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What print advertising could learn from Google

3:30 AM Posted by Slamy

lthough Google seems to be the last place the newspaper industry should be looking for inspiration—it just recently shut down
its print advertising service—the fact remains that the Internet
advertising giant has nailed successfully an entirely new source of
advertisers at the same time print is losing theirs. The continued
growth of online advertising, even in the face of the recent slump, has
drawn away traditional, big-media advertisers from newspapers, but
there hasn’t been a concomitant cross-migration of “long-tail”
AdWords-style advertisers to print. That is a problem for print, given
the measurable performance of online advertising and continued,
increasing time spent online; this is looking like a zero-sum game that
the newspapers are losing.

But does it have to be? Jeff Jarvis, in a great article
at Seeking Alpha, argues that newspapers are still well-equipped to
survive the changing times; they simply need to adapt. In addition to
looking at commerce (some have managed to be successful at this) and
leveraging their unique information and readership into building new
services (like real estate agency), there are a couple other intriguing
ideas that print should consider, spearheaded by the Big G and other
online advertising outfits:


  • Form an ad network: Instead of relying on their
    own ad sales division, newspapers and newspaper networks should
    outsource ad sales to ad networks that can fill their inventory across
    all available newspaper inventory.  (Of course, the ad network
    typically shaves off a comfortable margin for itself, something the
    newspapers would probably not like to lose. They can form the ad
    network themselves, like the airline industry did with Orbitz.) This
    will allow them to sell inventory on metrics meaningful to
    advertisers—not just geo, but on demographic, vertical/topical bases as
    well. And it reduces advertiser friction and builds campaign scale.
  • Create a new sales force: Maybe Google isn’t the
    place a small, local advertiser would think of turning to to start a
    campaign. Jarvis suggests a “citizens sales force,” the sales side of
    citizen journalism. He might have a point, since a lot of the print
    long-tail are not going to understand AdWords any better than those
    online long-tail advertisers that need services like ReachLocal, Yodle
    and OrangeSoda. He also suggests that local media can probably retool
    to sell inventory beyond their reach, if there were such a network in
    place that could serve them.

The Los Angeles Times announced recently that revenue from advertising on its online division covered the paychecks
of its entire editorial division—online and offline. This is certainly
heralding the value of online traffic, which newspapers have long
thought cannibalized their print traffic with dubious financial return.
The hidden story is that they’ve made a new advertising model work.
Maybe it’s time they apply what they’ve learned online to revive their flagging print division.

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