Live from DPAC4: Media moguls weigh in

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dpac_small.jpgADOTAS – The room didn’t shake literally, but some kind of metaphysical ripple passed through the audience as the panelists lumbered on stage at DPAC4. These were the media moguls — The Wall Street Journal, NBC/Universal, Turner Entertainment, Reuters and Zinio — or rather their representatives, on stage to discuss the state of digital content and online advertising.

Subscription products have been the latest rallying cry of publishers, with News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch leading the hollering. Fittingly, The Wall Street Journal online is the most notable publisher to make paid content work. At the same time, Brian Quinn, vice president/general manager of digital add sales for the Journal Digital noted that its BlackBerry application is free while the site is opening up more content to nonsubscribers.

“We’re not in the business of making content to give it away,” added Walker Jacobs, senior vice president of new media ad sales for Turner, “but the question is ho do you make money on it online?” Turner has found success with subscription services for special features related to sports coverage.

However, Peter Naylor, senior vice president of digital media at NBC/Universal suggested, “This past year we’ve been too focused on price instead of audience and the audience has leaped ahead of us.” Hence why the media all stars need to investigate employing content on as many platforms as possible. “Audience should matter far more than price.”

But content owners are anxious about the numerous platforms available and different distribution channels, commented Jeanniey Mullen, executive vice president and global CMO for Zinio and VIVmag. How many times will a user pay for their content? she pondered.

Ubiquity is the goal, the panel agreed, but information overload is a problem for everyone on all sides of the fence — publishers, advertisers and readers alike.

The moguls see value on the advertising front in contextually relevant content in advertising. Jacobs noted that Turner sees a great return from relevant ads in sports programs, such as Armor All banners on the NASCAR page. Quinn noted that WSJ.com is planning to run an educational series on options trading from an advertising partner. The editors at the site have given it two thumbs up.

Alisa Bowen, senior vice president and global head of consumer publishing for Reuters, noted that advertising partners can be handy when trying to build content that increases engagement.

“Many people think of advertising as an annoyance, but we see it as a complement,” she said. “Consumers are smart — as long as sources are labeled and they get something out of it, they’re fine with advertising.”

On the other hand, there was little love for selling “underbelly” inventory to ad networks.

“Ad networks don’t really make a material difference and poorly placed ads can subtract from a brand,” Bowen said. “It doesn’t make sense for the big names to play ball.”

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