Leveraging Traditional Media Placements in an Online World

I read with interest the Wall Street Journal’s article this week, “More Gloom in Newspaper Ad Sales” – in the online edition, of course. Online media and Internet-based search continue to grow at the expense of their offline counterparts, newspapers and magazines.

Because media placement options are continuously growing, smart local marketers need to leverage this major transformation of how people consume media in some creative ways. With the continued decline of traditional media, can newspapers survive and continue to be relevant with users and advertisers?

Regardless, the existing model needs to be dramatically shifted. Many consumers already access their local news via portal sites, city guides, news feeds, or RSS readers. While the news content is still relevant, the traditional method of centralized distribution (paper or Web site) may evolve to a Web 2.0 (define) atomized model.

This movement will certainly require traditional news organizations to rethink ad models. Sage Lewis recently wrote a terrific article discussing newspapers’ challenges in today’s media world.

For now, let’s put away the crystal ball and focus on how we can leverage this migration with tactics today.

Perception vs. Reality

I recently spoke on a panel at the International Franchise Association‘s annual conference about how to use the Web and technology tools to synchronize marketing and messaging to consumers.

After the session, I listened to how major franchise organizations and their local franchises were changing their local media buying habits. Many mentioned that they had totally abandoned traditional media in favor of performance-based and online media.

Judging from how often I heard this, I can’t help but think that some advertisers have reshaped their media strategy in advance of the shifting usage picture. Now, I’m not trying to defend traditional media. However, when ad dollars are shifting at a rate faster than the usage decline, that tells me there’s a unique opportunity to grab lead generation values at bargain prices.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, newspaper sales revenue has dropped 9.4 percent from 2006 to 2007, while usage declined around 7 percent. What does all this mean for local marketers? Now is probably a perfect time to leverage the loyalty that local businesses and national brands who market locally have built up with the newspaper media properties to gain additional access to sales leads across local online news sites.

In order to succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive media world, publishers are willing to add additional value for maintaining or increasing the overall media dollars you spend across their offerings. They key is understanding and valuing the offline and online components so you become an effective negotiator of an integrated local media plan.

Bundling Online and Offline Media

Consider negotiating your media placements for traditional newspaper classified and display by having the media property add in corresponding placements on their online properties. Usage of these sites continues to build, but in many cases inventories go unsold.

Transform Traditional Media into Performance Media (or: If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em)

In the current environment, publishers may negotiate traditional media placements on performance-based pricing scenarios similar to the CPC (define) or cost-per-call that many of these publishers offer for their online media properties. This creates the opportunity to “reverse bundle” traditional media into your online advertising efforts.

In this scenario, you bundle in additional coverage or value from traditional media placements to achieve overall sales lead volume requirements. The difference is that you purchase the additional media the same way you would purchase the online components. Google is already employing a hybrid auction pricing methodology with a selection of local and regional daily, weekly and special interest newspapers in their Google Print Ads program.

The key to employing performance-based pricing tactics with traditional media is to understand the value of your sales leads from different sources (e.g., clicks vs. calls).

Local search is all about connecting buyers with sellers. Media options will continue to fragment and will force smart marketers to stitch together sales opportunities from an ever-increasing number of sources. Within this rapidly changing world, the old rules no longer apply, and advertisers can leverage their knowledge of their target audience and measure and define acceptable returns from their advertising efforts.

It was John Wanamaker (creator of one of the first department stores in the U.S.) who said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This postulate should no longer be true. Increasingly, ad measurement, especially at the local level, enables you to validate placements and optimize them based on their ROI (define). So get started and get counting.

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