Farming Magazine - June, 2009

COLUMNS

Farm Marketing: Is it Time to Give up on Traditional Media?

By Diane Baedeker Petit

There’s been much news coverage lately about the demise or potential imminent demise of major daily newspapers around the country. Most pundits point to the growing dominance of Web-based news sources and new media, such as blogs, YouTube, Twitter and the like. So, is it time to delete newspaper advertising and publicity from your farm marketing plan?

Not so fast. Print publications aren’t dead yet and they do offer advantages over electronic media.

While the advantage of social media is that it offers the chance to reach targeted, mostly younger, audiences who have a particular interest in your product, there may be times, however, when you want to reach a wider audience. Having a sale or special event? Advertising or publicity in a local paper is a way to reach a large number of homes in a geographic community.

Are there any other advantages? According to an article by Mike Brassil on WebsiteMarketingPlan.com, newspapers offer a number of advantages to advertisers. But, how do those advantages compare to new media?

  •   Most daily and weekly papers reach the majority of homes in their primary city or town. And, almost every home in the United States receives a newspaper, either at the newsstand or by home delivery.

According to recent news reports, this is becoming less true as time goes on. That’s why so many newspapers are struggling. As of 2004, more than 75 percent of U.S. homes had Internet access, and last year, 57 percent of American homes had high-speed Internet. That’s not necessarily a direct comparison because it doesn’t mean that all of those homes get their news online, but they do have that capability.

  •   The printed advertising message has both permanence and desired obsolescence. A reader can refer back to, or even clip and save, a particular ad, yet tomorrow’s edition is new and fresh and as eagerly sought by the same reader.

This is a good point. While it is true that Internet users can print out an ad or news story that they view online to save for future reference, content on some sites seems to change minute-by-minute. Web managers pride themselves on keeping content fresh, but it’s frustrating when you try to find something that piqued your interest earlier on a site and now it’s gone. Once you have a newspaper in hand, it’s yours until you throw it in the recycle bin.

  •   The newspaper offers a predictable frequency of publication: once, twice or up to seven times a week.

Even broadcast news has predictable newscast times, with the exception of breaking news. Internet news sites, blogs and social media have even greater frequency of publication: hourly or as it happens. Content updates are not always predictable, though. Online, all news is breaking news.

  •   Newspapers have immediacy. You can place an ad on Monday and be getting results before the week is over. Short deadlines permit quick responses to changing market conditions.

Same can be said for new media, and then some. Ads can be placed and appear moments later.

  •   People expect to find advertising in their newspapers. In fact, many people buy newspapers just to read the ads from the restaurants, movies and discount stores.

Another good point. The genesis of newspaper Wednesday food sections ago was to coincide with grocery store circulars that were timed to when most people did their food shopping. Advertising has driven the food-related editorial content and vice versa. Although advertising is present on news and social media sites, people probably don’t go to those sites for the advertising. Someone looking for a product or service is more likely to go to a site dedicated to advertising, such as e-Bay or Craig’s List, or directly to a company Web site.

  •   You can reach certain segments of your market by placing your ads in different sections of the paper such as: sports, comics, crosswords, news, classifieds, etc.

True, though new media lets you focus your message even further.

Overall, newspaper advertising offers the ability to reach a broad audience, the ability to reach an older demographic, and the semipermanence of a hard copy that the reader doesn’t have to print himself or herself.

Newspapers, and the advertising and news they contain, also have a certain credibility that new media has yet to achieve. The very nature of new media, with anyone and everyone having the ability to generate content, can leave readers questioning the validity of the information or the agenda of the writer.

Online advertisements can also cause viewers to be concerned about the consequences of clicking on an ad or sponsored link. Will it lead to an objectionable Web site? Will it install adware or malware on my system?

So, is it time to give up on traditional media in favor of new and social media outlets? Not yet; maybe not ever. Both serve a purpose and both can be part of a well-rounded marketing plan.

The author, a freelance writer, is public affairs specialist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Amherst, Mass., and was previously director of communications at the Mass. Dept. of Food & Agriculture.