to 24,000 in July 2009 (Roy Morgan Single Source data).

Home Improvements? According to Roy Morgan Single Source, 706,000 Kiwis say they plan to refurbish or redecorate their home in some way (such as replacing curtains, carpet or wallpaper) in the next year — well down from 830,000 twelve months ago. And just 367,000 (was 460,000) are planning to spend more than $5,000 renovating or extending their homes in the next twelve months. With fewer consumers willing to pimp their homes, competition’s going to be fiercer than ever for the Home Improvement dollar.

THE MULTINATIONAL EFFECT

As a small country far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy, New Zealand is at the mercy of global forces in a number of ways, not least the dark and mysterious menace known as the multinational balance sheet. As each quarterly reporting deadline looms in the financial capitals of the world, global CFOs swoop on allocated but unspent marketing budgets from the tiny, farflung outposts of their empires in a futile botoxian effort to tart up the numbers.

Given the current economic woes in most of the countries to which our multinational branches report, local marketing budgets won’t be doing anything but shrinking in most 2009/10 financial years — which takes us to October or November 2010 (based on typical multinational financial years) before any fiscal relief is even theoretically possible.

In other words, multinational marketers (the biggest spenders in our mass media) won’t be driving any Kiwi advertising recovery any time soon. Don’t batten down the ratecard just yet.

MEDIA FORECASTS FROM ELSEWHERE

Our global counterparts aren’t expecting much from 2010. World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) media inflation forecasts for the year ahead (just released) don’t inspire much optimism unless you live in the emerging economies of China, India or Russia. Projections for media inflation (2010 vs 2010) for three of our key indicator markets:

Australia:

  • Television up 1.6%
  • Newspapers up 0.6%
  • Magazines no change
  • Radio up 0.5%
  • Cinema up 0.8%
  • Out of home up 1.1%
  • Internet up 5.5%

United Kingdom:

  • Television down 3.3%
  • Newspapers down 0.6%
  • Magazines down 2.4%
  • Radio down 2.0%
  • Cinema down 0.5%
  • Out of home down 0.8%
  • Internet down 5.8%

USA:

  • Television down 5.0%
  • Newspapers down 4.5%
  • Magazines up 1.0%
  • Radio down 5.0%
  • Cinema up 2.0%
  • Out of home down 1.0%
  • Internet up 0.5%

Not much there to encourage embattled media owners.

SO ARE WE THERE YET?

We’ve seen the feathers, we’ve heard the tweets, but so far no actual sighting of the first cuckoo of a new economic spring. Our consensus view at this point is for a seasonal uptick till Christmas, then slow simmering during 2010. Sorry.

This article is drawn from our presentation MEDIA 2010: A Sneak Peak At What Lies Ahead. If you’re a Media Counsel client, please talk to your TMC team about scheduling a time for us to present MEDIA 2010 to you and your colleagues.

Mobile Music Awards

The fifth annual Telecom Mobile Music Awards (based on the number of Full Track Downloads, Tru-Tone Ringtones and Caller Tune sales over the previous 12 months) were announced last week:
Tiki Taane took home the award for Highest Selling Ringtone and Caller Tune (NZ) with his track Always On My Mind.  Tiki also scored Most Popular Artist Ringtone & Caller Tune (NZ).
The award for Highest Selling NZ Digital Single went to Smashproof featuring Gin Wigmore for their legendary track Brother and Smashproof picked up Most Popular Digital Single Artist (NZ).
Top-selling artist Lady GaGa was honoured for the Highest Selling Digital Single (International) for the song Poker Face and Most Popular Overall Digital Single Artist (International).
Six Gold and Platinum awards were
presented throughout the evening to record labels, for tracks that have been downloaded over 5,000 and 10,000 times respectively.
The value of digital music sales in New Zealand rose by over 20% last year, with mobile music contributing nearly half of this market (44%). Currently around 100,000 full-track singles are legally downloaded by New Zealand consumers every week, via a combination of online and
mobile services.

The fifth annual Telecom Mobile Music Awards (based on the number of Full Track Downloads, Tru-Tone Ringtones and Caller Tune sales over the previous 12 months) were announced last week:

  • Tiki Taane took home the award for Highest Selling Ringtone and Caller Tune (NZ) with his track Always On My Mind.  Tiki also scored Most Popular Artist Ringtone & Caller Tune (NZ).
  • The award for Highest Selling NZ Digital Single went to Smashproof featuring Gin Wigmore for their legendary track Brother and Smashproof picked up Most Popular Digital Single Artist (NZ).
  • Top-selling artist Lady GaGa was honoured for the Highest Selling Digital Single (International) for the song Poker Face and Most Popular Overall Digital Single Artist (International).
  • Six Gold and Platinum awards were presented throughout the evening to record labels, for tracks that have been downloaded over 5,000 and 10,000 times respectively.

The value of digital music sales in New Zealand rose by over 20% last year, with mobile music contributing nearly half of this market (44%). Currently around 100,000 full-track singles are legally downloaded by New Zealand consumers every week, via a combination of online and mobile services.

Shock! Horror! Slump!

The RealEstate.co.nz blog “Unconditional” is reporting that media stories on real estate trends and the effect they have on buyer and seller behaviour has been monitored for the first time and the results show the impact is immediate and significant.

For the first time research shows that a series of negative headlines can send interest in property buying into a nose dive.

The study monitored 7 websites (the major portals and real estate company websites in NZ) over a two year period from January 2006 until the end of April 2008.

The most dramatic data showed the steep fall-off of traffic to these websites from the middle of February 2008 – significantly off the seasonal trend.

This date in February correlates exactly with speculative media stories predicting 20%-30% correction in property prices around the release of the real estate industry’s January sales figures.

The website traffic clearly shows the market was spooked by headlines such as PROPERTY MARKET SET TO CRASH SAYS EXPERT and CONFIRM PROPERTY SLUMP BEDDED IN (13 February 2008), HOUSE SALE LOW IS SIGN THE TUMBLE HAS STARTED (14 February 2008), SHADES OF THE 80s IN HOUSING OBSESSION (16 February 2008).

The study also revealed a significant drop off in the number of new houses being listed for sale from early March.

The number of homes for sale being listed was close to 1,000 a week in January and February on www.realestate.co.nz but throughout March the total number of listings stayed static at around 109,000.

Given the cascade of negative headlines over the last few months, we’re not surprised by a reduction in new property listings — there’s now a very real expectation amongst potential buyers that only bargains will sell in the current economic climate.

The most interesting aspect of this research, however, is the implied reduction in the number of prospective purchasers even willing to consider looking. Is that a direct function of the gloom and doom headlines or more representative of a decline in Kiwis’ personal economic circumstances?

Or are we seeing a more significant cooling-off of belief in real estate as a desirable investment based on the market sentiment?

Church V. State 2.0

The newspaper industry has long sought to maintain at least the appearance of editorial independence, with those poor corrupt souls in the advertising department kept well away from the holy editorial ground.

That independence was a luxury which could be permitted in the controlled environment within which newspapers operated in past centuries — typically the papers had a monopoly on newsgathering and publishing within their regions, or at least a cosy duopoly which allowed competing publications to divvy up the market between them. Advertisers who wanted to reach a publication’s readers had little choice but to accept the enforced distinction between editorial and advertising content — including the possibility that their hardselling on advertising pages might be undone by critical content within the hallowed editorial ground. 

Alas, we’ve all moved on, newsgathering and dissemination is in the hands of amateurs (oh the indignity!) and professionals alike, and newspapers are finding themselves more and more dependent on their websites to be the flagships of their brand. And those sites have no monopoly at all, but have to compete with TV and radio websites, citizen bloggers and all manner of ‘new’ news media, both for reader attention and ever more capricious advertising dollars. As Forbes.com reported last week, “the newspaper industry’s increasingly grim financial outlook leaves editors with little choice but to work across the aisle” with those crassly commercial sales people.

It’s not necessarily an easy adjustment for the journalistic profession. Noted Forbes:

As Linda Grist Cunningham took the podium to talk about integrating editorial and advertising content at a newspaper industry powwow, the Rockford Register Star executive editor couldn’t resist cracking a joke.

“I feel like I’m at an AA meeting,” she said during a gathering of newspaper editors and publishers in Washington this week. “I’m Linda Cunningham, and I’m in the business of making money.”

The challenge is global. Here in New Zealand, journalists at the NZ Herald post stories to their website first, rather than wait for the nightly newsprint to roll off the presses — otherwise they risk being scooped by anyone and everyone. So up go those stories onto www.nzherald.co.nz, usually accompanied by those insidious Google AdWords, providing contextual advertising based on the very editorial words that once were so sancrosanct.

There once was a time when you could (usually) rely on the newspaper production team to ensure that your story was kept well away from any commercialising influences. Nowadays, however, write a story about (for example) property, whether positive or critical, and your article will be accompanied by classified ads that wax lyrical about the joys of property from a dozen different perspectives. As far as a casual reader is concerned, your newspaper brand will be seen to be endorsing the relationship between your story and the advertisers’ points of view.  

As newspaper print revenues decline, online advertising increases in importance. And if you want to attract significant online advertising dollars, you have to provide relevant content. With an infinite supply of possible advertising outlets, marketers are looking for relevance, for targeted and useful content that provides substance and value alongside the advertising messages.

What was once unthinkable is now commonplace.