This story was written by Joseph Tartakoff.
The Inside Word is a weekly feature that looks at compelling industry debates and discussions unfolding on the blogs of employees at digital-media companies.
Poster: Steve Yelvington
Position: Digital strategist, Morris Communications
Blog name: Yelvington.com
Backstory: Yelvington has an editorial background—he worked as the executive editor of network content at Cox Interactive and as an editor at Startribune.com. He was prompted to blog about newspaper ads because of a recent survey that concluded that most realtors believe the ads are ineffective.
Blog post: In a blog post, Yelvington distinguishes between two different types of audiences for ads in newspapers: There are the people who are actively looking to buy something (e.g. a car or a house) and who are seeking information to aid that purchase. He says ads that serve this group are “channeling demand.” And then there are the audiences that aren’t consciously looking to purchase something but get inspired to buy it, or to think about buying it, after seeing an ad. He says ads that serve this group “create demand.” Sales of newspaper classifieds, he says, have been especially hard hit because the internet does a better job of channeling demand. “Anyone who’s looking for a car or a boat or a house, and has half a brain, is going to go straight to the Internet,” he says.
But, he says, newspapers can still hold their own in ads that create demand. “I did not know that property up at the lake is selling today for less than half what it was going for before the economy tanked,” he writes. “This dimension of creating demand is one that deserves more attention than it gets. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) can’t do it. Yellow Pages can’t do it. There’s plenty of competition—radio, TV, cable, other print media, even ‘if you lived here, you’d be home by now’ billboards along the highway. But it’s not something you can lose to a smarter algorithm. Not yet, anyway.”
Post-script: In a follow up, we asked Yelvington what newspapers could do to double down on this area. No easy answer. “It’s a long-term process to change a sales organization that’s designed to sell space in one daily print publication into an organization that’s designed and equipped to help businesses figure out how to tailor demand-building messages and deliver them to targeted audiences across multiple media and networks,” he writes. “And it’s very hard to invest time and energy into making that transition when you have to focus on making very aggressive weekly sales numbers to keep the wolf away from the door.”
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By Joseph Tartakoff