Feb 242010

My job as a communications professional often means I counsel clients on all types of marketing efforts. This is especially true because for some clients PR lives within a broader marketing P&L. So I was interested when a representative from the Technology Marketing Corporation (TMCnet) contacted me and offered to meet today.

I’ve been aware of TMC for a long time, and wanted to hear about its evolution. It started out like many other trade media organizations — a magazine, some events and a web site. They have changed, and for the past few years I’ve seen them as pay-for-play from a media pitching standpoint. Anthony and Matt spelled out the evolution for me and my colleague Margaret Brown this afternoon.

They told us that bad times for trade publications are great times for TMC. Former competitors for advertising dollars in the tech space like Telephony Magazine and RCR have folded or greatly reduced pages and staff due to a big drop in advertisers. TMC has stepped into this void, offering advertorial packages that include syndicated content, original content, SEO support and social community features.

Advertisers can build an online community based on keywords and content. As the trade press die, TMC scoops up the advertisers, and some of the editorial talent as well. Anthony said the company has 37 editors in-house, with about double that number as stringers. In fact, Matt said the same companies that bemoan the decline of their favorite titles are the very same who have moved their advertising dollars away — he said “they’ve killed the trades,” not TMC.

It’s the same phenomena that we’re seeing in the PR space. The Internet has made everything measurable (though not always easily trackable), and social media allows for communities in which individuals self-identify and congregate based on shared interests. This is the seismic shift, and is a huge opportunity to make the effects of any type of marketing effort more quantifiable.

In the case of PR, it’s much more measurable than a placed story, and for advertising it’s a lot more measurable than a display ad. The metrics now are pageviews, visitors, clicks and downloads. The offerings are tiered, with promised levels rising with the monthly spend. I found the presentation extremely logical, and I’m sure for some companies it’s a smart buy.

So is coming at it from either angle, PR or advertising, “better” in some way? The answer depends on your perspective, and I don’t think it’s a zero sum decision. Strategic has been able to generate the kind of traffic levels some of the TMC tiers promise; we just redesigned our site to highlight client success stories from BT, Microsoft and Monster among others. And I think there will always be a higher value attached to a story or article secured from a publication that has no business relationship with the company featured.

At the same time, I would never counsel a client to stop advertising just because they’ve engaged with Strategic. That doesn’t make sense — effective marketing will always employ multiple disciplines.

Today was another resounding confirmation of where the market is going, however. TMC is moving aggressively by adapting the industry ad buy for the new online reality. PR firms had better do the same kind of adapting of their specialty, or risk dying with the trade publications.

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