Apologies to Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens). The original quote was "... the report of my death was an exaggeration" in a short note written in 1897. Source: University of Sydney
In the roughly quarter century since Al Gore supposedly invented the Internet, pundits have repeatedly posited the impending death of print publishing to a gullible public. So pervasive has been this story, and so credulous the audience, that many publications have, in fact, woken up with stakes through their hearts.
Recently, however, reports to the opposite effect - a resurgence of advertising support for traditional (as opposed to Web based) - publications has been spotted in the business news. Most recently, an article appeared in Editors Only that concluded: "Contrary to all the buzz, online will not obliterate every print edition. Some publications will be online, some in print, some in both. In the end, success will lie in the coexistence of print and online. That's the real
future. That's the end of the rainbow."
This trend squares with apocryphal reports we've been receiving that advertising support for print-based trade magazines, specifically, is stabilizing, although at a diminished level. According to one marketing executive at a major vendor of measurement and control equipment, "Online advertising is effective for generating leads for sales of specific products, but print advertising is necessary to build brand awareness."
We do know that, aside from search engines, the most successful websites are online catalogs, such as Amazon.com, through which visitors can comparison shop, and purchase actual products online. But, that's not what traditional print magazines do best. Advertisers supported print magazines based on their percieved positions as authoritative suppliers of information readers seek. The theory was that when a reader saw an ad in a respected magazine, they tended to view the advertiser as a leader in their field, and their products as more desirable than those of vendors. That theory held up well for several hundred years.
The Internet, however, has not developed the same kind of respect. With the proliferation of social media, which visitors know perfectly well does not adhere to the same kind of journalistic standards we expect from print publications. In fact, everyone knows that Internet content is replete with misinformation, disinformation, and out-and-out lies, in addition to well researched and thought out reports and analysis. The doctrine of caveat emptor, literally "buyer beware" is the order of the day when viewing online material.
Under those conditions, it is much more difficult for a vendor to build brand awareness, and respect through advertising. Print magazines spent a great deal of effort to earn reputations as reliable suppliers of information. Online publications have, generally, not. In fact, social networking media seem to go to great lengths to earn the opposite reputation: that anyone can say anything, whether it has basis in truth, or not.
We suggest that a new model for magazine publishing - which a number of publications have been developing - is the blueprint for the future. These publications combine printed and online content. The print versions provide in-depth analysis that provides an authoritative backdrop for display advertisements that promote vendor company brands. The online versions provide rapidly updated news, reviews, and trends information that provide a compelling backdrop for product-related advertisements. Advertising in these publications is not an either/or proposition. Advertisers are encouraged to purchase combined programs that place image-building ads in print, and ads for specific products in online outlets. Perhaps this, or something very much like it, is what's really at the end of the rainbow.