Thursday, August 17, 2017

A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. This technology is designed to replace human interaction with customers and help them with processing orders or providing customer service. The promise made by vendors of this technology is that it would deliver smarter customer service through this automation. Historically, bots were used to do a simple task at computer speed like search engine spiders, but now they are adding an artificial intelligence layer to it.


They have now created a chatbot for magazines that I thought I should share with my readers. I came across this one made for Paste Magazine that is available for Facebook Messenger users. Paste Magazine is a website that offers lifestyle stories on music, entertainment, books, politics, travel and food. The chatbot uses a text base command structure where you can type in key words and get a response from the system.




For supposedly a leading edge technology it reminded me of the text base commands used in the ancient MS-Dosc computer systems that was used in the 1980’s. It even replied to me that it did not understand, so much for an intelligent computer being smarter than a human. I found the system confusing to use, as I had to remember a whole new set of commands.


According to the Paste Magazine website as you read more and more using the bot, it automatically adjusts to your tastes and interests to ensure that you’re getting articles sent to you that you actually care about. This is all done through an “inferred profile,” which is created by what kind of articles you read. This inferred profile is what allows the bot to include certain degree of serendipitous news that is outside of your interests, so that you don’t end up with a broken record of echo-chamber stories. Once you click on the article you want to read you are sent to the website. On the surface this is just a new way to drive traffic to your website via Facebook.


A 2017 Forrester Research Report on bots says there are more than 40,000 chatbots created in the 12 months since Kik (An Android based message app) and Facebook Messenger opened up their platforms. The promise of chatbots is that companies can have a one on one conversation with their customers on scale versus human interaction that traditionally has long wait times on the phone sometimes during peak demand periods. According to the chart below content delivery in the future will most likely be automated.


Another type of bot that is getting attention are social bots and according to this MIT article is instrumental in spreading fake news that is part of the ad fraud industry as some Twitter accounts are automated. Chengcheng Shao at Indiana University who studied this trend says “Bots play a particularly significant role in the spread of fake news soon after it is published. What’s more, these bots are programmed to direct their tweets at influential users. Automated accounts are particularly active in the early spreading phases of viral claims, and tend to target influential users.” (What will these tech crooks think of next)

The adoption of chatbots is still in it early stages of development and like any technology there will be some bugs in its implementation, but the potential impact of chatbots is immense if the technologists can get the right recipe. The fear of being left behind is always a driving force of the adoption of new technologies, but when does a publisher jump on the bandwagon and invest thousands of dollars in this technology.  You have to determine will it drive more traffic to my site so I can get more ad dollars or new paid/opt-in subscribers? If not I would suggest you take take a pass. Perhaps I am a little old school in my thinking as I still rather wait for a real person to talk to as the personal touch is always best. I will like to see how bots be charming and persuasive or will they just act like a robot. Or better yet how they will handle complaints and dissatisfied customers.


Monday, June 26, 2017

There are 1,120 radio and audio services with 594 FM and 129 AM stations in Canada. Radio has been identified as the sector least affected by the digital disruption due to its emphasis on local content according to the just released report by Canadian Heritage - “Disruption: Change and Churning in Canada’s Media Landscape”. This is good news for all the industry as traditional media still has a firm foothold in the media mix. But radio stations are still evolving as they produce content for their website, that originally started as placeholders so listeners can access the radio station online.


Last year for the 2016 COPAs I talked about “How radio has reinvented themselves in the digital age”. When writing this piece, I discovered that radio stations were adopting magazine like content strategies for their website and this was all part of the digital convergence that is occurring in the media industry. I predict that over the long term that radio and magazines brands may merge to survive in the future to compete against Google and Facebook. 


Let’s have a look at 98.1 CHFI the largest radio station in Toronto is doing. The radio station has an Ault Contemporary music format and attracts 36,400 Adults 12+ listeners per minute in the Toronto CMA according to the latest Numeris rating report. The station skews women listeners (over 50%). The website is ranked 6,205 in Canada by Alexa ( a web site tarffic monitioring sire), which suggest traffic over 100,000 visitors per month. (Online and smartphone app radio listenership is not included in the Numeris report btw, a free bonus for advertisers). 


The content on the website reminds me more of an Entertainment Show on TV as the site offers video clips of entertainment news, celebrity gossip, interviews and music videos. There is a celebrity gossip podcast series “Other People’s Business” hosted by MO (Maureen Holloway). This is a 3 minute archive from the morning show she co-hosts each day. There is some women’s service content on the website through MO’s blog and food recipe videos. Could we see more Chatelaine content here in the future or a CHFI radio widget on the Chatelaine website, as they are both Roger’s media brands. There is already video content from Breakfast Television a show on CITY TV for entertainment news another Rogers Media brand.

The station has a mobile app where people can stream the station on their smartphone that is available in the Apple and Google Play Store. There are radio-streaming apps where you can have access to hundreds of Radio stations. 98.1 CHFI can also be streamed from the Radio Canada Play App that has 400 stations. The biggest concern about radio app streaming is that the Internet winks out and the music will stop and the system then has to reboot and start over. Surprisingly, there is still not a Radio Tuner App that can pick up the signal over the air to save on bandwidth the technology is there. The headphones are used as the antennae.

To build a listener database there is the 98.1 CHFI Customer Loyalty program where listeners can win points for answering On Air Trivia questions or by participating in a survey/ poll. These points are then redeemed for contest entries for prizes. This program can lead to other ad revenue opportunities such as an email newsletter that go beyond a 30 second spot on the station and can be part of an integrated ad program.

The next step in the evolution of Radio brands is the ability to effectively create a brand that works in all channels. Unfortunately, radio stations are stilling using their station ID as the web brand and looks out of place. Sportsnet 590 Fan has able to achieve this cross branding concern with their radio station, website magazine and tv station. The combination of radio and the web is a powerful combination for advertisers if packaged right, as radio is a great web site traffic driver. Plus smartphone usage is banned in the car, where radio is #1.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lost in all the digital chatter about video consumption on the internet is the art of photography. Lest we not forget, photos are the foundation for some social media services like Instagram and Pinterest. So we thought it would be a good time to salute all the great photo journalists out there with a new category at the COPAs this year for best Photo Journalism. Sports photographers always want to capture that winning moment like this one as part of the Stanley Cup coverage on TSN’s website.


The integration of instagram photos on the Fashion Magazine website in this Beyoncé story on her pregnancy “The Beyhive Thinks Beyoncé is Currently in Labour” illustrates how social media is intertwined in today online coverage and the use of photos.


Publisher’s today no longer have restrictions on content real estate and you can post photos in a long web page like this one by Western Living for their "7 Vancouver Lofts We Love story."


Another option is to use a photo slider that can post many photos. This can expand the coverage from a single photo to 20 photos. This slider widget is being used by Canadian Geographic who showcase photos of nature and wildlife.
These sliders are also being used by publishers as an ad delivery vehicle like this one for Teach Magazine where a client's ad can be inserted amongst the photos or story teasers. This is a content sponsorship plug for Teacher’s Life Insurance's "Retirement Lessons From Gin Gin ".
For an exmaple on what USA publishers are doing with this tool this is USA TODAY’s photo coverage on climate change event that has 18 photos.
The art of photography by publishers sometimes resort to smartphone cameras for reporting. But capturing that right moment needs the skills of a photography with the proper equipment, lighting and setting to capture the attention of the reader as we all know a picture is worth a 1000 words or can be an online viral sensation. This year we want to honour all the great photo journalists out there this year at the COPAs.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

As part of  the countdown to the entry deadline for this years COPA’s that is on July 14 we are doing a series of Digital Media Spotlights and this year the first one is a salute to the quality of B2B journalism in Canada and its role in the media mix for today’s advertisers. When the digital disruption hit publishers during the dot com boom (1998-2002) B2B publishers took a big hit as readers migrated to digital platforms. Today, the B2B sector still offers what adtech firms still dream about – a highly targeted audience, but how it is delivered  is radically different.


So lets have a look at one of the publications at Annex Business Media  to see how they reinvented themselves. With 63 magazines in the stable now they have a wealth of best practices we can look at. This narrative of this publication will be based on the perspective of an ad agency media buyer, which I do on occasion for clients in the construction industry.


My target market are electrical contractors in Canada for Client X and Annex Business Media publishes a publication called Electrical Business. What are my ad options? What is its circulation?  What is the Audience Profile? I am looking to create an integrated campaign that offers a mix of online and magazine to meet my reach and frequency objectives. I like email newsletters as they work best as I can build frequency and I can target by geographic area if I needed like an Ontario only buy. 

For digital marketing needs I like email over banner ads as you know what you are going to get as website traffic may not all be from Canada, be unpredictable and I do not have to deal with ad fraud and auto traffic issues. For a B2B buy, I view Key Word Search ad on Google a waste money as key words are not as targeted and I do not know what I am getting but a email list is an audience guarantee. I need to play it safe with the client’s money.


Magazines will be looked at as the 2nd or 3rd or option to ensure I reach as much as the publication’s audience as possible as I know print is still in demand by readers as 85% of the magazine subscription is print and they will tend to be older decision makers. To stretch my client’s budget and to ensure frequency I use a 1/2 page ad size as my starting point as this size is always placed with editorial so the ad will be seen longer by the reader. A FP4C is preferred, but it use will be based on the number of publications on the media plans and frequency targets. To achieve sufficient awareness to obtain share of mind at the time purchase you need  at least a frequency of 3 with 6 preferred in my media buying rulebook.


For a 3 month brand/lead generation campaign I would have 1-2 issues of the magazine depending on the editorial schedule, a couple email newsletters and 3 month of online advertising as part of the media plan. This enables me meet my reach objectives as I am reaching the readers at different entry points with some duplication that helps build frequency


I usually look at 2-3 publications per industry vertical during the planning process with a 1-2 pub buy. I like events too, but they tend to strain the budgets. I am not a big fan of branded social media on publisher channels, but will take it as an added value. I like the use of sponsored content in my media plans now as its help with SEO, it is not a time expiry based ad, so it is always working for the client and provides social media content on the client’s channels.


The next COPA Digital Media Spotlight will be our Salute to Photo Journalism and how the use of image slider widgets on websites has changed the way photos are published online.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lets face it we need to change the business model in how we do things, it is not business as usual. All publishing companies have relied on two principal sources of revenue paid subscriptions and advertising to make it work. Then they were forced to distribute their content of the web for free and it has never been the same since. Journalism is also facing its greatest challenge from the invasion of the ad tech tyrants and the fake news business model. Before we jump on the fake news bandwagon, remember fake news has been around in mainstream news in the sports pages on contract signings, trades and rumours before we punish these tyrants.


Lets have a look at what I call two Web 2.0 publishing companies to see how they survive in the marketplace. What I am seeing is that publishing companies are becoming like a 3 headed dragon now and are now part ad/social agency, part publishing and part ad rep house as their business model.

This is the model of Ideon Media a small company with 30 people, their sources of revenue are 8 consumer magazine publishing sites, with a strong focus in the parent market like Savvy Mom that they own through Maple Media. They also represent 15 USA based sites and sell display advertising for them for the Canadian market. They work with the New Yorker brand and two sister sites that are geared for millennials like Vulture that was recently added to their roster.  




The third of head the dragon is the ad/social media agency services for their advertising clients as they can produce social media content campaigns, traditional media and buying and a programmatic media. According to Natalie Milne, they are building a model based on scale with 23 web properties that delivers millions of eyeballs for consumer ad programs. This scale is required to succeed in the digital space in a market where $2CPM prevail.


Here is second company to look at that is trying to ride the video ad wave and is one of the largest global video ad delivery/monetization companies - Teads. This video ad delivery system is a little different as the ad is not placed in the traditional position on the web like the top and right hand side, but is place in the actual article after the first two paragraphs. This is unique in many ways as now ads can be place contextually based on the nature of article. So advertisers looking for the right editorial environment can pick and choose.


All publishers that sign-up for the video ad delivery system can have any unsold inventory sold in a private ad marketplace they manage for demographic buys with other publishers. Teads will sell this private ad network to the ad community and has a local office in Toronto. This a two head dragon model, but it is global in scale with 40 publishers in the USA they are working with that include Time. They have operations in Europe and Asia.


What can we learn from these two companies is that both news and magazine companies needs to add some new tools to the toolbox if they are going to survive and prosper for the next 10 years. The olds ways while they still work need to be refreshed and new ways need to be added. 


BUT, basic business strategy rules do not change in this new environment, it just more confusing now as the ad tech tyrants throw out more digital ad concepts as the next miracle cure. This happens even for me sometimes, as we grapple with creating new sources of revenue online and ride the right revenue wave. Doc Searls says it best in this blog posting in our Industry Inspiration column on Masthead when he says.


“The only reason publishers go along with adtech is that they don’t know any other way to make money from advertising online?”


At the end of the day you need to adapt and adjust. I liken this to my experience as a hockey coach, what is a 5-tool player. A five tool player is one that can be skate, pass, shoot, puck handling  and puck sense. Other tools are competitiveness and physical play. Today’s publishing companies and employees need to be that 5+ tool player and cannot just specialize in one area any more to compete.

About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners digital publishing, event management and ad sales help. His media expertise also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor, magazine and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

Most Recent Blog Comment
Marty Seto says:
Hi Steven, these are created by the client directly and booked like they would an ad. The new copywr...
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