Cross-platform synergy

As the limitless potential of Internet start-ups gives way to seemingly limitless quarterly losses, broadcasters are beginning to position themselves to survive the day of reckoning. They believe that tying their Internet efforts as closely as possible to their traditional efforts, and building on brand loyalty, will translate success in traditional advertising into success in new media.

Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. (TBSI) has released a new study that goes a long way toward delving into the relationship between old and new media. The report, titled "Integration: The TV-Web Planning Guide," is based primarily on a proprietary Nielsen analysis commissioned by TBSI.

Larry Goodman, president, CNN sales and marketing, sees a common currency between the Web and television: the ability to reach unduplicated users. The opportunity for broadcasters is that they have well-known content brands that translate easily to the Internet-particularly news or information brands. The opportunity for advertisers is that a cross-platform advertising strategy focusing on the horizontal branding strength of television networks can help them reach the most difficult-to-reach viewers.

For example, the study points out that 35% of households that have Internet access are the most affluent and watch the least television. Goodman says 30% of CNN's advertisers have a presence on both the Web site and cable properties. As a result, only 30% of CNN's advertisers are reaching the most affluent consumers most effectively.

"They've always been the hardest homes for television to reach," he says. "Their TV habits haven't changed much, but they're using a lot more media overall, and the media they're using is the Internet."

The Internet may not be as mysterious a medium as it seems, Goodman notes. The adoption of Internet access mirrors that of cable in its early days: Those who have it tend to be the most affluent members of society. "The opportunity," he says, "is to use the Internet in the way that cable was used in the early '80s."

Providing recognizable branding could give old media an advantage on the Internet. Loyalty does have its advantages, even in the new-media world.

"There are some brands that have grown up on the Internet, and they're attracting a lot of traffic," says Sherrill Mane, vice president, CNN marketing services. "And portals like Yahoo! are getting huge numbers of traffic. But when you go to the level of the content sites, you'll see that a lot of the strength of the off-line brand has come into the Internet space."

The TBSI study supports Mane's claim. According to the report, cable networks with a well-developed, well-maintained and heavily trafficked Web site were more effective in attracting new Internet-access homes.

Internet advertising also carries its own unique headaches. For example, some advertisers place a banner advertisement and then judge its success by the number of click-throughs on the Web site. If it doesn't get enough clicks, they don't continue advertising. The danger is that advertisers stop thinking of advertising as a way to create brand awareness and instead look at it as a direct-marketing tool.

In the end, Goodman says, the economics of the Web look a lot like the economics of television: "The organizations that control the most audience control the most revenue. And that's every bit as pronounced on the Web as it is on television."