To paraphrase the popular Mark Twain misquote, the reports of print’s death are greatly exaggerated. People have been predicting traditional print (daily newspapers, weekly newspaper, magazines) media’s death for at least 20 years now and yet, the media continues to defy expectations and, if not thrive, at least survive.
Is the industry facing challenges? Certainly. Readership is down. There are fewer publications. Spending on print advertising has declined steadily. And none of these things are going to change in the near future. It’s the reality of the newer, more fractured media environment that we live in. Where every year there are newer ways for consumers to spend their time and advertisers are using deeper data analysis to niche into their target audiences with greater efficiency. The heyday of print is past and not coming back. It’s not negative to note that, it’s just assessing the situation.
But thoughtful advertisers know better than to write print off. Each and every media tactic offers some benefit, some ability to bring the message to the target audience in a way missing from other media. True media strategy involves digging into the numbers and deciding if print will deliver value to a specific outreach effort.
It is important with print media (the same as it is for all media) to know not just your target audience but the media tactic’s actual audience. Not how many people could see your ad but how many realistically might see it. The total population of the coverage area is irrelevant. As is the number of households. What matters is how many people receive the publication, ideally by subscribing to it (which shows a level of actual interest in reading the content) but also through free distribution (less interest on the side of the target audience but still a relevant number to consider). Next, how you need to consider what those numbers are as people:
- How old are the readers? 25? 45? 65? How old is the average person who buys your product or service? Are you trying to broaden your audience to younger or older consumers?
- Is this a niche magazine targeting craft beer enthusiasts? Or a glossy high-end travel publication focused on the affluent? How does your target audience overlap with these audiences?
- Are the readers of the publication buying their first home? Raising elementary-aged children, starting their retirement? Do you offer something of interest or value to someone doing these things?
While many, many print publications have closed during the last two decades, there are still many niche interest magazines and local newspapers with loyal subscriber bases, even among the 25-year-olds. These are publications which have withstood tough times and proven themselves valuable to their advertisers and, more importantly, their target audiences. But you need to know if their audience is your audience.
There’s no need to write print’s obituary quite yet. When researched thoroughly and placed as part of a well-mixed media campaign, print can provide value to marketers.