The Un-Siloing of Media

Interactive media certainly has its share of vertical channels when it comes to marketing and advertising. There’s search, display, video, classifieds, local, social media, e-mail, syndication — the list goes on.

Traditional media has its own buckets: print is divided into magazines and newspapers. Broadcast has cable and network. There’s radio, outdoor, direct, and a panoply of other channels.

With all those options, advertising agencies tend to specialize. The bigger shops have internal divisions specializing in buying and creating campaigns for different channels across different media.

And now, all these disparate channels and specialties are turning into a great, big jumbled blur. Blame the Web.

Google announced Google Audio Ads late last year and solidified the offering with its recent pact with Clear Channel Radio. The search giant is selling :30 spots on 675 of Clear Channel’s AM/FM stations, including major markets such as Los Angeles and New York. That’s the beginning of a serious business model — one that traditionally resides in the offline-only world. Of course, Google’s also dabbling in print and television advertising.

Another search giant, eBay (I’m not making this up — company execs call what you may think is an auction marketplace “the biggest shopping search engine”) has embarked on its own broadcast advertising brokering. EBay’s Media Marketplace will auction airtime on 2,300 radio stations. On the payment front, eBay’s PayPal is going head-to-head with Google Checkout.

It’s not just online companies going after a slice of offline media. The inverse is occurring, too. Examples are particularly rife in television broadcasting. International cable powerhouse CNN recently acquired a stake in local TV network Internet Broadcasting, which, among other things, will place locally oriented ads on the global broadcaster’s Web properties. CBS, meanwhile, is distributing its video content on Yahoo, for which Yahoo will sell the ads.

Speaking of Yahoo, that company forged another solid offline alliance last fall with major newspaper publishers, including Belo, Cox Enterprises, E.W. Scripps, the Journal Register Company, Lee Enterprises, and Morris Publishing, as well as Hearst, which has also partnered with Google to run its text ads in its print publications. The ranks have now swelled to 17 publishers, accounting for 400 dailies and a handful of weekly publications. Hearst is now building a sales center in Houston devoted to selling and promoting Yahoo’s HotJob products. Yahoo also expects to start selling display ads on these newspapers’ sites sometime next year.

A New Definition of Media Agency

Magazine publishers, meanwhile, are now in the agency business. A “New York Times” article earlier this week profiled a number of publishers, including Condé Nast, the Meredith Corporation, Reader’s Digest, Hearst, and even indie “Surface” magazine, that have established creative agencies, either internally or as separate business units. These shops are handling creative; media, including print, online, video, mobile, and outdoor; and events and research. There’s even occasional overlap into radio and TV, according to the article, as well as alliances that have “created some unusual partnerships (think of Vogue designing ads for Wal-Mart Stores).”

Clients are top tier: Chevrolet, Citigroup, L’Oréal, Cingular, Dillard’s, Kohl’s, Grey Goose, and Lexus. Their media agencies are watching, doubtless with a measure of alarm. “We don’t have to make money from our creative, because we make money from our media,” the head of the Condé Nast group was quoted as saying.

Advertiser reliance on media buying agencies might wane slightly in light of such developments as in-house media agencies, as well as the long-running roll-your-own media trend. American Express, a leader in this space, announced another new ad initiative this week that will result in minimal media buys — online, at least. Even Microsoft seems to be realizing the cross-promotional potential of its own media holdings.

If you’re a marketer or an advertiser, heed closely these developments in the media and creative landscape. No matter your size or scale, your horizons are broadening. You may be media and not even know it. You may be able to scale up to buying media you previously thought was unattainable due to budget or agency constrictions. The boundaries that once constrained your efforts are becoming porous indeed.

Rebecca is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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