Circulation Expo Keynoter: Search Is It

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NEW YORK -- Numbers are no substitute for practical tips, but that's what delegates yesterday at the Circulation Management Conference & Expo had to settle for when they heard a top Google salesman give his keynote speech on boosting circulation in the search economy.

If anything, the nation's leading circulators left with a sense of urgency after Patrick Keane, Google head of field marketing, laid out the new rules of the game: Search is it. The cited statistics illustrated how evolving consumer use of the Internet and search inevitably is leading to wrenching changes in business.

"Search is not just the place for people looking for high-consideration goods -- autos, homes -- it's also for low-consideration goods," Keane told a packed room at a session called "Extreme Circulation: Reinventing Audience Development."

Magazines fall under the low-consideration set. Keane suggested that publishers and circulators consider search marketing not just to build awareness for trials, but also to generate sales.

"Search is as much an awareness medium as it's a direct medium," he said, mirroring the case made for online banner ads when they delivered dismal click-throughs and conversion rates.

But Keane had a point. The nation's 100,000 magazines benefit from the Internet's ease of use and speed as well as the ubiquitous access. These titles generate enough content to deliver contextual advertising alongside the pages online. The Google AdSense program serves this need.

Business publisher Primedia was mentioned as a candidate with vast print resources that are parlayed online both for advertising and subscription purposes. The publisher last year recorded 85,000 ad pages across its titles and has 650 Web sites to mirror its print publications.

Another case was made for Netflix. The online DVD rental company has 25,000 movie titles it can mail to subscribers versus the 3,000-odd stocked by a typical Blockbuster store. Keane raised this point to highlight the Internet's depth.

Apple Computer's iTunes is another example. The online music store has 1 million songs for sale. It has sold each of those tracks at least once. Again, only the Internet has made this possible.

Keane then focused on the flavor of the year: blogs. Some 40,000 blogs -- narrow-content personal online journals -- launch each day online, taking the current total to 9 million that are operating. That exceeds the combined circulation of The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Eclipsing television in consumer consumption, the Internet now is unlike anything before.

"It's no longer a mass media, but a media of masses," Keane said.

Still, advertisers don't get it. Online generates only 4 percent to 5 percent of advertising, despite usage accounting for almost 16 hours weekly. But TV, with consumption at roughly 15 hours weekly, gets 20 percent of ad budgets.

Consumers find the Internet reliable, too. It is the most trusted category for health information after the doctor and the pharmacy, Keane said. He urged that publishers have effective Web sites because online behavior increasingly is driving offline.

In fact, search may have boosted advertising's credibility with consumers. So each click-through must be taken seriously.

"People are searching for ads online," Keane said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting


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