The Dirty Little Secret Newspaper Publishers Don’t Want You to Know…


A sequel to the email I sent yesterday re: Dan Kennedy and direct response marketing (archived here in case you missed it)

I worked in the newspaper industry for most of the 1990s. 

By 1996, I was working on the online side. 

Most newspaper display advertising was (and still is) paid brand awareness. No calls-to-action. No tracking. 

No better than a blimp or a billboard. 

If newspaper ads have a web address, it’s usually the advertiser’s main URL. 

If someone sees the ad and visits the web site, the advertiser has no way to know the traffic came from that ad. 

By the late 1990s, a few smart advertisers created trackable URLs for print — trackable to the publication or even the single ad. 

That answered the question: How many visits is this print ad generating?

Or for the really savvy marketers who sent the print traffic to a lead magnet, the trackable link tells them how many leads the print ad generates. 

This was very rare back then. And it’s still rare. 

But it was happening enough that it got newspaper people’s attention. 

In 1998, I was at an industry conference, sitting in on a session led by a prominent publisher. The room was full of online strategists like me, other top executives, and advertising sales reps. 

One of the ad reps asked about trackable links. He said a few advertisers had asked whether it’s a good idea. “What should I tell them?” the ad rep asked. 

The publisher’s response: “Tell them no. Tell them it’s a bad idea. Discourage it. The more they track like that, the more they’ll ask the kind of questions we don’t want to answer.” 

But not surprising given how clueless and turf-protecting the newspaper industry was when the Internet emerged.

What he was saying/admitting: We in newspaper industry are in the paid-brand-awareness business. If we allow direct-response-marketers to measure how much traffic or leads their ads generate, we’ll be exposed. 

I quit the newspaper industry not long after that conference. I haven’t looked back. 

Here’s the funny/sad thing: Since then, I’ve run campaigns that successfully integrate print (newspaper advertisements, direct mail, etc.) and online media. 

With a good call-to-action, marketers can drive traffic from a print ad to an online landing page to capture leads. Then they can follow-up with email to generate sales. 

The key: Make sure your ads, landing pages and all other content captivate prospects and inspire them to act. That’s what powerful stories can do for you. 

Don't go away yet..

p.s. Coaches, authors, and consultants hire me to power-up their creative content and storytelling to captivate prospects, stand-out and book more business.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.