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Where have all the readers gone?

At various times in the last ten years the national press and mainstream TV channels have pooh-poohed the threat from the fledging internet. But, according to recent figures, the internet will soon overtake the national press to become the third biggest advertising medium by spend. It is also snapping at the heels of regional newspapers and television.

National newspaper circulation figures are falling as they fail to attract younger readers. The under 35s are also watching less mainstream television. And where they go, advertising revenue follows.

Where have they gone?

Some are hunched over their Playstations or PCs playing games, planning their holidays, shopping, or just socialising. It's not confined to the young of course, but the under-35 drop outs have done the most damage. Fewer are picking up a paper or settling down to an evening's viewing. With an internet audience of a billion people worlwide it's no wonder national advertisers are jumping ship.

But, it isn't all bad news. It depends on your target market and who you want to reach. The bulk of most home improvement companies' sales are to the over 35s, so paradoxically as the under 35s drop out the quality of the remaining readers or viewers improves. The wheat is seperated from the chaff, and your budget is better targeted.

But ad revenues are falling in the local press too. Recently Lord Rothmere, the owner of the Daily Mail, tried unsuccessfully to sell his regional newspapers. Things are going to get tougher. Rightmove, the property website, hold the details for some 750,000 homes and had 18 million visitors last month. It claims to have signed up seventy five per cent of the UK's estate agents. The City expects Rightmove's sales to boom as estate agents switch their budgets to online advertising. If they do, the effect on local newspapers will be painful.

In September, Yahoo launched 'Answers', a service that allows users to ask other people's advice when looking for anything from a good hotel to a window company, rather than rely solely on internet search engine results. and internet search giant Google is introducing postcode based advertising. It allows you to reach a locality with a degree of accuracy the local press cannot match. Rather than targeting a whole area, you can pinpoint specific streets. Direct mail and door knocking offers something similar, but online the user requests the information. How many customers do you have that actively requested a mass mailed flyer?

That's not all. Lower costs, lack of deadlines, instant placement, and the ability to route customers to a selling channel directly from the advert itself may help to convert even hardened press addicts.

But, however damaged, local newspapers are unlikely to die any time soon. And from an advertisers point of view that is good news. Both media have their strengths, but a combination of the two offers so much more. If you want to supercharge your next campaign and drive customers to your door, literally, make your advertising and PR work together in print and online.

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