2012 ABC Conference Discusses Hot Topics in Media

At the recent ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) conference in NYC, the century-old media audit company announced a name change, and experts in the industry led discussion panels on some of the issues currently facing print publishers, including the fast pace of tablet adoption, social media, content marketing, and data and privacy issues. Here are some highlights:

ABC Undergoes a Brand Refresh

ABC announced its adoption of a new brand identity, to better reflect how the company functions in today’s media landscape. Now called the Alliance for Audited Media, the name reinforces AAM’s role as an alliance between publishers, advertisers and agencies; re-states its core mission (auditing readership);  and makes room for all the media touchpoints that they are currently measuring.

Tablets:  Extending the Print Experience

The first conference panel discussed the quick adoption of tablets by consumers and how it will impact the print experience in the near future. One panelist predicted that tablets would be in 47% of U.S. households by the end of 2013, with nearly 2 in 5 of those using tablets to read newspapers and/or magazines.

However, advertisers have been slower than consumers to move into this venue. Some of the obstacles mentioned were – lack of verifiable audience data, inconsistency and confusion about how to price it, and the extra expense to advertisers to build tablet-friendly creative. At the same time, publishers are struggling with how to create tablet editions that can be published across the wide plethora of devices currently available, without having to be re-tooled for each one.

Data: Who Owns It?

A lively discussion that leaped from who owns data, to how to use data responsibly, to how to pull disparate data together and gain meaningful insights from it, and finally to privacy issues and how to get consumers to buy into the ‘value exchange’ that results from information sharing online.

All of the panelists were experts in online marketing and/or data management, and there was consensus that consumers need to be educated that there is a benefit to them (more relevant content, targeted offers and ads, more optimized online experience) from sharing personal data on their own terms.  “The reason the web is free is because it is advertiser supported. And it is in exchange for non-personal data—used responsibility—that you’ll continue to get a ton of great quality content,” said the panel.

Content Marketing: Make it Relevant

If there was one thing all the panelists in this discussion could align on, it was the importance of relevance.  In their view, content marketing isn’t about volume. Marketers should focus instead on providing content that is compelling, useful, meaningful and/or engaging. The content provided should be useful even to people who don’t know you or your brand – not just to brand loyalists and evangelists.

The panel talked about how to optimize content across the proliferation of devices. One panelist said he thought all content should be ‘device-agnostic’ but another made the case for content being ‘platform-specific’ because people consume content differently on different devices. Smartphone users, for instance, tend to want weather, traffic and headlines, while desktop users are more interested in long-form content.

Social Media: Engagement vs Likes

One of the first questions asked at the final panel was, “Is social media really meaningful or just lip service to brands or agencies?” The answer seems to be – both. If the brand’s intent is to really engage in a dialogue with the consumer, then it goes beyond lip service.

Social media helps advertisers move beyond the traditional “flights” to have a constant voice, and – if done right – helps advertisers to bridge the gap from “likes” to brand advocates, loyalists, influencers, test drivers, samplers, coupon clippers and more.  Everyone agreed that “likes” that are not otherwise engaged are not useful.

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