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The Last Great Media Buy

This week's Super Bowl—as the exception to the rule—is a reminder of the decline and fall of mass media. The Super Bowl is one of the remaining few mass media events that earns the right to be viewed by its audience all at one time. As an institution reaching near holiday status in America, it is a byword that folks watch the Super Bowl as much for the commercials as the game.

But it is the exception to the rule. Media consumers now have far more control on the timing and format of the entertainment and information they use.

For example, Hulu (interstingly enough, a Super Bowl advertiser) enables visitors to watch movies and television shows with "limited commercial interruption" on their own time. The commercials are far less intrusive, fewer in number and shorter in duration. Good for the consumer. Good for the advertiser. Good for Hulu.

Compounded by the recessionary economy, mass media has perhaps met its demise. I live in a media market (Denver) where the two major daily newspapers are struggling for financial survival. Page counts of other publications are thinning like runway fashion models. Many are disappearing altogether or going completely digital. Broadcast media outlets are also losing audience numbers.

Meanwhile, search-enabled ads (e.g., Google AdWords) and context-driven banner advertising on the Web are doing quite well, with pricing going up as competitors outbid one another to be where the interested searchers are.

One notable exception to the media demise is trade media advertising. Because trade publications are focused on a clearly defined audience, advertising there still makes sense. Most trade pubs have a solid online presence as well, including email alerts and digital versions of their print magazines. This integration of online and print means that these trade publishers can reach folks that still like to hold and peruse a magazine in their hands but periodically want instant access online to the latest developments in their industry.

Oh yeah, one more note on Hulu: The site is re-running Super Bowl ads...sponsored by other advertisers! In one instance, a Bud Light commercial is actually sponsored by Coke Zero!

David Heitman