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The death of print advertising is bad for PR

Posted: 2012-07-16 in Opinion    |   Tagged: b2b pr, pr and advertising


By Heather Baker, @TopLineFounder

Twice in the past two weeks I’ve been in new business meetings with companies that have turned to PR because print advertising has failed them. On Friday it was an education sector organisation that hadn’t received a single enquiry from two ads placed in their core publication (they had offered voucher codes that were never used). The other company, in the B2B tech sector, had been running the same advertising programmes on the same budgets for a decade, with consistently diminishing returns.

This appears to be indicative of a wider theme – figures released in July by the Advertising Association and Warc Expenditure Report revealed that total advertising spend in UK printed press (across business, trade and national press) dropped 10% from £986m in Q1 of 2011 to £887m in Q1 2012.

I would probably put the declining value of print advertising down to decreasing print readership, readers being overwhelmed with messages from multiple sources and having less time to read their publications, causing them to skip over the ads. Furthermore, when people share great stories that they read they no longer leave the hard copy on a colleague’s desk, but instead to find the online equivalent and email it.  

On the face of it, this seems like great news for the PR industry – print adverts don’t work anymore, and we could argue that this reinforces our very reason for being – the best way to build your brand and thought leadership via print media is through inclusion in the articles.

However, the death of advertising is not the boon PR has been hoping for. The majority of a print publication’s revenue comes from its advertisers and as this market shrinks, revenue will fall proportionately. This means budget cuts, which means fewer resources, more stressed and time-poor editors and reporters. The result is that placing those stories, and articles becomes harder. It requires cutting through all the crap and taking a really intelligent approach to media relations. Is the PR industry up to the task?

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Does this post make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Or are you fuming? Either way, let us know by posting your comment below. This week, our favourite comment wins its author a £20 Amazon voucher.



Mon 16th July, 2012

...it means that, no matter how good your story, if your competitor advertises in the desired publication, you are unlikely (or will have to work doubley hard) to achieve the deserved coverage. There are plenty of 'honest' publications out there.. but there are also a growing number who can no longer claim to be impartial in their reporting of news and features.

Emma White

Mon 16th July, 2012

Very interesting that businesses are turning to PR after advertising has failed to make the expected return - did you find that they were aware of the differences between PR and advertising, or do they expect PR to be a magic wand that they can wave to effect an instant increases in sales?

I've heard anecdotally that it's becoming increasingly easy to negotiate huge discounts on print advertising, just because they find the column inches so hard to fill. I think the decline can also be reflected in the increasing number of publications shifting to online-only. This is happening across the news spectrum, from local newspapers around the country to trade publications.

Very much agree with the trend of emailing news stories to colleagues instead of circulating a hard copy - interested to see how this will be affected by the increase in paywalls though?

Richard Hamer

Tue 17th July, 2012

Pretty much every print media is now available online (though not necessarily all the content), yet whenever I approach a newspaper, for example, about an ad for a client an online option is never offered. And when I ask there seems to be confusion. I've also found that increasingly newsdesks are passing potential ads on far more often than ever, and increasingly; no ad, no story.


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