Your audience is migrating online – are you there yet?

by Stratton Craig

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In the face of increasing migration online by readerships, audiences and advertisers, it appears that only the foolhardiest of regional businesses would ignore this ongoing and irreversible trend.
It stands to reason that as more and more switch to online sources for news, information, products and services, the advertisers (and commercial realities) of mass customer migration will follow.
And in the face of massive revenue declines, we’ve seen the offline publishers – mainly the newspaper and magazine proprietors – attempt to woo audiences in cyberspace.
According to Advertising Age:
�Aware of the need to lock in faithful readers, most newspapers are turning online to deepen these relationships. No print publications can attract the high numbers that Google, Yahoo or even TV companies boast, so the quality of the relationship becomes critical if they want to bring advertisers on board.�
This certainly makes for a sensible approach – and the old adage of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ applies. Magazines have followed suit, too, with a plethora of titles ditching their offline print runs and vamping up online-only versions in an attempt to cut costs and revitalise readerships.
UK newspapers have tried a number of tactics, such as launching specific microsites – the Mirror’s celebrity website 3am, for example, was launched to pull in a small number of loyal fans who could then be effectively marketed to relevant advertisers for a high perceived value.
Business realities
Businesses, too, are looking online to increase their marketing spend in the light of falling offline interest: after all, as the marketing manager of a medium-sized firm in the UK, would you continue to invest in expensive magazine advertising amid falling circulation and readership, or pump revenues into online portals such as Facebook, which has more than 350 million regular users?
Twitter, according to PC magazines, has experienced a 1,382 percent growth in the last 12 months. Whilst the revenue models are still being discussed by Management at Twitter Central, there is no doubt that when they decide on how the social media platform will sustain itself beyond further venture capital funds and grow commercially (and organically), the newly-recruited sales teams across the world will be in a strong leverage position to entice businesses on board.
Not that online migration is all linked into social media platforms – the picture is, of course, bigger and broader than this.
Whilst social media remains the big story over the last decade for online marketers, the inexorable drift towards all things web shows a bigger picture of audience migration. A bigger picture which digital marketing cannot fail to ignore, or to adapt to. Traditional marketing of your business is already redundant, in case you hadn’t noticed. 2010 will see further digital dominance.
Global decline
It has been estimated that nearly 50 percent of American newspaper advertising revenue has now disappeared, whilst there has been a 27 percent increase in the number of American readers accessing online news portals for daily updates.
Where, we wonder, are the advertisers now heading? The answer is becoming clear. They must go where the audiences are, or follow the print publications in their decline.
Not that the picture is all doom and gloom. Current advertising rate cards for printed products are amongst the lowest figures for years, but in the face of declining readerships, few marketers see the inherent value in saving budget to reach fewer potential customers.
The mantra has always unfortunately been ‘minimum spend, maximum reach’ and the internet is, in part, answering this call. But there is far more to explore.
Quality content still drives much of the traffic movement online, and savvy marketers should be looking to advertise and participate on social media platforms such as Facebook, Friendfeed, and Twitter as well as some of the popular and well-read blogging sites relevant to their commercial sectors.
Often, the spend required to advertise here is far less than traditional sources offline, although the actual reach and buy-in from online audiences is higher: no phone call to make, simply a click of a mouse, a purchase call to action, a credit or debit card transaction… both online advertiser and customer are happy.
Future review
So, when it comes time to review your quarterly ad spend, and the usual monthly call arrives from the sales executive on your key industry title, are you going to once again sign off the spend – or are you going to investigate the increased reach and buy-in you could well gain online instead?
Audience migration has been instigated by the internet – your marketing focus needs to follow suit. Not convinced? Remember that nearly 75 percent of all the top Brands are now advertising, for example, on Facebook. Fact: three out of four multinational companies have already observed their audience migration.
Looks like 2010 could make or break the attention span of your audience.

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