By Dorothy York, President and CEO of North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS)
Mat release services are really a misnomer in the digital age. The term “mat,” or sometimes spelled “matte,” refers to a technology, pressing papier-mâché molds to be filled with liquid lead, to form a printing plate, that has not been used since 1972, when it was replaced by offset printing. It has taken on a variety of new meanings as the technology has continued to evolve into what it is today.
There are currently about half a dozen mat services that each define their services differently. For our purposes, we define our mat service, the original mat service, as a way to provide prewritten articles, ready to be used by the media, in various formats. What has changed about mat services, as ours continues to evolve, is the kind formats we use, the way we get our content to be used by the media, the media we serve and the way we track results.
Historically, our content has been used by nearly all of the major daily newspapers, but the frequency of use by the media has been highest among the second and third tier publications, those that are independently owned, with circulations ranging from 2,000 to about 25,000, which accounts for most newspapers. Approximately 95% of newspapers are in small towns, and they are eager to receive content to help fill their publications, including special sections.
The formats we provide to the media are the most comprehensive of any service, including, not only all the commonly used digital formats, plus some that are uniquely our own, such as our widgets, but also, to satisfy the demand of those who still need the other formats, we provide hard copy and CD’s. We have been sending out Featurette booklets in print and online, to publishers, which contain, not only our articles, but also entertaining quotes, cartoons with captions and fun facts, which editors love to use to fill space, when needed. Fewer publishers still cut and paste from the hard copy, or use files from CD’s, but for those who do, we provide the formats they need, to maximize results for our clients.
Gone are the days when we printed thousands of booklets and mailed tons of buckets of envelopes through a mailing house at bulk rates. Now we have targeted mailing lists which we use to mail to thousands more editors, by email, based on their preferences. We have lists of editors and publishers by topics they like to receive, including health, home, finance, technology, auto, and many more. We send to them in the formats they choose, which are available on our website.
Our audience has become increasingly diverse and we have developed outreach programs for foreign language publications, black and latino publications, LGBQT publications and specialty publications.
Gone are the days when we needed several monitoring services to find thousands of placements for us, which we received as clipped out articles, labeled with circulation data, that needed to be updated, sorted, and mailed to clients in envelopes daily. Now we use various online methods of monitoring ourselves, digitizing placements as those appear online and in print, and using our proprietary reporting software to report the data, without duplicates, to our clients. We have also developed relationships with thousands of publishers who routinely email us the digital version of what they were able to publish, to save us the time of having to look for placements.
Our reports are customizable, based on the preferences of our clients, who have different needs, to do the best job of satisfying expectations of management. We have new metrics, including unique visitors per month and per day, social media impressions, audience figures for broadcast air-time placements, and more.
Ad values are not easily measured and some have abandoned using ad equivalency metrics, which we still provide, for those that need that format, but most have transitioned toward more practical metrics, such as click through rates, which we provide. Some metrics are only available on the client end, including lead generation such as number of forms filled out online, or number of emails or phone calls, which can be uniquely attributable to a specific article. We can set up a landing page to track those as well but most clients prefer to do that themselves.
Our service offerings have expanded to include radio and TV on-air placements, embedded videos, infographics, listicles, social media and link referral services.
We have included many paid content placement options including straight ad buys, sponsored content, social media, amplification, influencer marketing and more. It’s much easier to measure the results of paid for options, with the cooperation of the media. Many relationships are exclusive to our service.
The mat service of the future will need to shift more focus to paid for options than to earned media, which is increasingly difficult to achieve, given fewer pages being printed, fewer publications and less of a need for fillers online, with the abundance of content available freely by many providers and sources. The roles will change accordingly, with digital marketing staff needed to buy space, use the latest SEO strategies, negotiate with influencers, media planners to advise clients as to which publications would be best suited to their needs, and analytics teams who are well versed in Google analytics, including certifications in many of the Google skill sets.
Many publications are starting their own, internal digital marketing agencies, to help satisfy the needs of their clients, which have broadened in scope to include content marketers. They are giving the best rates to those who buy in bulk and frequently.
As always, we have been able to spread the cost of what we do over many clients that we serve, to achieve economies of scale. As we head into the post pandemic world, we are better positioned to devote more budget to driving results for our clients, and less to overhead such as office supplies, which are no longer needed, and office space, the need for which has been reduced, due to the trend toward working from home, as most people now prefer to do.
We are better able to expand geographically, in the digital age, with many people able to work as independent contractors, remotely. We have been bringing in many students and recent graduates, to fill junior positions, and they have helped provide new insights, the latest trends in digital marketing, and sub specialties, such as video editing skills, to help us evolve as quickly as necessary to meet the changing demands.
We look forward to continuing to offer the best of both worlds, old school and new school, to help empower our clients to impressively achieve their goals, and to create more management happiness in the years ahead.