Online Vs Print

Posted Dec 30, 2005
Last Updated Nov 9, 2011

As clients clamor for need to expand their online empires, I have been forced to contemplate the pros and cons of various marketing schemes. Specifically, I considered the value of print versus online marketing.

My focus on print and online advertising is based on my belief that they are the most accessible format for small businesses and non-corporate entities. Other forms of marketing such as multimedia productions (television commercials and radio promotions) are more expensive to implement partly because the cost of production are so high—but also because their effectiveness is also higher—televised and radio commercials have the benefit of being one-dimensional in presentation: in order to see/hear the next thing, you have to wait through the commercial. For a generally lazy population, waiting through the commercial (even if zoning out) a consumer is fed information that may very well influence his/her perspective even if unconsciously.

Printed advertising is, ironically, multi-dimensional in format because it exists "frozen” in time. To skip over an ad, one must not zone out for a length of time and wait for a page to turn. One simply turns the page. Consumers can even learn to filter advertising out, so that one may read content on a page without even taking notice of the ads.

It turns out that printed advertising, while essential for some markets, is becoming less effective as the consumer public learns to ignore ads. It’s no wonder that companies are seeking ways to maximize exposure while minimizing costs.

Print advertising was the traditional outlet for small businesses needed to get their message across, either in the form of newspaper ads, direct mail or fliers. Until the internet came out, there were essentially no viable mass marketing solutions for small businesses. But the printed world of newspapers and magazines is a hit-or-miss world with no checks and balances. All a publisher can guarantee is that your ad will appear in x-amount of copies for so many issues that will be distributed to y people. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much, as you can never know how many times your ad was seen.

Many advertisers might assume that bigger is better. But the irony here is that by placing your ad in a very large publication, you probably minimize your exposure. Who’s to say that anyone is going to read page 24 of section F?

Printed advertising is not as effective as newspapers want advertisers to believe. One client of mine was featured (in story format) on the front page of a section in the Columbus Dispatch. That feature story, which went out to hundreds of thousands of readers, generated less than a dozen sales. This same client has had no better luck with paid advertising. Trade shows and word-of-mouth have been much more successful for him.

Some studies show that the internet is causing an erosion of newspaper revenues. But most reports I’ve read estimate that the internet will not destroy the newspaper industry. I’m a little dubious… it seems to me that the average consumer will become more web-based as the decades come and go.

Consider the fact that, except for setup and hosting fees, it is almost free to promote your business, products, services and/or ideas on the web. There are always fees, especially if you want to use third-party promotional systems and services… but really it doesn’t cost much of anything to produce material that anyone around the world can see. Furthermore, you can control the target of your traffic by promoting yourself in the right circles. With server log analysis, it’s a simple task to track the effectiveness of all your efforts—you can see in real time if your efforts are paying off or flopping.

I cannot predict how long newspapers will remain. But I do feel confident in predicting that the internet will continue to demolish the printed world. And with the advent of new technologies, creating multimedia advertisements inside web pages will make online marketing closer to the highly effective television and radio market strategy. Flash and JavaScript have added visual interactivity—and scripted database functions fill the web with more possibilities than even TV and radio.

In the end, I think that effective marketing will come down more and more to passion and honesty. As the web becomes more entrenched in the lives of humanity, the democratic nature of the web will force businesses to create newer and better products (and informational content) so as to please the fickle nature of online browsers.

Creating quality content is the key to successful online marketing. Otherwise there is no incentive for anyone to stay on your site or pay any notice to your services, products, ideas or sponsors. That counts for any medium of promotion, actually. Even cool new things will succumb to the reality of survival—if it’s no good, it won’t last.

On the other hand, good things will keep people coming back.

Some Reading Resources

History & Criticism of Newspapers

Media Studies

Articles about modern society, media, journalism, propaganda and information in the Internet Age.

  1. Problems with Journalism
  2. Online Vs Print
  3. Information Overload
  4. Forum Etiquette in the 21st Century

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