As we all know the transformation to digital is underway. How fast, rapid or tsunamic it will become is still open to discussion and lots of speculation. There is clear evidence that advertisers, especially small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are shifting their ad and promotion buying habits to a more digital mix. This mix includes Facebook, digital display, search, websites, email marketing and native advertising. Print advertising from community publishers still shows up as a proven method to reach buyers and in many cases is still a preferred medium. So what is the best balanced media mix for SMBs?

“A surprisingly robust number of [newspaper] readers still prefer print” says Rick Edmonds, Poynter’s media business analyst. The total ad market isn’t growing significantly, rather its transitioning over to digital, cannibalizing more traditional advertising into a balanced media mix. John Murray, Vice President of Audience Development for News Media Alliance, presented these fresh statistics back in May to an industry group:

  • The past week newspaper media audience, print & digital combined, is 62.1% of total adults, down from 69% in Release 1, 2013.
  • Millennial audience print/digital in the past week increased slightly (58% from 57%) from…2015, driven by increased mobile usage.
  • Just over half (51%) of the newspaper audience in the past week reads newspaper digital content.
  • Three-fourths (75%) of the newspaper audience during the week reads a printed copy.
  • Nearly three in ten (29%) read both print and digital newspaper content.

How do you prioritize where to spend your sales budget to have the largest effect on your ad revenue?

We don’t pretend to tell you how but we do know that a hybrid media mix of print and digital is still the most effective. One that is flexible enough to enable you to shift based on category and transform your marketing efforts along with your sales initiatives.

Most community publishers still capture 80% or higher of their ad revenue from print. Transformation gurus tell us you must get to 50% or die. Yes, the future is going digital but how soon and how fast? After all revenue is revenue no matter where it comes from. Or is that so?

When a SMB decides to advertise digitally it more than likely includes Facebook. Facebook keeps garnering a larger and larger percentage of SMBs’ advertising budget and its rise has been breathtaking. A Facebook page is like a belly button everyone has one so its acceptance is easy to understand. SMBs are familiar with it and have a better understanding of what it is than programmatic. Programmatic sounds complicated and even a seasoned digital sales rep struggles as to how it works. With Facebook, SMBs are comfortable with it and its ability to target is easy to explain and comprehend making it unique as an advertising platform for targeted advertising. Targeted advertising also provides good feedback on the success or failure of a campaign, a feature SMBs like.

So, what’s the right balanced media mix?

Let’s start by saying all of them! Some community publishers are hesitant to embrace targeted advertising either Facebook or programmatic. Like search, they site that the profit is low and why sell someone else’s inventory when a large % of their own O&O inventory goes unsold? Unfortunately, that’s what SMBs are buying!

A balanced mix of different media products is good for the publishers and good for most SMBs. Leading with the hottest, sexiest type of campaign and then backfilling with a more traditional type of ad campaign or vice a versa is very effective and a strategy being used by many media companies. Which media you choose to lead with many times is determined by location, ad category even demographic but having the flexibility to do so is important.

One media company we work with is leading with auto ads that are highly effective targeted Facebook campaigns backed by full page banner ads in the local newspaper. The autos that are chosen for targeting then appear in print at a greatly reduced rate. This helps differentiate them from digital agencies who don’t own nor advocate print. All the auto dealer needs is to have one customer walk through the door with the print ad in hand. Yes the campaign data is hard to get with print but what better way to prove the campaign than that.

There are issues in doing this due to integration and consolidation of both print and digital processes. Many systems entrenched into a publisher’s environment make creating a mixed media strategy very difficult, if not impossible. A flexible ad building and selling self serve advertising platform that is easy to use and manage these sales channels is key. Each ad medium has its place and its merits. No ad professional would ever recommend a single channel strategy and as attractive as Facebook can be, a balanced media mix that combines various digital products with print is good for you and even better for your advertiser.