Last Updated on 14 April 2011

I need to get the word out about my business. I want to effectively reach my target audience and drive sales.

Yesterday I was challenged by Todd Sattersten to justify why print ads beat social media for getting the word out. In this exercise, I have two venues to compare

  • (a)newspaper ads
  • (b)social media venue (we’ll make it Twitter).

Why A Newspaper Print Ad Beats Twitter

Print Is Targeted

I can choose to place an ad in the New York Times if my target is nationwide or in my town’s paper if it is locally relevant. I can direct (control) who sees my ad.

The folks following me on Twitter are from all over the world. As far as I know, there isn’t a simple way to reach only the those in a particular market. Nor do I currently have a strong enough local base of followers. I would need to find someone else local with a bunch of followers and hope they’d re-tweet for me.

I’d rather rely on the established newspaper with established reach.

Print Has Stability, Credibility

There is something final about putting and seeing something in print. Reading it in print. Ink on paper.

It is a miracle how much data can be stored on an iPad or laptop and what the internet can bring to you digitally. However, digital feels flimsy, fleeting, fly-by-night… Print feels established.

Because the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post have been around for ages – we know they are a trusted source. While we may not always agree with their approach to a story – we trust those mastheads. They’re establishments.

NYT online is popular because the foundation of trust behind the website is the newspaper.

BP has been taking full-page prints ads to let America and the world know they are working to fix the oil spill. I’m certain their media mix includes other medium, the Washington Post ad is the only place I’ve seen the ad so far. They reach me, via print.

Print Has Established Reach

I can count on the fact that the newspaper is delivered to the tens (or hundreds) of thousands that have asked for it. They subscribe. They buy it. They value it.

Social media, hypothetically, lets you fish where the fish are. The bait on my hook is the right bait my followers want. So, while I have a smaller audience they’re following me because they’re already interested in what I have to say. They’re pre-qualified.

However, the newspaper allows me to fish a huge area with a huge net. The majority of the fish will be thrown back – they’re not into my message. But, I’ll still be left greater exposure via the newspaper.

And, if only 1% may be interested in buying what I sell. I’d rather take 1% of larger newspaper audience than 1% of the Twitter followers.

Print Ads Are Clearly Pitches

When you open a newspaper and see a print ad – you know the game. A business has given money to the newspaper to print prepared information about that business for the purpose of getting the reader to learn or buy.

In social media the process is supposed to be organic. You’re not supposed to be overt in your ask for business. Direct sales pitches are a turn off. A faux pas. You’re supposed to ‘add value’ or ‘add knowledge’ and let people find you. Let word of mouse spread the story. When enough people in the social pyramid are buzzing about you – eventually some will find their way to your website and may contact you about your services.

However, in print, I can cut to the chase…

“Hi. I’m Paul Williams from Idea Sandbox. I help businesses create remarkable ideas to drive their sales. You want more sales? Hire me. Thank you.”

That message goes out to the 600k people who get the paper. A fraction of those readers see it. A fraction of those may act.

I don’t have 600k Twitter followers, and neither do you. The average number of followers on Twitter is 126. That means, I would need to have around 4,800 followers and rely on every one of them re-tweet my message to reach the circulation of the The Washington Post.

Print Is Faster

I need customers now!

I don’t have time to build and grow a social media base. I know I can place an ad in this week’s business section – and I will more than likely receive calls next week.

I do terrific work that provides an excellent ROI for my clients. And, I know I’m better than much of my competition. However, there is nothing freak-show about what I do that is going to get me to go viral this week and reach the Twittersphere in a meaningful way. (Nor am I convinced that a viral video about Idea Sandbox is going to make you want to be a client).

Social media is the shiny new trendy medium that we can all pull-up on our mobile phones and iPads. It is sexy, magical, and changes daily.

Newspapers are ancient. The same stuff our great, great grandparents read. We didn’t invent them, so we aren’t in love with them anymore.


Social media is a great way to keep the conversation going with your customers outside of your store. A way to listen. A way to learn.

Social media is our gold rush. With the zillions of tweets, Diggs, blog posts, and Facebook updates all panning for attention I’ve only heard of a few who have ‘struck it rich’ as a result.

With $10,000 to spend. I’m going to put it into a well designed ad, in a print medium, my target audience reads.