Print vs. Digital: Where Should You Spend Your Ad Dollars?

Will you find a greater return on your advertising dollars by using digital media?
March 21, 2012

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the greatest challenge facing traditional media is technology. Nearly every media outlet, from print to broadcast, has been affected by the rise in digital media. Newspapers are slowly dying, hard copies of albums are becoming relics of the past and DVDs are slowly being replaced with streaming movie services. E-book readers now allow consumers to carry thousands of books, newspapers and magazines in a single device.

The newspaper industry even topped the Huffington Post’s list of America’s Ten Disappearing Industries. Statistics show that the industry has seen a 27 percent decrease in size in just four years. Additionally, ad sales from print newspapers have decreased by 9 percent, according to Journalism.org. Not surprisingly, digital ad sales are up, especially for larger publications whose circulation numbers exceed 50,000.

New statistics released by Kantar Media, the leading provider of strategic advertising and marketing information, showed ad expenditures for newspapers and magazines during the
fourth quarter declined. It has been suggested this is in part due to the reallocation of ad dollars to other advertising channels, including digital.

And, it’s small businesses that are forging the revolution. Many are finding a greater ROI using digital media than they did with traditional sources. They are able to quickly and easily reach their target audience and, in most cases, for less money.

Joe and Vickie Kuan, owners of Joe and Vickie Photography based in New Brunswick, N.J., changed up their advertising strategies in 2010, allocating 90 percent of their budget to Facebook and Google AdWords. “The reason for the change is that everyone is searching online to look for a solution, no matter if it is products or services,” Vickie says.

Their first Facebook campaign, which cost them around $500, netted them nearly $30,000 in revenue. It was then that they realized they made the right decision shifting their ad dollars to the digital realm.

In November 2011, the duo ran simultaneous ads using AdWords and in their local newspaper. “On average, we spent $200 per month for ads for selected target keywords since November 2011," says Vickie. "In two months, it connected us with an event planner, who awarded us $20,000 for a big photography/video contract for a wedding...an interior designer and musician for a head-shot assignment and two more Bar Mitzvah photography assignments with an additional guaranteed revenue of $6,000 this month. At the same time, we ran two local ads in the special events section in a local Princeton newspaper [for] two years in a row, and it did not bring us any clients at all."

The Kuans are not alone in their digital success. Zalmi Duchman, founder of TheFreshDiet has also seen an increase in sales after modifying her advertising budget to reflect the change in technology. “We have seen our conversion rates dipping in other traditional ad spend like direct mail while we see our ROI going up on our digital spend. Although we have always been doing small digital spend we have kicked up our budget by over 200 percent and have seen better results than traditional media,” she adds.

The digital conversion doesn’t mean it’s the end of traditional media. In fact, terrestrial radio is still garnering 235 million listeners each week, according to Barry Cohen, managing member of AdLab Media, a multi-faceted public relations and advertising company. And Kantar’s statistics show television continuing to lead the ad expenditure market. Year over year, network television saw a 7.7 percent increase in ad expenditure, but analysts believe most of this growth is due to the programming in the fourth quarter of 2011 which included the baseball World Series, football and the launch of the X Factor.

Companies must recognize that “new media” is an integral part of today’s culture. “The successful media companies understand that they are in the business of providing unique, original and compelling content across platforms, on demand. They are no longer in the cable, radio, magazine or newspaper business. Those companies that get this will thrive; those that don't will fall by the wayside,” says Cohen. (Get more tips on advertising.)

How has your marketing strategy changed over the last few years? Are you turning away from traditional media? Are you augmenting your traditional strategies with digital strategies?

Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.

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