They say old habits die hard. When it comes to a habit as personal as how I start each day – with a good cup of coffee and the morning paper – I fervently hope they never die at all.
But the numbers are grim. Our nation’s newspapers have reported steadily declining circulation for the past 8½ years. From 2010 to 2011, magazines had a net loss of .05 percent circulation and newspapers lost 4 percent. While those figures may sound small, they’re devastating to an industry that relies on constant growth.
As you may have guessed, while ink-and-paper products were gathering dust on newsstands, the Internet news audience was growing. It shot up 17.2 percent from 2010-11, according to this year’s State of the News Media report by the non-profit Pew Research Center.
Here’s another interesting tidbit from that report: the Wall Street Journal is the No. 1 newspaper, based on circulation – because it has 400,000 online subscribers.
Why all this about paper versus words on a monitor? To answer a question I’m often asked: “What’s the marketing value of getting my name online? Wouldn’t I rather be in newspapers and magazines?”
There’s no either-or. You need both. There are still plenty of people like me who will read our morning paper while sipping our hot joe for as long as we have both. But the digital audience is huge and undeniable. If you’re fortunate enough to get your name, website, and company, book or product mentioned in a news story or blog online, you’ll have a potential readership of millions of people. And that medium has some other distinct advantages over paper and ink.
Here are a few:
- You can share news with far more people – instantly and for free. Remember the days when we ran out to buy 20 copies of the paper with our wedding or birth announcements, carefully clipped them and put them in stamped envelopes addressed to Great Aunt Mabel and Cousin Harold? Today, sharing is as simple as cutting and pasting a website link and posting it on our own site and our social networks. Not only will Aunt Mabel see it (albeit with help from Cousin Harold), but so will a host of potential customers far beyond our circle of family and friends.
- Your article, news video or radio interview can live forever. In the old days, newspaper articles faded and got tucked into Bibles and scrapbooks, never to be seen again. TV and radio interviews vanished into the atmosphere as soon as they were broadcast. Today – with some effort on your part – they can be prominently displayed and used over and over again to help establish your credibility as an expert source of information. The key here is, you must obtain your own copy of the article, podcast or video. Do not rely on links residing in media archives – those copies are apt to get purged eventually.
- You can interact with readers, viewers and listeners. Most media offer a place for people to comment on each story, podcast or video. You should monitor those comments and interact with the people posting them, when appropriate. Answer questions, thank people for compliments and respond to observations. (I recommend simply ignoring the very nasty comments that often get posted by “trolls” – people who make it a hobby to regularly post cruel, spite-filled remarks on everything they see.) If you’re kind and professional, and add valuable information, humor or insights to the conversation, you’re likely to see some of those people checking out your website, blog and social networks.
- Yes, you can still frame it and hang it on a wall. It’s nice to share online, but some of us would still like a copy of that flattering article hanging in the company foyer or above our home office desk. That’s easily accomplished. Save a picture of the website on your computer as a jpeg (.jpg) and upload it to www.fedex.com (FedEx Office – the former Kinko’s). You can get a beautiful, 8 ½ by 11 color copy for 59 cents.
Now for the short answer to the question, “What’s the value in marketing online?”
I don’t plan to give up on my newspaper – or magazines, for that matter – anytime soon, but they’re not the only places I turn to anymore for world news and entertainment. And they’re not the only places I rely on to market the name of my company, my brand, my book and myself.
See you in the (digital) funny papers!