Not worth the paper… Why you shouldn’t advertise on printed paper.

Thinking about advertising in magazines? Stop right now.

If you’re not considering advertising (or being pressured into doing so) in a newspaper or magazine, be it local or national, this article isn’t relevant. Try one of our other posts by all means, they’re far more fun.

However there are times in which you may be faced with a boss, marketing manager or director who’s adamant that print still has it. So you can just point them here and let us take the flak for their daft belief. (Yes, if you’re a boss and are now reading this as way of example then shame on you, what a waste of your precious money).

Back in the day I was editor of a few magazines. One of them folded when boss man ran off with the cash. The other is still going, a great magazine and relatively morally sound.

But this isn’t a piece about editorial policy. It’s more a parable about the difference between fact and fiction.

Once upon a time, people used to read cumbersome items called newspapers and books. They paid money to do so. Often only once, then casting them sunder into a bin. But enough of us did it to actually make these paper things a viable business.

People read these. Once.

And journalists worked there trying to create stories and articles worth reading. Sometimes companies paid to promote their products and services in them, simply because there wasn’t really much of an alternative. And for the advertiser, it was a bit of a no-brainer. If you looked around you the evidence that people bought these reading devices was ever-present. You’d be surrounded by them on the commute to work. You knew you ad was going to be consumed by a decent number of people.

Cast your eye about you when you travel home this evening. What do you see? A field of flapping broadsheet newspapers? The inky fingers of consumers, eager to read words on folded paper? No. No you sodding well do not.

You see eyes glued to plastic and metal electric boxes. Because this, foolish foolish boss, is our present and our future. Books excluded, this is how we consume.

Where readership is concerned, the only way is down with traditional print.

Now at my end, in the editor’s chair, I am faced with a problem. “How do I get money to pay my staff?” who are shrinking rapidly like a salted slug. Well one of the things I do is to simply lie to you when I ask if you want to advertise.

I say things like our title has a circulation of XXX,XXX. Circulation means the number of magazines or papers I actually print. But you only see the figures, which I have inflated by a factor of hundreds or thousands. If that’s not enough I can use the word distribution as well. That is the amount of magazines I actually get onto the newsstands. But, again, I can just lie about that too because you’re never actually going to be able to visit every single newsagents. Doesn’t matter though, because my distribution agent knows his onions and makes sure that the actual number of magazines printed are distributed where you are most likely to find them. You, not the reader (the target audience I want you to believe you are reaching), you the advertiser. If I need more ammo then I can talk about readership (always inflated) and pass-on rate. Pass-on-rate is fun because this will get an advertiser very excited because I will use it to convince you that every magazine will be read by more than one person and that sometimes it will be in a library/doctors/waiting room where hundreds of people will see your moth-eaten, creased, greasy advert for the next seven years.

Wow. You’re hooked. You daft daft numbskull boss who wants to use print advertising instead of adopting a sensible measurable approach to advertising and marketing.

But, wait. There’s more. While I was in the editor’s chair, my own distributor (who was a decent chap who knew his stuff) explained to me about the ABC audit, which was an independent way to measure readership. “Wow, see—they are read, they are still amazing. Shut those chops.”

According to distributor chap, rigging an ABC audit is as easy as pushing copies of a magazine off a boat during delivery and marking them off as a ‘sample’. That actually counts as an audit. Great right. Definitely worth advertising when your company will be seen by fish.

The sad truth is that print ads are dead. And absolutely worthless. Unless you find a really really nichey title, which I will happily admit are still alright as an ad medium (I’m not all doom and gloom), anything remotely mainstream or consumer (no matter how illustrious the name) is just throwing money up the tree.

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