There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the death of print media. We can see evidence of this with the rise of digital media and the decline of traditional media in terms of news sources. People would rather go online, for free, than subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, in addition to ditching other forms of media, as well. Makes sense, but what does this mean for the advertising world? If people are leaving print media for online and social media, it must make more sense to move your advertising dollars to the web, right? For me, the answer is an emphatic, “YES.”

Let’s start with something that we can all understand; money. Print advertising can be very expensive, and you can’t really be sure that your dollars are being put to good use.  Let’s say that a magazine has a maximum readership of 30,000, and it costs you $1,500 to run a half-page ad for one month. In a best-case scenario, the maximum amount of people that your $1,500 ad could reach is 30,000. Want a full-page ad? That’ll cost you $2,500, but here’s the kicker: you’ve just spent an extra grand, with little to no guarantee that your ad is ever going to reach anything close to 30,000 people. After the issue of the magazine with your ad goes on sale, can you tell how many impressions you got from your ad? Not unless you personally call all of the subscribers and ask, which would be a bit of a pain, to put it nicely.

In terms of money spent wisely, online advertising wins, hands-down. First and foremost, you set your budget, not Facebook, Google, LinkedIn or whichever site you choose to advertise with. Want to spend $10? No problem. Want to spend $3,000? Go right ahead! An important distinction between online and print advertising is that you only pay for the individual clicks that your ads get, nothing more and nothing less. If you set your budget at $3,000, but only get $500 worth of clicks, you only pay $500. If you run a print ad for $3,000 but only 50 people see it, you’re out $3,000, and you may not have turned any of those people into new customers. Online: 1, Print: 0.

Now, let’s talk about customization and track-ability; we’ll use Facebook as an example. Before my Facebook ad campaign begins, I can set my budget, my target audience and the length of my campaign. I can tailor my ad for any audience on Facebook based on pages and interests that they like, age, gender and location, right down to the zip code. What types of hobbies do the 50 people that saw your magazine ad enjoy? Your guess is as good as mine. Online: 2, Print: 0. 

We already know that after your $3,000 print ad gets published, there is no realistic way for you to track its performance. The same does not hold true for my hypothetical Facebook campaign. During my campaign, I can see how many impressions, clicks, actions and page “Likes” each of my ads have generated down to the minute, and I can continuously edit any aspect of my ads (headline, copy, image) throughout the campaign. After my campaign has ended, I can view every important statistic known to the advertising world, and base my next campaign around these statistics. Online: 3, Print: 0.

If there is one important point that I’d like you to take away from this, it’s that data drives smart advertising. Online advertising has it, and print media simply doesn’t. Your audience is on Facebook and they’re interested in you and your business – all you have to do is get in front of them. Why not do it in the most cost-effective way possible?

3 thoughts on “Online vs. Print Advertising, Why Print is Losing”

  1. It’s interesting how you take advertising and simplify it down to a few dollars and cents. But the reality is advertising is much more than just dollars and cents. You seem to completely ignore human senses that can make or break any ad campaign. Emotion, feelings, laughter, love, these are words that seem to be ignored today in marketing. As your article describes, throw up an ad on Facebook, buy a few ad words on Google and VOILA! you’ve just created a successful marketing campaign – the real truth is, you just threw your money away.

    Once social media became over saturated with ads and attempts to sell products and goods, the results from ad campaigns began to decline. So if 10 competitors in a local market take your advice and jump on Facebook -guess what happens, you get lost in the clutter and when all of your competitors are doing ad words just like you do – your costs keep going up and up and up and your results continue to decline. Your article fails to point out that a click doesn’t mean a sale. More and more today we work with clients that have spent thousands on ad words – lots and lots of clicks and very few sales.

    Maybe you should suggest to your readers to wise up and explore all possibilities of marketing. Approach a marketing campaign with a willingness to explore different arenas, not just the cheapest! Remember the old saying you get what you pay for – cheap advertising brings you cheap results.

    One last item, you didn’t touch on the fact that GM cancelled their $10 Million dollar social media campaign (Most of it being with Facebook) – because it didn’t work! Or that when Pepsi pulled their TV advertising to go all electronic, they lost market share and fell one more position (losing 2nd place position to Diet Coke) in the cola wars.

    1. Advertising is definitely more than just spending money to get in front of people. Of course, spending money on any kind of advertising isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to get a return. I think the purpose of the article is to outline the relative cost of print and online. Clicks don’t always mean sales, but neither does mailing out a bunch of mailers. At least with online ads you have data. We too have seen our fair share of failed AdWords campaigns, and as you point out, there’s a difference between ads that work, and ones that don’t.

      And about your last item. GM actually resumed their Facebook advertising last month – http://socialmediatoday.com/adam-chapman/1348956/general-motors-resumes-facebook-advertising – Will be interesting to watch what mediums they shift budgets to in the future, that’s for sure.

    2. This blog comes from a bit of a bias to begin with and does not touch on core marketing principles such as the power of differentiation, but it is fair to assume that all ad creative, media and mediums are not created equally. So anytime anyone tries to make a blog article that is somewhat general it seems like an over-assumption. I believe the reality is any media bought well can work. But I agree with an “emphatic YES” that most traditional media cannot even come close to the insight that can be received from an online campaign, regardless if that info is positive or negative. Speaking personally as I worked in TV for 7 years I’d rather have hard client specific data than Nielsen ratings or Scarborough to pitch.

      GM has cancelled every single type of media they have ever bought within their history of existing at one point or another. Kind of like being an agency, every one eventually gets fired, no matter how good.

      In a world where clients are constantly begging for the most efficient type of advertising available, selling someone on the “emotion” of any particular media is getting tougher and tougher. Not to mention that the Shamwow guy ruined TV advertising forever…

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