Why don’t newspapers tout their power to sell across channels?

One thing that separates humans from other creatures is our ability to use the same tool in different ways. The ultimate example is the computer, which has hundreds of uses. But even a doorstop can make a pretty impressive paperweight when push comes to shove. So why is it so tough to sell a print ad to serve a new strategy? I’m thinking of its use as a cross-channel tactic.

Is it that the typical ad rep isn’t attuned to this medium’s use? Or is it that the typical ad buyer wouldn’t warm to the new tactic even if it could help turn a mediocre print campaign into something extraordinary? As usual, it appears the marketers on both sides of the desk are clueless, and the consumers are the only ones arriving at the party on time.

Research done using Google Print Ads activity, and conducted by Clark, Martire & Bartolomeo, found that consumers definitely do not look at newspaper ads in a vacuum. They often use the web to evaluate and purchase. This research focused on a segment of consumer who tends to research products and services seen in newspapers. My guess is this could be a consumer looking for any considered purchase, where the resources risked by a bad decision are significant.

Not surprisingly, two-thirds use the web in their research. What was noteworthy was that of this group, 70 percent say they went on to make a purchase following the research. Although this is self-reported, it shows the pathway that many multi-channel purchasers take. (Which explains why Kevin Hillstrom is smiling broadly in the picture on his blog!)

I see three take-aways:

  • Any newspaper advertiser that doesn’t have a strong web presence is wasting money
  • Any web site that isn’t fully optimized for organic search should be considered a defective site, since researchers may not use a URL printed in an ad to do the research
  • Ad reps should be pushing harder on selling the off-line / on-line tactic, whether through unique URLs printed in ads or more innovative tactics (think mobile research), such as ShopText.

I just came out of a lunch meeting with two ad reps for a national weekly newspaper. No matter which way I probed, it was clear that they weren’t selling — and ad buyers weren’t buying — multi-channel ad strategies.

Here’s a press release on the study on the Newspaper Association of America web site. Let’s hope the ad sellers — and buyers — read the study and take heed. Consumers are waiting to google the next item they see in print.

Neurotic? Narcissistic? We knew from your email address

A recent study of 100 college students showed that strangers can accurately guess traits like openness, agreeability, neuroticism, conscientiousness and narcissism by looking at a person’s email address. The study was published in The Journal of Research in Personality, as reported today in NewScience (subscription required).

The panels’ guesses agreed most with a personality survey completed when it came to qualities like openness, conscientiousness and narcissism, and diverged most on the trait of extroversion. Addresses that gave away personality often contained full stops, numbers or a name that was obviously not genuine.

It’s interesting how much we can reveal in a few characters and numbers. However, the study did look at the email addresses of teens. Perhaps we get better at hiding our personalities as we mature. Don’t you think? Let me know, at nacissisticjerk@hotmail.com.

Real world lessons in social media marketing (SMM)

There are many conferences in a year I wish I could attend, but few lately seem as valuable as the latest Search Media Expo (SMX). (Don’t you agree, Erin?).

Then sometimes you get lucky, and stumble across a fellow student’s “really good notes” from the “lecture” you missed. Take for example a post on social media marketing (SMM) by Scott Clark. Here are a few favorites:

  • SMM cannot be sold as a one-off service or “by the campaign.” Too many external variables mean you have to execute many campaigns over time to hedge your bets. To sell as a one-off service is to invite failure and client ill-will.
  • Explaining SMM to clients is going to be very, very difficult. But those who have an inherent curiosity and willingness to participate will earn a strong competitive advantage.
  • To succeed in social network marketing, plugged-in individuals who know the “tribe’s habits” will win. 20-year PR veterans need not apply if they are still in the mindset of the press release or are unwilling to spend time participating before promoting. Plenty of people have got in trouble.
  • There are a lot of really smart people in SMM. Compared to other forms of marketing, the growth and opportunity aligns with trends towards authenticity, word-of-mouth, and making up for short consumer attention spans.
  • SEO/SMM are joined at the hip for many things and a link building effort can stack up dozens if not hundreds of authority links — but direct-click traffic itself, independent of the SEO/link advantages, can be significant.

For all the reasons above, this one is my favorite. He states that for the most part, “Advertising agencies don’t get it.” Got it.

Thanks, Scott, for summarizing so well.

Can video be the future of “print” journalism, and the salvation of newspapers?

It’s an interesting thought. As anyone watching the industry knows, Craigslist.org and other web-based classified ad services have eroded the financial underpinnings of the newspaper. Last month Mike Cassidy, in MediaPost (registration required), postulated that a new media phenomenon may actually come to the newspaper’s rescue.

… Newspapers are in a position to leverage their unique assets and benefit from the video trend. By having journalists and reporters not only file their stories in a video format, but by also providing B-roll or ancillary footage, newspapers can create more and higher-valued ad placements.

I see a similar opportunity when it comes to video and classifieds — with the real question being, who will leverage it?

The answer is that several publications are certainly trying. One of the first is IC Places Orlando. Here is an example of how the journalistic infrastructure of the newspaper could be leveraged to provide an ad product that other web properties would have to struggle mightily to match.

Newspapers have gotten into their current pickle by being too slow to realize how serious a threat the internet is to their business model. They now have to do something — or actually, many things — differently in order to remain socially relevant and financially viable.

As the 1980’s hit announced, Video killed the radio star. Will it help save the morning paper?

Is “click here” the web equivilent of an ugly red sticker?

A background in direct response can warp a person for life. Just ask a typical ad agency creative director. In a past agency, where I started out as the lone voice in all things direct marketing, I seriously think the creatives wanted to have me committed. I was reminded of that time in my career when I read this post in Copyblogger:

Many years ago, an advertising agency in my neighborhood hired me to consult on a direct mail project for one of the biggest nonprofit organizations in the country. One glance at the client’s test results revealed that the successful mail pieces featured big red stickers, the kind you often see on magazine subscription offers.

So one of my recommendations was to use a sticker in the new direct mail piece. From the expression on the designer’s face, you would have thought I had just relieved myself on the conference room carpet. He crinkled his nose in disgust and informed me that the agency “didn’t do stickers. They’re tacky.”

Needless to say the red sticker mailing, running as a control, continued to out-perform more attractive test packages. The ugly and unsophisticated won out, in terms of effectiveness, over the attractive and more contemporary.
Click here graphicI was thinking of this while participating in a discussion recently on the pros and cons of using “Click here” as an inducement.

Our team’s stance is simple and non-negotiable: The practice is bad form. They’re in good company. Jacob Nielsen, the Moses of usability best practices, carved his own Ten Commandments of web design on a virtual stone tablet, and #2 included “Don’t use ‘click here’ or other non-descriptive link text.”

Built into this commandment is the crux of his reasoning. If you employ link text that is not descriptive, you’ve wasting valuable words. But is this waste always sinful?

Effective Versus Efficient

“Wasteful” can be considered the antonym of “efficient.” And who doesn’t want to be efficient? Well, the answer is me — sometimes. That is, sometimes there are strategic reasons for a little “waste.” Stephen Covey is quick to point out in his book that it’s not called Seven Habits of Highly Efficient People. No, Covey chose the word “effective” for the title for a good reason.

If your web users are not particularly web-savvy, you may have to go back to “Web 1.0” in your copy and presentation. And that may mean slapping some “red stickers,” in the form of hackneyed hyperlink instructions over your web design. Only testing can tell you for sure.

The exception is if you are asking your user to make a commitment. In the case of “buy it now,” etc., you should still never use “click here.” To do otherwise would simply be too inefficient to be optimally effective.