Is print advertising costlier than online?

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Well, that implies dual meaning. Cheaper in terms of initial cost or overall cheaper if we consider Return On Investment. Let’s explore more on that.

To advertise means to reach out and send a message to the target audience.

Online advertising can take many forms such as  social media posts, videos, websites, partner websites, etc. The cost of advertising through online marketing can be as low as almost free (not counting time) and on the higher side, as per your budget. There is no limit to that and it varies wildly depending on medium, niche, and demand.

On the other hand, the forms of print advertising are newspapers, magazines, flexes, posters, banners, hoardings, etc. The cost may depend upon various factors, not the least of which being how big and in-demand that newspaper, poster, etc. is. The initial cost of advertising might be slightly higher as compared to online advertising, but there’s really no way to judge in general without more information.

The most I can say is that print advertising is usually done in single bulk payments, whereas much of online advertising is cost per action. You might buy a month’s worth of advertising in a magazine and have it not break even in sales, but If you start an online pay-per-click ad campaign and realize it’s not working, you can turn it off early before you’ve spent much of your budget.

To get into this a little more, let’s quickly see the three main factors that influence the cost of advertising, whether online or print:

1) Target Audience

That refers to the audience you are targeting. For example, if you are to reach out to the potential candidates for a job posting, then you may want to use LinkedIn’s online advertising platform since it targets the workforce directly. You may find that more cost-effective than broader methods, including many print options, due to how likely you are to show your ads to the best possible people.

2) Product or Service for Which You Are Advertising

The second factor influencing the cost of advertising is the product or service. For example, an advertisement for a local washing powder might be more effective on print media serving the same area as your business, in comparison with online advertising with a broader geographic reach Keep in mind, you can target local areas with online advertising as well.

3) Breadth of Geographical Area

In terms of sheer geographical area, online advertising has better reach. For example, print advertising in two countries at once would likely be costly in comparison with online advertising to prospects in those two countries. Again, that’s not universal, just the tendencies of either side.

Now, after a quick recap of the factors, I assume you must be in a better position to decide which would be cheaper.

In the long run, in terms of Return on Investment, print media may be cheaper if you can afford the risk at higher levels. For example, an online ad generally remains engaging and active for a limited time and that too, you need to keep spending a  budget. There’s also the time cost of testing new strategies with all the various online factors. On the other hand, a $10,000 two-page spread ad in a massively popular magazine full of hot prospects for your business may initially be costly, but it’s one and done and has a good chance of working, as long as it’s a good ad that you know has worked in smaller experiments.

It’s the difference between slowly spending $100 a month to make $1,000 back (which for many, many people would be more than enough for them) versus spending $10,000 to potentially make up to $500,000. There are no guarantees, but in general, higher-cost advertising costs that much for a reason: because it gives a greater return on investment. Again, not always. Do not take this as free reign to spend thousands on print ads without testing the ads and researching your market.

Whatever the situation, we have to accept that advertising has no replacement as yet. Consumers have to deal with the presence of ads, and entrepreneurs have to accept the risk of a bad ad that doesn’t make money. Still, innovations in the field of advertising will continue to evolve.

If you’re curious about how to make advertising effective within your budget, I talk about that in part of my post: Welcome to a World Without Advertising. Check it out if you want. I believe that post also adds some other perspectives.

In Conclusion:

Both forms of advertising are cheaper in one way or the other. It depends more on the factors as discussed above and what you consider cheap. Cheaper in initial cost versus cheaper because of higher ROI. I could help more if we were talking about a specific product or service, or specific industry. But for now, these are the general ideas.



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