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.