Monday, March 9, 2009

Print Is Dead and Other Lies

There seems to be ongoing conversations about the future of print and how the internet is threatening to bring an end to print products as we currently know them. Questions abound: will the next generation get all of their information from websites? Can print compete with the immediacy and speed of information delivered electronically? Will web publishers finally find the business model that will assure their financial success? Is print dead?
The truth is that print media is alive and well and holding on to its very important place in the delivery of content to millions of readers. In fact, according to a recent study, Looking Forward: What’s Next for the Economy and Print Markets in 2008–2009 issued by the Printing Industries of America, the total value of printed products delivered in 2007 was $175.4 billion and is projected to increase to $184.5 billion by the end of this year. This represents annual growth of over 3%. That certainly does not sound like a dying industry. In fact, the printing industry is continuing to make significant capital investments in printing presses, bindery equipment and the prepress technologies necessary to support digital printing.
Where does this leave the association publisher wrestling with how to maintain or increase advertising sales in his organization’s print products while developing a revenue stream from the association’s website? The answer lies in the integration and branding of multiple media.

Package Your Products
Successful advertising sales that span both print and electronic products comes from identifying the value delivered to the customer from each, differentiating the advantages and then integrating the sale into one strong package designed to achieve each client’s objectives. For instance, the manufacturer of electronic components could not begin to describe each one in a full page print ad, but can easily provide specifications and other information from the company’s website. That company should use print advertising in its association’s magazine to drive traffic to its own website or to highlight one or two of its products. It could benefit from advertising on the association’s website as a way to provide a quick link to its own at which the visitor would be shown the full range of products and their specifications.
Does your association have an online job bank? Sell employers on using print advertising to describe what a great company they are to work for, and use the job bank to sell them listings of specific job vacancies.
Sell the time spectrum as a strategic advantage. An advertiser can reach the market today with a web ad, but a print ad can be very valuable when it appears in an issue that will be distributed at a major meeting or tradeshow or will have long shelf life such as an annual directory.

Online Version of Your Magazine
Extend the value of your association’s magazine with an online version that is updated frequently. Brand your website (or its content) with your magazine’s name. It’s a good idea to reproduce one or two feature stories on the web, but the online version should deliver fresh content not available anywhere else. Content is the key driver to bringing traffic to your site. It has to be new and updated frequently in order to keep visitors coming back and seeing the online advertising. The more frequently new content is posted, the more success you will have with an online version of your organization’s magazine.

Pricing Policy
All advertising-based products should have a clearly established price. Web advertising should not be given away for free or as a value-added benefit to print advertisers. Just like the rate card you have for print ads, a publish rate structure for your online offerings is equally important. Once value is established, you will then be able to offer pack pricing for those advertisers which purchase across your media offerings. Just as your print advertising rate card offers frequency discounts for multi-issue advertisers, your online rates should also offer pricing incentives for the purchase of combination packages or long-term commitments. You can also charge higher fees for premium positions within your site, just as you charge higher prices for cover positions in your association’s magazine.
Think strategically when it comes to the sale of advertising. Remember that ad sales success comes when you deliver customers to your advertisers so that they, in turn, get a good return on the investment they have made in your products. By combining your flagship print product with your online offerings, you will prove that print is alive and well and an integral part of your organization’s success.

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