Why Should We Advertisers Continue to Buy Print?


I’m responsible for developing the annual marketing plan, then implementing it by creating the ads and doing the buys with radio, TV and print.

Radio and TV have been losing listeners and viewers for years yet their rates remain the same.  (Although radio might be turning around.).

Newspapers and magazines, on the other hand,  have been dropping circulations while their rates increase.  How can I justify continuing to place print ads?

My dilemma: on both the local and national levels, newspapers are the gatekeepers, the trend setters.  When a major newspaper does a story on finding secret torture camps, all the rest of the media follow, including the world of bloggers and podcasters.

On a local level, if our newspaper has a scoop on a new set of meth labs, the rest of the media follow. The local radio stations simply rewrite the article for their morning and noon news.  TV stations send reporters out to do interviews and shoot B roll.

At the same time, newspapers are laying off reporters.  This means gone are the days of  reporters visiting our campus to shoot photos and write features.  We, the PR staff, write the stories and supply the photos.  It’s not a bad gig.  It’s a little more work for us but the papers are grateful for the free labor and we’re happy with the coverage.

But as an advertiser, I cringe when I buy print ads knowing that the audience I’m after — high school students and their mothers — just aren’t there.

Even ex-Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downey Jr. talks about the problem on a recent Fresh Air episode, agreeing that newspapers are migrating to the Web while still trying to figure out how to monetize their new location.

Even though I know newspapers are still important, in whatever incarnation they might be, I still have problems parting with my own shrinking dollars to support an institution shriveling faster than the Wicked Witch of the West in a waterfall.

A recent article in AdAge reports something that reinforces something that we in the PR business have known for some time.  News blogs — “digital influencers” —  go to the traditional media for their agenda.

“The study, developed by MS&L’s influencer-marketing unit IM, reveals that some 84% of digital influencers go online to find out more about something only after first reading about it in magazines and newspapers or hearing about it on TV or the radio.”

As I said, newspapers define what’s news and the rest of the media follow them.

This is underscored in another article.  According to the article, newspapers –print and electronic — still have the credibility over other sources.

The bottom line, and I’m not sure it’s a good answer, is that I’m supporting print media because we’re in a time of huge transition.  All of us are experimenting and seeking the best solutions in our respective professions.  I’m advertising– albeit to a lesser extent — in local and regional newspapers because they’re carrying our stories and there is still some readership.

And articles in your local, regional and national papers are a third party endorsement of your school and its activities.

That counts for a lot, despite the rising cost.

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3 responses to “Why Should We Advertisers Continue to Buy Print?

  1. Drat. I was looking for a definitive answer. We are in the same boat and have come to the same conclusion at my university.

    There is also prestige factor to a full size ad in our paper that our leadership all believe in. I don’t get it but then I only read stories on my computer or my phone.

  2. Eddie,
    Yes, we’re all in the same boat, and yes, ads and stories in the newspaper do have a certain amount of prestige. I think part of it is because something in print seems to have more permanence than electronic or digital placements or productions.

  3. Pingback: Prints Ads Part 2 « The Higher Ed Marketing Blog

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