Marketing Before Digital And The Death Of Print By Ben Givon Affiliate Marketing

OK, so here’s the gist of it. My name is Ben Givon and I’m a marketing buff. There, I’ve said it. Anyone who’s followed any of the Ben Givon tutorial series, knows me as the marketing guy.

Hand’s up anyone the remembers the time before digital marketing. Before the days of tracking, targeted ads, audiences, re-marketing and all the other myriad of techniques we take for granted today as marketers. The days when print ads rules the roost and classifieds were the 800lb gorillas of the marketing world.

Research shows that Craigslist cost the print media $5.4 billion between 2000 and 2007.

Ben Givon explain How technology and the need for instant gratification dried the print rivers
How technology and the need for instant gratification dried the print rivers

Print media was, as Press Baron Rupert Murdoch once put it “a river of gold”. Everyone read newspapers and all businesses advertised in newspapers. When digital took hold of the marketing world, that same Rupert Murdoch was quoted as saying that “sometimes rivers dry up!”. The owner of the Buffalo News, Warren Buffet went even further:

“if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the Internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed.”

Television and radio had a lot to do with the demise of newspapers and print advertising, but the death knell was the Internet and digital media.

In the 1960’s, weekday newspaper circulation was a scarcely believable 112% of numbers of households in the USA. Publishers delivered newspapers to people’s homes, business, hotel lobbies, train stations. Everywhere people were, newspapers were never far away.

NewsPaper circulation

Courtesy of

People bought newspapers and advertisers spent huge amounts of money to advertise. The “rivers of gold” really did flow for the Barons.

Compare that to the figures today with newspaper circulation less than 30% of households and it’s easy to see how the rivers did indeed dry up.

In the days of print ads, tracking the effectiveness of an advertising campaign was difficult to say the least, and necessitated the consumer taking action such as clipping a coupon from a newspaper for example.

That same difficulty held for radio and television. Walk into Walmart to buy something and there’s no real measure of where you saw that product advertised. It might have been on TV or radio. It was obviously an effective ad (you’re now in Walmart buying the product) but Walmart can’t really know what prompted you to take that buying decision. Effective tracking on TV or radio ads is almost impossible, unless the consumer takes action that gives you the tracking information, for example quoting a reference number during their purchase.

Not all advertising campaigns make money. That’s just the nature of the industry. To become effective, advertisers need a way to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and in the days before digital media, that was extremely difficult to do.

In the days before digital, reading habits were different as well. People bought a newspaper, or a magazine and they read all the texts. Yes, there was a measure of “scanning” involved but by and large people read newspapers from cover to cover. Newspapers had multiple sections such as finance, sports, home matters. It wasn’t unusual for people to share. One would read the finance section while someone else would read the sports or the cartoons.

Contrast that to digital habits where consumers scan and consume ads in bullet points and their mouse takes them directly to the “section” or website of choice. We read about what we are interested in, we read in snippets and we all have our favorite “sections”.

Referencing was virtually impossible. If a newspaper ran a news story related to another article in a previous edition, the only way to get the full picture was to have both editions. Digital media today can reference at will, hyperlinking news items to older stories as needed.

Print was time consuming. Newspapers need to be laid out, typeset, printed and delivered. There was very little that could be done in case of any mistakes.

Ben Givon

One of the most famous print errors was the 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” the day after the US Presidential elections when President Truman scored an upset victory over New York Governor Thomas Dewey.

President Truman holding the Chicago Daily Tribune with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman”,
image courtesy of Wikipedia

Print, radio and TV ads were expensive, difficult to track and mistakes were hugely complicated to correct.

Today, domain names are less than $10, setting up a website is easy, and you editing is child’s play. Consumers only need to click and add, and advertisers have immediate feedback on how their campaigns are performing.

Technology drives how we get our news and how we get our ads. With the advent of the smart phone, we’re never far from our favorite news source. Habits have changed and will change over the coming years again and again. Gone are the men in suits drinking martinis. Gone are the press Barons of yesteryear. The men in suits today are the digital marketers and the Barons are Googles, YouTubes and Facebooks of the Internet world.

When 20% of the world’s population login to their accounts and watch ads on Facebook, you know it’s time to switch the presses off!



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Ben Givon

Ben Givon is the key writer and blogger for various internet sites. A recognised expert in the fields of online marketing and branding.