Print Is Dead?

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." – advertising and marketing pioneer John Wanamaker

And so it’s been for the 100 years or so since these words were first spoken. Marketers know that, on the whole, traditional advertising works. However, using print advertising as an example, it’s very hard to know which ad, in which edition of which publication, pushed that customer to the next level. That’s because marketing has always been a cumulative endeavor.

Now along comes digital marketing with its promise of precise targeting and precise measurability. Digital marketing is truly awesome. You can track and monitor the online behaviors of customers and prospects, see exactly which programs are working and which ones aren’t, refine and redefine your strategy, and in the case of Google AdWords and other PPC venues, only pay when you get some kind of actual result.

Who needs print advertising when you have digital, right? It’s tempting to look at the struggles of the newspaper industry and declare that print is in its death throes. But is it really all print or just newspapers?

Newspapers used to be the most efficient way to find out what’s going on now (or more accurately, what went on yesterday). Today I can click on Google News any time of the day or night and find out what’s happened in the last 15 minutes. So it makes sense, given what people were trying to accomplish with newspapers, that the majority of readers would gravitate to online news.

However, it’s a different story for magazines, and trade magazines in particular. According to Statista (, trade magazine ad revenues understandably took a big dip in 2009, but have continued to steadily rebound ever since. What’s more, trade magazine ad revenue is expected to continue that trend through at least 2016. If you’re a doubter of print advertising, I’d argue that the people spending those dollars know something you don’t, namely that print advertising works.

Sure it might work, but digital works better, right? After all, you can track and measure digital to a degree not possible with print.

Not so fast. Trackability and measurability don’t make a particular form of advertising more effective, just more convenient for marketers. It’s easy to take digital marketing results to the bean counters and say, “Hey, look what we got for our money.” The same can’t be said for print – but that doesn’t mean print is ineffective.

There seems to be a trend away from print advertising in the fintech space. Just thumb through your favorite trade pub and you’ll see what I mean. Many big names are conspicuously absent. I suppose there’s safety in numbers. If your competitors aren’t spending money on print, why should you?

Marketing is all about differentiation. So here’s a bold prediction: At some point, some fintech company with a few dollars to spend is going to realize that it can differentiate itself from the pack by simply including some print ads as part of its larger marketing strategy. If you’re the only one doing it, you’re going to stand out. And if you’re the first one doing it, you’ll enjoy the luxury of looking at all your competitors through your rearview mirror.

That is all.

#print #media #advertising

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© 2015 by John F. San Filippo

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