Josh Sternberg, tech editor for Adweek, spoke with TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson about the evolution of advertising, from newsprint to mobile devices. Here’s part of their conversation:
Patterson: Before we can get to all the fancy forms of cookies and programmatic ads, let’s go back in time. Let’s go back to the 1890s and newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and today. A lot of the metaphors that existed or that exist now, existed 100 years ago. Tell me about print advertising and how we’ve ported used metaphors from older mediums and ported them forward.
Sternberg: Yeah. First of all, thanks for having me on. A lot of that is the industry looking at what worked and saying cool, we are looking at a magazine or we’re looking at a newspaper, and we’re seeing this static ad of this beautiful person doing this beautiful thing. It’s in between content like you’re reading an article, you get an ad. You read an article, you get an ad. It serves in a way as a standalone, but also as a disruptive force in your content flow. Moving over from print to radio, there was that similar idea where you’ve got a block of content followed by an ad. Then when TV hit the stage, well same thing. Right? You got a block of content followed by an ad.
Now, the ads are important financially for these media companies that are running these shoes and running these newspapers and magazines because that’s what funds the content. As audiences, we are either paying with our wallets through subscriptions or through our eyeballs with attention. Now, that idea has been a thread through all of media with paying for attention. We use the term CPM, which is cost per thousand impressions. For every thousand times a piece of content is heard, it adds.
Well, we use that same terminology from print to TV to now digital. In digital, that ads are also similar in that they can be disruptive. You get the interstitials when you go in between content.
You get popups. You get banners and display ads. It’s all that same philosophy of a media company needs to be able to make money to create the content that you are seeing. They’re either going to charge you through your wallet by paying the subscription where they’re going to charge you for your attention and your eyeballs, so that they then can go to an advertiser. New medium, same model.
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Patterson: As advertisers are undergoing digital transformation just like media companies are, tell me a little bit about how the relationship has changed. We’ve gone from advertisers literally having a relationship with sales forces, sales teams to programmatic buying. How has that changed in the last 10 years?
Sternberg: Significantly. I’m sure you’ve watch Mad Men. Right? The characters in Mad Men are going out with their clients, and going out with their media partners during the day having their three-, five-, 10-martini lunch. They’re building up that relationship, so, that way, when the brand or the advertiser or the agency on behalf of the advertiser wants to run their message, their ad, their content in a media publication, there’s a one-to-one relationship. They know who they’re dealing with, so that they can hand their money over to the media partner, and they know that their message is going to be in a safe environment. Today, they’re a little bit more tricky. Algorithms and AI and automated-auction platforms, like exchanges, allow agencies and advertisers to get placement on websites for fractions of the cost of what it would be through a direct sale through that one to one relationship.
There are still sales teams that are pushing their direct relationships, but what we’re starting to see is that media companies are now using their sales forces for premium buys. It could be something on the homepage of The New York Times or it could a specific section of The Washington Post that gets a lot of traffic or it could be more on the high touch things, like events and sponsored content.