Is Print Advertising Dead?


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My article “Customer Intelligence Is Meaningless If You Don’t Tie It to Strategic Action” has received thousands of views. In fact, I’ve also had several organizations ask if they could reprint the article in their training materials as a way of demonstrating the importance of customer service and its impact on the customer experience. One aspect of my article that is rarely commented on, but is no less important, is the action I took related to my search for a local service supplier when my original vendor did not satisfy my needs. The quote from my story reads:

“At this point I let my fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages….”

Notice what I did not say:

“At this point I called my neighbor to see who they used for their appliance repair and followed up with the company they recommended.”

Or …

“At this point I turned on my computer, got online, and did a search for a local appliance repair shop.”

Yes, both could have happen. In fact, if you read my article you may have been surprised that I even mentioned print Yellow Pages in my quest to find a new service provider. And no doubt the quotes above would have been more colorful in demonstrating the power of word-of-mouth marketing and online search. Come to think of it, what marketer isn’t talking about those topics today?

The truth of the matter is that I really did pull out my phone directory. It was fast, easy and got the job done. Did you know research shows that many people still use print for local search? As it turns out, there are several services such as appliance repair, plumbing and auto service, just to name a few, where consumers view print as their preferred local search option.

What does that mean for marketers? Well, it doesn’t change the importance of your customer experience, search engine optimization, or social media word-of-mouth marketing initiatives. However; it does prove that there are still situations and strategies that work very well for print advertising. The acquisition of new customers at the local level is important to business owners. Particularly SMB’s and independently owned dealers and franchises who are not concerned with dominating the world. Most of those organizations would be very happy if they could just see a steady source of new leads from their local zip code or trade area. Since print often delivers those leads at the most important point of the consumer buying cycle it’s important to continue to consider print in your marketing mix.

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Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. Is Print Advertising Dead?
    Alan See
    I see your point on advertising and printing this. I have one comment that is very short and I had heard of this when I was studying in London. Your existence is only noticed if you speak about this. Now here we have one ground in common. What way do we advertise Print in the net is same these days as Google is doing or print the , “Let your fingers do the walking, ” The yellow pages or for that matter the gents in the Play boy and ladies in the Vogue., The results will be same The published advertisement stay, lingers on., The other fade out fast.
    Firozali A Mulla MBA PhD
    P.O.Box 6044
    East Africa

  2. Alan, While I’m a bit late in responding to you post about print advertising being dead, I want to bring up another point related to the theme of your article. As newspapers become less effective marketing mediums (or they fold, for small businesses, especially, new small businesses, how do we as consultants advise them on how to get general public awareness that they are in business? Previously, as I have had many of my new small business clients do, they put 1″ to 3″ in our local newspapers either in a series or as flights.

    I’m now at a loss of what to come up with. To get into the yellow pages, one has to wait for the next year’s Yellow Pages are issued. The radio or very early am tv ads may be a form but, like newspaper adv, “if there is no one around and a tree falls in the forest, is there any noise?” question.

    There is, at least for now, a resurgence of community newspapers that new businesses can use. Today, both on an on-line marketing newsletter and on tv, the articles and interviews covered Internet versions trying to become a replacement for these community newspapers.

    It may not the economic situation that may be making it difficult for new businesses to start; it may be the absence of viable local print media that makes it difficult.

    I’m at a loss to begin to figure out what I can tell my business’s and my SCORE clients to do.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador of Selling
    Attitudes for Selling offers consulting, workshops and speaking on all business topics that affect sales. He can be reached at [email protected] or via

  3. okay so basically yes you are correct…..for your demographic, but very wrong for the 18-35 market, who have Iphone,blackberrys , and 3 computers per household. I dont even have a phonebook in my house. For my generation it is about getting things quickly which means throw away the phonebook and pick my iphone and type what i want. Might want to re-think you ideas unless you own a funeral home then by all means keep throwing money into the yellow pages

  4. I believe print advertising is still being utilized in the older age groups but is slowly becoming less popular. Give it another 10-20 years then it will probably be dead.

    At this time I believe you still gain a fair amount of leads from print.

    Thanks for the insight.

  5. I think print advertising will always have a place for some people, although the general population is becoming more tech savvy, a lot of “not so” tech savvy people would still rather look in the phone book than deal with an onslaught of web advertisements and misleading links that accompany the inexperienced surfer online.

  6. Print media is changing for sure, but there will always be a place for hard copy like stationary, signage, especially business cards. People like tangible things and, while digital media is this generation’s solution to a lot of communication styles of the past decades and centuries, print media will continue to be useful and create impact.

    I think your example of choosing the Yellow pages ad over other methods could as easily be explained as brainwashing (since you resound the jingle so well) and habit. People go with what they know – likewise, our children will grow up with mobiles and eventually, their children will discard mobiles for the next technological leap such as implanted computer systems. That said, I hope that print media (and use of paper) will at least move to a more easily renewable resource than trees.

  7. Today, both on an on-line marketing newsletter and on tv, the articles and interviews covered Internet versions trying to become a replacement for these community newspapers.

  8. As tablets & smartphones become progressively better, cheaper, faster, more connected and prevalent — “print” becomes less and less relevant and the lines between print and electronic media are blurred as people go to the same outlets in electronic form.

    In any case Google is the #1 listing service in the world now… and there is no going back.


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