Thursday, March 12, 2009

Online Publishing Insider: Eight Things I Hate About You

Eight Things I Hate About You

Sometimes the slap across the face is deserved.

We lived fast and loose the last few years. As executives, we sometimes spent money too carelessly, as salespeople we sometimes oversold, and as publishers we failed to innovate our product and help advertisers measure success nearly as much as we should have.

It is not entirely our fault; it is hard living in a world with multiple masters. I was taught by my mentor that as a CEO you always have five masters: your employees, your shareholders, your customers, your partners, and your community. Balancing these five is an incredibly challenging, and thankless, job.

As publishers, we also have multiple masters. We need to balance the needs of our advertisers, our users/readers, the need for editorial integrity, and the needs of our staff. It has become painfully obvious in the last 12 months that we are not doing a good job of striking this balance.

Our failure to innovate on ad formats and help our advertisers define success has left both our readers and advertisers dismayed. Our declining CPMs and revenues are terrifying us all. Yet this is an opportunity in disguise. There is nothing quite like seeing death to make you appreciate life, and good times hide problems.

On a cold Saturday in New York, Ari Rosenberg (fellow OPI columnist) challenged me to identify a unifying theme for my columns. It is not easy to sum up your mission in a single sentence, so I spent most of the day walking around SoHo trying to figure it out (and trying to find the best cupcakes -- which, incidentally, are at Crumbs Bake Shop). After a bit of reflection, I concluded that my only goal is to challenge industry conceptions (and often misconceptions), and force people to think. I am admittedly an outsider to this industry, having spent the last 15 years in the world of software and high-tech.

So in an effort to provoke both vitriol and fantastic debate, I humbly offer eight things that need to change now:

1. Getting friended on Facebook after a business meeting. Can we please preserve the last ounce of formality that is left in business? I can live with you wearing jeans to our meeting, but save faux friendship for faux friends.

2. Writers and bloggers that need to use "in full disclosure" in their articles. This is the bizarre combination of someone with enough self-awareness to know that they are doing something wrong, but insufficient dignity to stop doing it. If you need to issue a disclaimer in your article, don't write the article.

3. People who start sentences with the phrase "to be honest with you." It is the fastest way I know to convince the other person you are full of crap.

4. Competing with your BlackBerry. Whether in a meeting, or on a dinner date, leave your BlackBerry at home (or at least in your pocket)! It is the fastest way to demonstrate to a client or date that you are "not that into them."

5. People that wear Bluetooth dongles in their ears. I have said it before, and I'll say it again: put the dongle down.

6. Consultants. When will you finally learn that their interests will NEVER be fully aligned with yours? Consultants try to maximize their fees (as they should), not maximize your ROI. It is not the consultant's fault, though. It is the fault of the person hiring them for not acknowledging what team they play on.

7. Using CTR to measure success. The notion that it is better to focus on the wrong metric rather than no metric is asinine. Focusing on the wrong metrics ensures your staff will not be successful. Brand advertisers should be measuring for brand impact, and performance advertisers should be measuring revenue. Nobody benefits from CTR as a primary metric.

8. Anyone who still believes ad networks actually sell "blind." As long as there is a financial incentive to disclose your brand, you will never have blind ad networks. You will only have companies that commoditize your inventory.

I am as guilty as everyone else. At times, these are eight things I hate about me. I present this list indignant, but looking firmly in the mirror.

What do you hate? Let me know in the comments.

David Koretz is President & CEO of BlueTie, Inc.

Online Publishing Insider for Thursday, March 12, 2009:

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