Digital marketing channels have an important place in the media mix, but as marketers have learned, ubiquity of presence doesn’t necessarily translate into greater profitability or effectiveness. Recently, an article in USA Today reinforced this conclusion. It discussed the hard copy vs. digital issue from the perspective of traditional print media, and there are important conclusions for marketers.
Despite the pounding that traditional media have taken in public opinion lately, here are a few points from the article worth noting:
• Investors are still lining up to make bids for ownership of traditional print news media. In fact, one group offered Time Inc.—not fire sale rates—but a 30% premium for its shares. The offer was rebuffed because management felt the paper had too much value.
• Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing, also refused an inflated offer to buy its shares, even after a bidding war that drove up the price.
• Although margins are declining, many newspapers and magazines remain profitable. The fat has been trimmed, and profits are now about cost management and efficiency.
• What isn’t making a lot of money? Digital channels. Readers expect to have access to digital content, but after 20 years of fiddling with revenue models, publishers cannot figure out how to make it truly profitable. Readers expect digital content to be free. The revenues from the digital arms of traditional publications still cannot compete with those from print.
• Traditional publications like Time, Fortune, and The Washington Post (along with more populist publications like Sports Illustrated) have something digital channels do not—reader trust and loyalty.
What can marketers take from this? The print vs. digital debate isn’t unique to marketing, and neither are the conclusions. Whether it’s traditional news media or print and multichannel marketing, print continues to maintain a value and importance in the mix that cannot be replaced by digital channels. In order to maximize profits and reader (or customer) engagement, you have to include print.