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The Cost of Anger

Posted by on | August 15, 2019 | Comments Off

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that advertisers are now steering away from political content. 

During the second quarter of this year, 177 advertisers that worked with ad measurement firm DoubleVerify Inc. blocked their ads from appearing on news or political content online, up 33% from the year-earlier period and more than double the 2017 total, the company said.

This evolution makes sense.  There are plenty of studies showing that when people are scared or angry, they transfer some of those negative feelings to products that they encounter during those moments.  Advertisers know this.  That’s why newspapers remove all the airline ads from editions that reported plane crashes. 

Ironically, news sites have attempted to increase traffic by increasing controversy.  It seems like every Republic reporter is now an “Investigative” reporter.  I’ve reported on one unfortunate outcome of this trend–reporters focus on ginned up controversies and miss real news.  That’s why the Republic missed the story of the Senate staffer who won  a million dollar judgment.  It’s also why Craig Harris and Howie Fischer spent so much time hunting down Tim Jeffries but missed his warnings on Hacienda. 

Newspaper owners will argue that these investigative stories drive traffic.  Maybe that’s true.  They also make readers angry.  Harris’s Charter School stories make both sides angry.  After reading the articles, the left is indignant that Charter Schools even exist and the right is angry that Craig Harris doesn’t understand the basics of charter school finance.

Advertisers have realized that they don’t want people getting ticked off and then noticing their product.  I thought this paragraph was especially interesting.

Subway said it has blacklisted 70,000 websites, including most hard-news outlets. The company wants to align with “positivity and the moments when our guests will be most likely to consider getting Subway,” said Melissa Sutton, Subway’s director of media services.

Have you seen a Subway ad on Azcentral?  I bet not.  That’s because Subway doesn’t want its product associated with controversial and negative content like that featured on Az Central. 

How ironic.  The newspaper industry has zigged while the advertising world zagged.  Newspapers have sacrificed their credibility in order to create enough outrage to generate clicks…on the assumption that advertisers bought clicks.  Now that it’s too late, they realize that advertisers are seeking credibility and avoiding outrage.

Republic management would do well to re-evaluate its entire web strategy.  When you include subscribers who cancel because they are fed up with the new tabloid model and advertisers who don’t want ticked off readers associating their product with controversy, you will reach this conclusion:  The Republic’s web strategy has resulted in a net loss of revenue. They have accelerated the decline.

This would be a good time for Gannett management to take a fresh look at Az Central.  Read the last few Montini and Laurie Roberts columns.  Follow the reporters on Twitter. Pay special attention to Tweets like this:

 The Cost of Anger

Then they should ask themselves this question.  “If I were the advertising manager for, say, Ford, Colgate or Subway would I want my ads to be on this site?  Would I want my potential consumers to associate my product with this website or with these people?”

I’m sure that Montini et al generate plenty of clicks, but the industry is starting to realize the high cost of anger.






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