Anthea Stratigos – July 8, 2016
All eyes remain on Prevention’s announcement about going ad-free, resulting in less pressure from advertisers and savings in operating expenses of 50%.
It’s going to be an interesting act to watch. On one hand they clearly have savings and they no longer have to serve two masters. The world of consumer advertising is fraught with peril these days. Our own Annual Advertising and Marketing Study 2016: B2C Advertising shows dollars spent on marketer’s own websites accounts for $45.4 billion and social spending comprises $9.5 billion of consumer digital marketing and advertising spending. And ever increasing is the need to serve two masters – hard with any staff, let alone lean ones who must be thinking of editorial for readers day in and day out, UI/UX, driving a great experience in print or digital, while someone else feeds the beast of taking care of marketers’ needs, increasingly focused on delivering ROI and making sure that the quality of leads gets better and better and that the advertising actually works. I’ve always said that advertisers don’t want leads they want sales. Increasingly, outcomes based marketing is ‘in’, and as it evolves it means getting ever closer to commerce. It’s a perfect storm out there, so what to do if you’re Prevention? Go ad-free and serve one master – the reader who is the subscriber. Makes life a lot easier and with a trimmed down cost structure presumably more agile.
But Prevention serves women over 40 and their content isn’t particularly unique. The open web is filled with a thousand and one – make that a gazillion and one – sites from Dr. Oz to Mayo Clinic, to Healthline, Web MD and every blogger who focuses on health, wellness, healthy lifestyle etc. et. al. What makes Prevention think people are going to continue to pay when they put up their paywall? What are they going to do special, unique, ‘wow?’ Their content is horizontal, not very specialized, and targeted for an older demographic in media terms. Just look at the closing of MORE recently. It’s tough out there and per my post about news, Prevention is going to have to get fanatical about differentiating and bringing those 40-something women an amazing experience. Because as they get older – 40, 50, 60, etc. their audience will dwindle. It’s what happens as people age. And if they aren’t like Goop, they won’t take the 20 and 30 somethings with them as they age. How do they get moms and daughters? What tools will they put out there? Any chance they can make special offers with 23andMe? Diagnostics about health?
If they don’t amp up the experience, they face a shrinking business and I’m not sure the leaders at Rodale are dealing with tomorrow’s experience in the way it needs to amp up their future. Cost cutting is a great immediate activity but it’s not a recipe for sustainable success. And don’t get me wrong – I applaud their decision to work for one master. It makes life real for information and media companies. Users pay and users stay or users go and it’s pretty black and white and a lot easier to focus on. But to pay the experience has to be meaningful – help a reader save money, make money, reduce risk, avoid a big hassle. If the reason for being is to inform, entertain, help stay up on fashion or news, consumers have been raised to expect their ad subsidies and trained not to pay. Health can fall in either category and Prevention needs to get it right if they are to have a fighting chance – but not with the content they offer today given the competition.
It’s easy to cut costs today and remove advertising but it’s tomorrow that counts. They must specialize to get the consumer to pay because there’s a ton of really great content out there in the world of prevention. They are not the WSJ, the NYT or the Financial Times of health and wellness. They are not WebMD, Dr. Oz, or any host of brands that are targeting this same topic. What an amazing experiment. Either way – good lessons and learnings no doubt from what follows. In Outsell’s opinion; we’re skeptics but we wish them well and applaud the focus on one master – and hey, women over 40 aren’t so bad.
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