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Newspapers? Dying? Social media? Rising. That's the conventional wisdom, at least, and marketers seem to be buying into it.

While spending on social media marketing is still relatively small, it's increasing rapidly. At the same time, anyone selling newspaper ads has probably given some thought to a new profession.

But is the conventional wisdom wrong, either wholly or partially? Should marketers be less upbeat about social media marketing, and more upbeat about what newspapers can offer? At least one consultant thinks so.

In a post on his blog, digital strategist Paul Williams argues that there's a lot to like about newspaper advertising, and a lot to dislike about social media marketing. His argument is based on five points:

  • Print is targeted. Different newspapers deliver different but well-defined audiences, allowing for targeting. Targeting a message via social media can be much more difficult depending on the platform.
  • Major newspapers have a lot of credibility. "The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post have been around for ages" after all.
  • Print's reach is well-established. "I can count on the fact that the newspaper is delivered to the tens (or hundreds) of thousands that have asked for it," Williams writes.
  • Print ads are clearly ads. As Williams puts it, when you see an ad in the newspaper, "you know the game" -- somebody is trying to sell something to you. Contrast that with social media, where direct sales pitches are often frowned upon.
  • Print is actually faster. A print ad purchase delivers an immediate audience. Social media, on the other hand, demands time for those who wish to build up a meaningful following.

All of these are good points, and one might even agree with Williams' assessment that "Social media is our gold rush. With the zillions of tweets, Diggs, blog posts, and Facebook updates all panning for attention I’ve only heard of a few who have ‘struck it rich’ as a result."

That, however, doesn't necessarily mean that comparing social media platforms like Twitter to newspapers is the worthwhile thing to do. While the allocation of an advertising budget is for all practical purposes a zero sum game, anyone looking to market a business should also remember that different tools are required for different jobs.

Depending on your goals, social media marketing may have a lot to offer. But newspaper advertising might have a lot to offer too.

On this front, Williams' most important comment in my opinion is this:

Newspapers are ancient. The same stuff our great, great grandparents read. We didn’t invent them, so we aren’t in love with them anymore.

Marketers love shiny new toys, but they shouldn't ignore old school platforms either. Power tools may be sexy, but sometimes a good old fashioned hammer or screwdriver gets the job done more efficiently. When it comes time to deciding which tools to use, marketers need to remember that getting the job done is the goal; the tools are simply a means to an end, no matter how much we love them or don't love them.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 July, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

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Cheap EV SSL

Hi, My side Social media is different to advertise from newspaper and social media always beat newspaper. Thanks.

about 6 years ago

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farouk

i really wonder what will happen in the next few years, major changes are happening now and their effect is going to be felt soon

about 6 years ago

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Andrea

I think over the next few years though, online news will become a way of life, and those who have adopted to that model early will be ahead. Also note, re: this comment:

"Print's reach is well-established. "I can count on the fact that the newspaper is delivered to the tens (or hundreds) of thousands that have asked for it," Williams writes."

No you can't. One, newspaper readership numbers are based on a per household, so assume any number a print media gives you for circulation and cut at least in half to get closer to the real number. Online mediums cannot lie about that - it's in the statistics that are tracked. Two, most people only read a section or two of the paper, not the entire thing, so how do you ensure your ad is reached? Three, print subscriptions have fallen and newspaper sizes have shrunk because of a high overhead. While I lament the loss of print newspaper, I see it coming down the pipeline.

about 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Andrea,

I don't disagree with you about the reliability of circulation numbers, but playing Devil's Advocate, online has similar issues. Traffic figures, for instance, are hardly a reliable way to gauge how many people will consciously see your ad online.

At the end of the day, it still all comes down to choosing the right tool. Newspapers aren't dead (yet at least); people do still read them. And I'm sure there are businesses that achieve greater ROI from newspaper ads than they would from a Twitter account.

Bottom line: businesses should pay attention to macro trends, but if they're not tracking how their campaigns are doing, they won't know which platforms are providing the most bang for the buck. It's called the marketing mix for a reason.

about 6 years ago

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Susie

I think its a matter of time before we really harness the internet power. Right now we are on a information overload. Soon it will be easier for people to find groups and common interests, with less noise, and more concentration on content curation. Only time, will tell , but its exciting!

Susie

www.hopespark.com

about 6 years ago

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Andy Xhignesse

I guess I'd have to say I'm becoming a fan of yours Patricio, you seem to consistently delve into subjects that have meaning and you provide sound insight on the issue.

If we are looking at today only, I think you're right and that a newspaper does offer a viable option as part of a marketing mix. However, I must agree with Andrea that the future is in online news, the trend seems pretty clear. As each of us continues to refine what we seek news on, and find it at the tips of our fingers online, we seem to block out the 'other stuff' that is extraneous to our wants. It's difficult (for me anyway) to see how this trend would somehow reverse itself.

As to reach, while eyeballs matter, I would be far happier connecting to a lower number of highly targeted and qualified viewers than the shotgun approach that conventional media offers. We are no longer operating in a world where the seller controls the engagement, the fundamental relationship between a buyer and seller has changed and continues to morph as the web is used more and more by buyers who research their solution needs extensively before making a buy decision. Therefore, I think that the shift underway to inbound marketing that I write about regularly will outstrip newspaper and other conventional media as top producers on marketing ROI in very short order. In fact, for the SMB market, this is already the case in many instances. Business is less concerned with top of the sales and marketing funnel numbers than they are with the clients that pop out the bottom. The proof of value is what new business is generated at the end of the day and social media, as part of a comprehensive corporate inbound marketing initiative will, I truly believe, win over time.

Really enjoy reading, can't wait for your next piece.

about 6 years ago

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BingBong

"social media always beat newspaper"

I can't imagine you have a company you need to advertise...social media does NOT work on it's own.  We always have to buy traditional media to generate awareness, and most importantly, the SALE.

about 6 years ago

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Shelia

@ Sheila:

"One, newspaper readership numbers are based on a per household, so assume any number a print media gives you for circulation and cut at least in half to get closer to the real number"

You've got that backwards. Readership is about PER PERSON. Circulation is about per household, and makes no assumptions about readership.  readership is calculated by an extensive survey of individuals.

about 6 years ago

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Mediatramp

Shocking use of question marks here, chaps. Truly shocking.

about 6 years ago

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Bangalow Accommodation

The broadsheet will never die. There's still nothing like sitting in the sun with a coffee and a paper.

about 6 years ago

Claire Thatcher

Claire Thatcher, Marketing Consultant at Loud & Clear Marketing

I couldn't agree more Patricio... I also believe that (now and) in future companies will buy print advertising to stand out from the on-line crowd.... and (@Bangalow Accommodation) you definitely can't beat "sitting in the sun with a coffee and a paper."

about 6 years ago

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maps4pets

As we work heavily in both fields, we found your article of great interest. Thank you.

about 6 years ago

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Matt

I think the ABC might have something to say about the comments above on the way newspaper circulations are compiled! Also readership and circulation are two very different things. http://www.abc.org.uk/Corporate/AboutABC/Reporting_standards.aspx In general I found the article very refreshing. No doubt the mid-to-longterm trend is away from printed newspapers and towards social/communitry-based online media but we're not even remotely there yet. To say that a Facebook campaign can replace a multi-title national newspaper campaign just as effectively (as a digital agency has said to me on more than one occasion) is nonsense that just doesn't stack up. Yet!

about 6 years ago

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Alan K'necht

One point missed in this article is that people can rip the ad out of a newspaper/print if it appeals to them and carry it around with them as a reminder. Bookmarking a landing page of an ad doesn't have the same impact especially when the call to action is an immediate response.

I'm sure soon enough the technology will be there to electronically rip the ad and take it with you, but were not there yet.

about 6 years ago

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Randy Novak NSA Media

Couldn't just let Andrea's comment in regards to newspaper circulation go unanswered... you are mixing up circulation and readership for newspapers. Circulation is reported with no multipliers applied, so it truly is a real number. It is readership numbers that typically have a factor of about 2.3 applied. If you are cutting newspaper circulation in half to calculate actual numbers, you are incorrect.

In terms of which form of media makes the most sense, if ads are about driving sales, newspapers will win every time. Social Media is more suited for conversations. A smart marketer will not foresake one for the other.

about 6 years ago

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Aaron Schoenberger

I, personally, along with all the statistics on the planet, show newspaper advertising is an ever-evolving failure. Limited shelf life, limited exposure and no guarantee for the future. On the other hand, Social Media and SEO are an entirely different aminal. And yes, I said aminal.

almost 6 years ago

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