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10/27/2008 Newspapers ads down, digital adds up

I read in our local paper this weekend that Gannett Corp. (which owns our local rag and was actually started by its old publisher) announced that their earnings declined compared with last year. The publishing side of the business led the downturn due to sub par ad revenues. USA today saw its paid advertising pages decrease by almost 12 percent.

According to news reports, other publishers will show the same trend as Gannett. On the bright side, Gannett’s digital business was a clear bright spot, with properties such as CareerBuilder and PointRoll.

You might say that the ailing economy is the reason and you’d be partly right. But think back and look at the fact that we’ve had a summer Olympic and a presidential campaign this year, two great ad drivers.

It’s clear that news ads continue their decline, while online ads continue their ascendancy. Microsoft just reported that they expect a 10 to 13 percent growth in online ads over the next year.

All of that is good news for us digital marketers and worrisome for publishers. What businesses need, however, is not just a shift into online marketing but an effective engagement strategy when they do so. We need to help develop dialogue branding, the key advantage of the digital space, rather than repeating the monologue branding of yore.

That means that newspapers, agencies and clients need to get past the moving billboards and splashy technology that plagues the online channel and step it up a notch.

I’ve noticed that a number of local newspaper sites are offering things like peelbacks or images moving across the screen for free now. While those technologies look pretty cool and are fun to play with, they simply follow the pattern of intrusive advertising we’ve lived with for so long.

If I were Gannett, I’d integrate PointRoll into every single online newspaper I own. Make it part of the product and let businesses and agencies have a PointRoll specialist help develop the creative. I think they’d end up growing their online ad revenue by twice as much while providing advertisers with great results.

The online ad space has come a long way, but it’s still got a long way to go. I’ll be talking about some of the things we digital marketers should push for to make this happen.


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