The last post: enough about you, let’s talk about us

This industry generally isn’t backward in coming forward about its achievements and there are many opportunities for those achievements to be acknowledged. But we’re sick of writing about you, so, as we often do on the last day of our publishing year, we’re taking the opportunity to talk about what we’ve done this year and what we’ve got planned for the next. 

I vividly recall my draconian overlord Vincent Heeringa telling me during my job interview that ‘updating that website will probably take you about five hours a week’. [Heeringa responds: “I deny it!”]. That estimate was a fair way off, and StopPress quickly became a voracious time-sucking beast. But that’s a good thing, and, somewhat surprisingly, the numbers have continued to grow. I say somewhat surprisingly because a few years ago the best guess on the number of people working in the marcomms industry was 15,000. According to Google Analytics, between Nov 18—Dec 18 we had 39,000 unique visitors, up from 26,000 at the same time last year (over the year, we’ve had 328,983 unique visitors and average visit duration of 2.26 and since StopPress kicked off in September 2009, we’ve had 827,097 unique visitors and an average visit duration of 2.19). So it’s either reaching readers from outside the industry or, another theory, the huge number of SMEs in this country means everyone’s a marketer and they’re keen to learn a few tricks. 

From Sept 2009: 

Between Nov 18 and Dec 18:

StopPress is still tiny by online standards, but, on its own, it’s profitable. And, like many modern media entities, it’s a very lean ship that’s kept afloat by sponsors and advertisers. But as some others decrease their staff numbers, close publications and deal with the double blow of decreasing print revenue and anemic digital revenue, it’s nice to have created something that’s working in terms of both readership and revenue, to the point where we have been able to add writers Amanda Sachtleben and Damien Venuto to the editorial roster. 

Like many trade publishers around the world, we’re also looking at what else we can do with our audience—and our sponsors. We launched a new digitally-focused section called Didge (and said goodbye to Sim Ahmed, who left for Vend), we launched a new time-wasting section called PopPress, we launched a Directory, we’ve added a few small brand extensions like the vehicular-focused StopGear and the office-focused In Your Space, and we also put on the first of what we hope will be many events based around bespoke research (coming up next year, agency perceptions, content marketing and the rise of mobile, as well as the chance of a bigger conference towards the end of the year and a charitable tennis tournament). 

Our biggest event of the year, the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards, was, if we do say so ourselves, the best yet, with a record number of entries and attendees. The project is a joint effort between the MA and the different strands of the 217-strong Image Centre Group, with &some, Image Print, Tangible Media, OnDigital, Ngage and Creative Services all chipping in to make it happen. The personalised NZ Marketing magazine we created with HP was also something we were proud of, and, showing once again that humans are simple creatures who very much enjoy seeing their names on things, it went down a treat with our subscribers (except for the librarian in Invercargill who didn’t want her name on the library copy).   

The grand old dame that is NZ Marketing is still trucking along. Back in 2001, the total net circulation was 3,977. In September this year it was 2,547​. So, not a huge decline, and, just as the newspapers keep saying, when you factor in online, our readership has never been higher. Hopefully that will continue to increase next year and we’re currently working on a project that will allow us to publish most of our long-form content online. 

As for the industry as a whole, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Philip O’Neill tweeted recently: “The only constant in life isn’t change. The only constant in life is the mindless use of the phrase ‘the only constant in life is change’.” That’s a good call. But it’s fair to say plenty of clients, agencies and everyone inbetween are facing up to some big challenges at present and being forced to adapt their businesses. From an editorial point of view, change always make for a great narrative and there’s no shortage of stories to write about how that’s being dealt with. But the rate of change is often over-stated and it’s human nature to focus on the new rather than the established. So as you head off and think about your next Cannes-winning campaign, try to remember this solid piece of advice from Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam’s head of planning Martin Wiegel: 

Despite the assertions of some zealots who claimed new technologies would spell the end of interruptive advertising, brands are still right up in consumers’ grills and annoying them constantly. They’re just doing it in new places. Perhaps as a result, marketing and pop culture seem increasingly entwined. And for some, this inescapability of consumerism is slightly depressing (no more so than around Christmas). There are no doubt a fair few in this industry who feel a bit queasy about helping to sell more shit to people who probably don’t need it, playing on people’s fears and helping to violate the planet. But, if you take the positive angle, remember Marshall McLuhan’s quote about advertising being the greatest art form of the 20th century and try to do some better work next year (not just in the advertising sense, but, high horse alert, maybe by thinking less about profit and more about using your powers to help solve some of the world’s problems). 

The marcomms sector may be a bit more serious than it used to, but it’s less boring than some other industries, it attracts interesting characters, amazing ideas sometimes come to life with the help of marketing budgets and, after collating the year’s stories into our own Year in Review in the latest NZ Marketing (need some Christmas reading?), the amount of work that gets done is phenomenal (speaking of which, can someone sort out a system where the total investment into a campaign, whether it be creative development, research, web design or PR is calculated as well as media spend so we get a true reflection of the money being spent on marketing communications. That’s not too much to ask, is it?).

So scrub yourselves down after a big year, pat yourselves on the back, check the gas bottle is full, set the cruise control for 104kmh and we’ll see you next year. 

  • The tumbleweeds will be rolling on StopPress until 13 January (we asked for virtual tumbleweeds to roll across the screen, but our digital team said they were too busy), but we have told our robots to post one Year in Review Q+A every day as well as some NZ Marketing magazine content to help keep the embers burning. 

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