Traditional Print Media’s Role in a Social Marketing World

It’s become a common occurrence to hear a major daily newspaper has limited production or called it quits altogether.

In May it was announced the New Orleans’ Times-Picayune would begin publishing just three days a week starting this fall, making the Crescent City the largest in the United States without a daily newspaper. In neighboring Alabama, The Birmingham News and Huntsville Times have also gone to thrice weekly publication. And many of us can remember when Nashville supported two daily papers … anyone recall The Nashville Banner?

In a society increasingly dominated by broadcast and social media, is there still room for traditional print media, and does it even matter? For now, the answer to both questions seems to be ‘yes.’ (Editor’s Note: And as a print journalist, I might add the word ‘mercifully’ to the previous sentence.)

There are a number of reasons why traditional media outlets still play a vital role in society. Access to news is one key reason. In 2010, the Kaiser Foundation found 36 percent of New Orleans’ residents … more than one-third of the population … did not have Internet access at home. Allegations of media bias aside, most major publications make an effort to show more than one side of an issue, which isn’t necessarily the intention or mission of an online blog.

Recent research from the National Bureau of Economic Research supports these assertions. Economists Sam Schulhofer-Wohl and Miguel Garrido used the closing of The Cincinnati Post as a case study. The authors concluded, “Although our findings are statistically imprecise, they demonstrate that newspapers – even underdogs such as the Post, which had a circulation of just 27,000 when it closed – can have a substantial and measurable impact on public life.” (For more information on the research, go online to www.nber.org/papers/w14817)

Of course a paper’s relevancy is a moot point if the advertising revenue doesn’t exist to support the medium. Public relations and marketing experts Kriste Goad, ReviveHealth, and Tim Strickland, Jarrard, Phillips Cate & Hancock, weighed in on how they believe traditional news outlets could complement new media marketing options.

“My belief is that traditional media will continue to exist,” said Goad. “It will look very different than it has to date,” she continued. “All you have to do is look at what newspapers and television stations are doing … they’ve got a tablet version of their content. Most of their content is online. They have Twitter and Facebook.”

“The idea is to have a really robust blend of traditional and custom new media fully integrated with the traditional marketing channels,” said Strickland. “Traditional advertising is declining in effectiveness,” he continued. “What works is traditional advertising integrated with social media.” An example, he noted, would be to include information on a Facebook support group in a print ad for diabetes services.

Strickland concluded, “In a perfect world, the ideal media company would have sales reps whose real jobs were interaction consultants to help clients develop fully-integrated marketing campaigns.”