Eliminating Print Advertising? Not So Fast

From digital video to social media to programmatic buying, advertising and media buys have clearly come to rely on digital. Over the years digital has proven to be a less expensive way to reach audiences. It provides us with considerably more accurate analytics and metrics, and turnaround time is faster. In many areas, digital has or is expected to eventually surpass traditional media, particularly print. There is, however, one area of print advertising that digital has not been able to eliminate: the preprint or newspaper circular.

A recent Wall Street Journal article found that fewer than 1% of people who read newspapers online click through to the digital circulars. But the same article found that more than 80% of people who read a print newspaper will look at the circulars or preprints.

Three years ago we wrote a blog post detailing the benefits of preprint advertising. Among them:

  • Action and Impact: At the time nearly 80% of surveyed respondents said they had used a preprint ad in the last 30days. This includes anything from clipping a coupon or using the circular to compare prices.
  • Targeting: They could be served to a specific geographic areas by zip code.
  • Ease: Readers found them easier to browse than online circulars.

Things have changed a lot since then. Digital advertising has become just as effective, if not more in all of these areas. For example:

  • Research has found that 9 out of 10 mobile searches result in an action. That can include anything from a call to the business, a visit to the physical location, or a purchase.
  • The precision of digital goes beyond where you live. They can serve ads to you based on your interests, your income, your job, your age, your education, AND where you live.
  • Responsive web design and flipbooks have made shopping online a much more user-friendly experience than it had been in previous years. Most of this is a result of ecommerce sites being able to tailor pages to fit any sized screen a customer is using.

So seriously, what gives? Why are newspaper circulars still so popular? The article states a case study from Wal-Mart. The chain cut their spending on circulars in certain regions and foot traffic in those same regions decreased. A Daily Beast article quoted JC Penney’s marketing team found after research that their customers browsed the print circular or catalog, but would still do their shopping online or in the store. They too saw a large drop in sales when they discontinued their catalog.

If you are a retailer considering your media buying options here are some considerations for incorporating print in your marketing mix:

  • Print advertising is considerably more expensive than digital. So use it strategically, for seasonal promotions like Black Friday or Back to School or during your industries other busy periods.
  • Consider creating cohesive messaging within your print material that informs them of available digital options: for example include your website and encourage them to sign up for regular email newsletters.
  • Provide special discounts to online shoppers, that are unavailable to print ones.
  • The studies found this trend happened with brick and mortar retail locations. If you are an online-only retailer, these will likely not affect you.
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