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Are Newspapers Dead? [Dear Ginny WTH?]

“Dear Ginny, WTH?” which is like a “Dear Abby” column for real estate objections. If you have a tough client or a marketing problem, “Dear Ginny, WTH?” is for you. Questions can be funny, they can be serious, it doesn’t matter, just ask!

Dear Ginny WTH,

Does anyone read newspapers or magazines anymore? Should I continue to place my listings and open houses in the local newspapers or do image advertising in lifestyle magazines? I calculated my cost of advertising in two local newspapers and a lifestyle magazine which includes my listings, if I have any, open houses on my listings and those that I am hosting, and an image ad monthly in a regional lifestyle magazine. I’m spending north of $20,000 a year in print advertising. Is this the smartest thing to do in these tight economic times?


Dear A,

You are so right about print publications. Newspaper circulation is down by as much as 50 percent in some markets. Metropolitan areas like Seattle and Denver, which were supporting two daily newspapers, are no longer. Every day I hear about another newspaper or magazine that is considering going to an all online version, so at first blush it would appear that you are investing in a dying mass media. But let’s not be so quick to make everyone take off their shoes because of one crazy man.

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A survey by the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press found that 43 percent of Americans believe civic life would be hurt “a lot” if their local news organization closed down. Print publications are still an important part of community.

Your business is about community and hyperlocality. You’ve no doubt been able to blend it with the internet like with your blog, social networking and search engine tactics. Traditional media still can lend you the same ability. Plus there is a different interactivity associated with print media than there is with online media. The branding impressions change as a result. You should always seek to have branding impressions coming from a variety of communication vehicles to net the best results.

Back to practicality. For your listings and open houses, why not opt for a local or community publication? In the past it might have been more effective to go for greater coverage and more widely read but hyperlocality merges perfectly with smaller, more intimate print publications, like a weekly city paper.

Or you could print your own ‘listing sheet’ and mail it to the same households in your local area that a regional paper could cover at a lower price per impression. The impact per impression would also be greater. I still believe that direct mail is effective. Call me crazy, but a targeted audience, targeted objective direct mail pieces can still net results at a low cost per acquisition.

And I think you’re smart to have some type of branding advertising in the four color magazine. I know it’s expensive, but can also net long-term and short-term results depending on the message.

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You might try a reduced number of insertions or try to get the publication to pitch in add-ons like reprints, a bundled insert (promoting a listing you have), a partnership in some event or expo the publication is holding, and other co-marketing opportunities that would give you solid brand impressions. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate for the best deal. And if they won’t budge, find another marketing vehicle that gives you the type of brand impressions and coverage that the magazine did.

With each marketing vehicle, online or offline, there is effectiveness and there is perception of effectiveness. What is the perception of your clients as to what works in the market or not? Do your clients believe that Craigs List can generate quality buyers to an open house? Or do they think the open house guide of the local newspaper is what everyone regards for weekend open houses?

In the end, showing your clients that there is more than one way to effectively advertise can create brownie points for you.

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Ginny is a 360 degree marketing specialist with over a decade of experience in real estate-related fields. She’s held senior level marketing positions at Alain Pinel Realtors and Prudential California, Nevada and Texas Realty. She left the corporate world in 2007 to start her own marketing communications company, Cain Communications. She markets to segments that matter using media that matters. Follow her on Twitter @ginnycain.



  1. Jonathan Dalton

    April 1, 2009 at 10:14 am

    > In the end, showing your clients that there is more than one way to effectively advertise can create brownie points for you.

    Maybe I’m a little off, but I don’t think the clients really care how you advertise as long as the house sells. It’s only when it’s not selling where you find yourself having to point out the various expensive marketing techniques that you’re using – which, if they worked, would have caused the house to sell.

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