Friday, September 14, 2007

Print director talks about the changes in media

Exit interview:
Jack Hanrahan of OMD
Print director talks about the changes in media
By Diego Vasquez

With more than three decades in media behind him, Jack Hanrahan has seen a lot of changes. He spent 22 years with Chicago's Leo Burnett, before the internet boom and the arrival of local people meters, and he dabbled a few years on the client side with Coca-Cola before joining a startup, Prime Point Media. Four years ago he became OMD's director of U.S. print operations and is one of the industry's go-to sources whenever a new magazine launches, an old one folds, or circulation numbers are released. Now Hanrahan is moving into another phase of his career. Beginning next week, he will become a media consultant, continuing to advise OMD but no longer running its print department. The 58-year-old also plans to start a newsletter about the magazine business, which he says needs a serious overhaul in how audience is measured. Hanrahan talks to Media Life about how agencies have changed over the years, the strengths and weaknesses of the magazine business, and why his kids are going into media, too.

Why did you decide to leave OMD?

Where I am in terms of my age. I love this business and I want to stay involved, but I'm 58 and I can't imagine five years from now still wanting to get on a train to NYC.

I just felt it was time to diversify. I want to write, and I want to get into publishing a newsletter. So much information is available to agencies, and at times there's too little time to analyze it.

What will your newsletter cover and who will it be directed to?

The newsletter is going to be geared at issues relevant to magazine selling and buying, so I'm hoping publishing houses, agencies and maybe investment firms and journalists might be reading it. The goal of it is to provide analysis of information that's available.

With the day-to-day crush of things going on, [information] might not get analyzed like it should be, so hopefully I'll save people some time. I also want to have some fun. I hope people will find it both educational and entertaining.

How would you sum up the state of the agency world today as opposed to a decade ago? How have things changed?

Well, it has changed for the better in some ways, and for the worse in others.

Technology has affected the agency world, like it has in most parts of life, for the better. The speed at which information can be analyzed is amazing, the tools that allow you to test out alternative schedules, optimize TV buys, do post-analysis so rapidly, are just great, and they've come at a good time.

Agencies are more of a business today, they're parts of larger companies, and financial matters are a high priority inside of all agencies. The quest for accounts, interest in getting new business, is high. I sense a difference from how it was a decade ago.

I find that people still want to be in this business. Two of my three children are going into it, and listening to them talk about it, they have so much excitement about the changing nature of the business.

Some people thrive on the pace of this business, and that hasn't changed much.

How have things changed for print media, more specifically?

I'd say the integration of print products with the web sites of magazines and other extensions, like mobile and even television. Magazines truly are multiplatform products, or part of multiplatform brands, and that's exciting.

I've always thought magazines are the most connected to clients. They're always trying to understand what they're trying to achieve.

Magazine sales people are phenomenally bright and interesting to talk to. Not taking away from other sales reps, but magazine people seem a cut above the sales people of other media.

That may sound bad, but let me put it this way: magazine people have a curiosity that isn't always found elsewhere.

There is a real partnership interest that magazine sales people have, and that makes the industry enjoyable and makes me want to stay connected to it.

How would you assess the current state of magazines? What are some strengths and weaknesses, from a media buying perspective?

The strengths are, editorially, magazines are phenomenal. I can't imagine a time when there were so many great choices for consumers. A weakness - I'm just baffled by how challenged the industry is trying to get people to buy them. That's clearly one of the areas of possible improvement.

I think the integration I mentioned with other media and event assets is further strengthening what magazines can do for marketers. You have to constantly focus on what the core element is: the magazine itself is a point of uniqueness.

Let's focus on news titles. The fact that the newsweeklies also publish a magazine allows them to be different than any site that simply reports what's happening today. The fact that there's a Time magazine is a point of difference, and I think it positively affects how people perceive magazine news products as opposed to other news products.

Not to knock TV, but I don't think their sites are handled in the same manner. Those are the competitive advantages magazines have, and I think it exists because there is the actual magazine. A million and a half or more people buy, and that's a big advantage.

One more strength. I think there's a growing body of evidence that magazines work for marketers. Marketers care about accountability. I think magazines are in the forefront in many respects on the accountability issues, and that's terrific.

And what about weaknesses?

Circulation is clearly one that's been talked about for years. Newsstand sales are hurting for most magazines, though you have a successful launch of a product like Everyday with Rachael Ray. Or OK! magazine, it kind of limped onto the American scene, but now it has started to hit strides, landing million-sales issues, attracting accounts that in its first year probably wouldn't even take a meeting. Even though circulation is one of those areas where there are negatives, there are also positives.

But too often publishers are leaning on the fact that they can give magazines away, send them to public places. There are all sorts of ways magazines end up in consumers' hands where people don't pay for them. Some of them are okay, but there's a limit to everything, and there's a disproportionality that's wrong. Magazines need to think, "I got here by being well-connected to readers, and I can't do things that cause that connection to be questioned by those who buy ad space."

We probably need to open the door and see what kind of improvements can be made on how the audience is measured. I'm not saying MRI's not a good service, but the way we measure is pretty much the same as how we did it in the early '80s. When you look at how TV audience research has changed -- in the mid '80s the people meter comes along, and now we can get minute-by-minute commercial ratings -- there hasn't been the same acceptance of the status quo with TV. Same with radio and the portable people meters. We need to ask, "How can we do it better?"

What things specifically would you like to see change?

I'd like to see the continuation of showing marketers how well magazines perform. Improving and diversifying the current data we have to buy and sell, and diversifying the measures we have for making media decisions. Third, having publishers take a hard look at their circulations, paying attention to their reliance on copies that aren't as strongly connected to readers as a magazine should be.

How will print buying and planning in general change over the next five years?

Well, I think you're going to see somewhat, because of the structure of the selling side, changes in the integration of digital print buying at agencies. Digital buying is going to touch, and already has touched, on TV buying and radio buying, so I think that will change.

And I actually think there will be more and more data to analyze. Look at how much more is available to me today in analyzing magazines, and that's just focusing on circulation. We have rapid report today, I can go onto the ABC site and look at how individual issues did long before the pink sheet comes out.

I can then look back at the pink sheet and find out a lot more information about where copies are going. I know how many are going to public places, I know what types of places they're going to, which could make a difference to a marketer, say, if a title is available in a beauty salon or auto showroom.

There's just more data to analyze, but sadly I don't think there's enough people there to analyze.

No comments: