Why Top Newspaper Groups Are Pitching New ‘Solutions’ to the Ad Market (Part 1)

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With ad revenues migrating inexorably toward the giant digital platforms of Facebook and Google, local newspapers are struggling to convince marketers they are an effective buy for national ads. How can you outshout competitors who can assemble, in many shapes and sizes, an audience of well over a billion users? To tell their story more convincingly, the top four newspaper groups — Gannett, Tribune Publishing, McClatchy and Hearst — have formed a national network called Nucleus Marketing Solutions.

Heading NMS as President and CEO is Seth Rogin, who has deep experience in the digital and print worlds of news – most recently as Chief Revenue Officer of Mashable and earlier at the New York Times, where he was VP of Advertising from 2006 to 2013. He is also well connected to the advertising and marketing industries.

 “Seth’s experience as an innovative, transformational force…will suit him well in repositioning our industry with marketers,” said Tony Hunter, Tribune Publishing’s President of National Revenue and Strategic Initiatives and chair of NMS. “His thought-leading digital expertise and marketing acumen made him our clear choice.”

Rogin recently spoke with Street Fight about how Nucleus Marketing Solutions will help newspapers make a better sell of their argument: that they now offer a unique combination of quality and scale, and in the biggest and best markets:

What’s the big ad revenue challenge for daily newspapers that NMS aims to meet?
I’m not sure that’s the right way to look at this. The challenge is that serious, quality journalism — the kind that makes a difference in people’s lives, in the world — has real value and real expense. The buying marketplace has expanded and changed. Nucleus of course is about finding ways to better monetize journalism that matters, but it’s starting from a point of how we can better serve agencies and brands so that they no longer have to choose between quality and scale.

You says NMS brings together quality and scale. Scale speaks for itself. But what exactly is the “quality” that the four founding newspaper groups have and that marketers can’t find that easily elsewhere among all the inventory in the digital space?
I’ve never been prouder than to have the opportunity to represent the high quality journalism that comes out of the news organizations that are the constituents of Nucleus. When I’m speaking about quality, I mean journalism that changes the reader’s life, makes her more informed, more connected to the world around her. I’m talking about the tangible value of an environment of trust. Where your brand is seen reflects how your brand is seen.

The NY Times quotes a financial analyst who said 85% of every new Internet ad dollar goes to the two big global platforms, Facebook and Google. Does NMS propose to bend that curve down?
It makes sense that advertisers want to spend in places that guarantee scientific targeting and a high-level of confidence about ROI. Our message is that both of those things can be found, but now at scale in an environment in which every brand can be proud to be seen.

Programmatic ad buys have become much more popular than direct sales, but programmatic CPMs still trend much lower. How will NMS seek to close that gap?
Sorry, but we clearly disagree there. The first wave of programmatic advertising years ago certainly was about extreme downward pressure and the perception of all eyeballs being worth the same amount (and very little at that). Programmatic advertising today is about in-depth insight, the value of overlaid data, and the automation of the purchase process. Automating and accelerating the selection and buying process doesn’t mean cheapening the product. If I book travel online, I know that I’ll pay more to stay at The Four Seasons than I would to stay at a motel; all pillows are not the same, and neither are all audiences or environments. Automation shouldn’t mean degradation.

Will NMS offer any features that will help digital news publishers neutralize ad blocking?
The best thing any of us can do is to provide an advertising experience that respects the readers so that they won’t want to block us in the first place. Not all media faces resistance to advertising. When I read a fashion magazine, I love looking at the ads as much as reading some of the content. Nucleus will connect premium brands with premium environments they can trust.

Tom GrubisichTom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of hyperlocal news network Local America, and is also working on a book about the history, present, and future of Charleston, S.C.

(Part 2 — a Q & A with Chris Hendricks, VP of Products, Marketing and Innovation at McClatchy, one of the four founders of Nucleus Marketing Solutions — will be published tomorrow.)