For a man who has the ability to predict presidential elections, Nate Silver’s recent comment about the sales staff at The New York Times was shortsighted and displayed a surprising lack of understanding of the tectonic shifts that are occurring in publishing and advertising. It’s as if he hasn’t realized that the disintermediation of the ad sales process through trading desks, RTB and other forms of ad tech has had a decimating effect on CPMs and, hence, the ability of a publisher and its sales force to generate healthy revenue.
Couple that with the war now going on between journalists and sales staff over the notion of native advertising, and the inability or refusal of IT staff to come out of their caves and partner with journalists and sales staff to develop solutions the sales people can take to market, and you have a recipe for continued stagnation.
Silver, who rose to fame when the New York Times gave his FiveThirtyEight blog an audience and who recently left the paper for a gig at ESPN, had this to say on a recent B.S. Report podcast.
“I feel like this will get me in trouble, maybe. But I feel like with all the traffic the Times has right now, it should be turning a much larger profit than it does right now. Right? They get so many eyeballs and so much high quality traffic–the demographics are really good, people with a lot of disposable income–that it should be a goldmine for advertisers. If you’re having trouble, I don’t think you should blame the environmental conditions so much as maybe your sales staff isn’t that good.”
Ten or fifteen years ago, blaming the sales staff for declining revenues may have been more appropriate since the online advertising landscape consisted mainly of banners and CPMs hadn’t been raped by programmatic buying, devalued by content farms, commoditized by DSP-controlled real-time bidding or altered (up and down) by native advertising.
It’s clear the online advertising space is a disastrous tailspin, but to blame one entity for its apparent demise isn’t really taking a broad view of the landscape.