According to James, the reason newspapers across the country are folding faster than a bad poker hand is not the national economy, but "...that advertisers have finally figured out that newspapers, in collusion with clueless marketers and unscrupulous ad execs, have been fleecing them for decades."
The writer asked a room full of newspaper writers how many of them actually read the ads that appear in their papers.
Fewer than five percent said they did.
This made me wonder, what if a similar question were asked of radio broadcasters? How much higher would our percentage be? (You do listen to the ads on your station, don't you?)
After all, radio advertising is intrusive. When the radio is turned on, the listener can't help but hear the ads. (As someone once said, God's gift to Radio is that He created human beings without earlids.)
Whereas newspaper advertising tends to be passive: ...if the reader happens to open that day's paper to the right section...and if she happens to turn to the right page...and if she happens to notice your ad...she might actually read it.
Or she might not.
James' real problem with newspaper advertising is its lack of measurability and/or accountability. Is it effective? Do you know for sure? How do you know?
The problem with newspaper advertising is that, in most cases, you have NO idea whether anyone is reading an ad, or whether that ad is driving buying behavior. And because nothing is being measured, newspapers and ad agencies have been able to artificially inflate the price of their space ads. Massively.
One way newspapers do this is to simply lie about circulation. For example, it’s not uncommon for a newspaper to claim that each distributed copy is read by 3 or 4 people. But that’s total BS. Many copies of most print publications don’t get cracked even once. And the ones that do, I’ll bet that only a fraction of the content ever actually wins the reader’s eye.
As for the ads themselves, only a tiny fraction of the circulation reads them, and the number of people who take action as result is probably in the single digits. (I’m talking the actual number here, not the percentage.)
Newspapers also cook the books is by setting the value of advertising based upon what other newspapers are asking. As if that made any difference. But it worked, in the past at least, because marketers (many of whom don’t want to be measured anyway) never asked the obvious question: how much revenue will this ad generate?
James is bullish on online advertising because click-throughs can be tracked and ad performance measured with greater accuracy. In this, he echoes Ken Dardis of Audiographics - a former terrestrial radio guy, now SVP of Spacial Audio Solutions, an authority on Internet radio, and an outspoken critic of "business-as-usual" where Radio is concerned. For Dardis, the Internet holds the key to Radio's future, which makes him either a gadfly or an augur - or both, depending on whose ox is being gored at the moment.
Ken Dardis is passionate about Radio, but critical of the status quo. His company recently gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software and hosting to displaced terrestrial broadcasters willing to start their own Internet radio stations.
In other words, he's walking his talk.
The take-away from all of this, for those of us who make our living as radio advertising professionals, is our responsibility to exert every effort to create advertising that is as effective (and measurable) as we can make it.
We do this by investing as much time and energy as needed to understand our advertisers' objectives, their customers' needs/desires/motivation/buying behavior, and the realities of the marketplace that may affect how they interact. Only then can we begin to write and produce the advertising messages that have what it takes to move people and products.
I remain optimistic about Radio's future. Terrestrial stations and online stations both have a place in the new media landscape. They may differ in their delivery, degrees of accountability, and demographics, but they will still provide valuable information, entertainment, and advertising to their audiences.
Read Geoffrey James' full article here.