Can mobile save print classifieds?
published by , on 28/03/2009

A simple “No” would have made this the shortest post I’ve ever written, and indeed that probably is the correct answer. The tsunami currently engulfing print publication after print publication is unstoppable, worsened by a bad economy. But, oh, what might have been?

A little better alignment between the stars and printing presses might have led to a marriage between print and mobile marketing that was made in heaven. Let’s explore.

Try as they might, print has never really been able to bring the best of the Web to your local newspaper. In a short period of time, free postings online, if you have them posted in the paper, has given way to free postings in print, if you post online.

And the advent of performance-based marketing like pay-per-click or free has been impossible to wrap a publicist’s head around. Mobile marketing, however, is a great one-two punch with print and other traditional mediums.

Consider the following:

  • Text messaging – Ever hear of American Idol (or Any-Country-on-the-Planet Idol for that matter)? Text messaging helped take crusty old television to an interactive medium amassing more votes than a presidential election. And radio? Spots in Oregon are driving mobile users to buy bread and ice cream (mmm, ice cream) with interactive coupons. “Seventy-six percent of listeners use text messaging, and 66 percent want to text with your radio station,” said Brian Benedik of Katz Media Group, commenting on a Media Buyer Planner report in a story entitled, “Mobile Marketing Could Be Key for Radio.”
  • MMS – The immediacy of getting multimedia to your phone is a great employment branding builder. An employer’s ability to push video and audio, podcast-style to job seekers in a way similar to text messaging is powerful. Apple’s recent inclusion of MMS to the iPhone was ” top news on many mainstream news sites, likewise on most blogs and even the Twitter-sphere was agog at the news.”
  • Scan Marketing – 2-D mobile bar codes that look similar to grocery item bar codes are selling lots of burritos on college campuses. Though still a fringe technology in the States, the technology of taking a picture via billboards, newspapers or other offline signage and receiving an offer or advertisement shows promise.

In short, whereas the Internet is a print-killer; mobile is a print-enhancer. The connection between someone reading a newspaper in a coffeehouse, airport or train to work and the mobile device that accompanies them is real. It brings old world clunkiness to new world interactivity, trackability and, more-and-more, virality (hey, it should be a word).

The knock on print has been the inability to track results for advertisers, offer a dynamic experience and trying to compete with the unlimited real estate that the Web offers in a 5-line business. Mobile potentially moves the balance of power, as readers can access media and advertisers can track results intimately and immediately. Asking people to go from a newspaper to a computer and type in a specific URL just doesn’t get it done.

Instead, imagine a world where an offline ad can drive users to content and brand awareness in real time at the click of a few numbers in their hand. Imagine a world where that activity drives an immediate alert to a recruiter in the form of a phone number and a database of said phone numbers is built for future and ongoing communication.

And it will happen, though probably not to the degree it could have happened if timing was just a little bit better. A friend of mine who owns a recruitment ad agency specialized in healthcare jokes about employers who still post ads in the newspaper.

He feels it’s just a matter of time before they all migrate online. Mobile marketing gives him a new product to sell and it gives his advertisers a new way to think about offline as coordination with online. And it may just keep his clients advertising in the newspaper.

Is mobile the defibrillator print needs to come back from the dead? Doubtful. But it sure makes for great fantasy and speculation.

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