AKRON (Sept. 28, 2009)—For the past three years, Joe Marconi has stopped advertising his auto service and tire shop in his hometown newspaper and is relying on other ways to promote his dealership.
The owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., said he believes newspaper advertising is no longer effective in driving customer traffic to his two shops today. Consumers, he added, are overloaded with information and are conditioned to go online to find the news they want to read.
“Who has time or who really takes the time to read a newspaper cover to cover and look at all the ads or look for something?” Mr. Marconi said. “When you look for something today, you Google it.”
Beth Barron, director of business development for Morgan City, La.-based Chabill's Tire Service L.L.C., has managed Chabill's advertising for the past decade. She told Tire Business that she's not a big fan of newspaper advertising even though Chabill's still uses print media to reach its rural markets.
“I live in a very small town, and I still don't get the newspaper,” Ms. Barron said. “It's just to me a waste of time. I'm gonna go and look at what I want to look at online.”
Ms. Barron said the only newspaper ads Chabill's has placed this year take up no more than an eighth of a page and are appearing in two or three markets. The dealership is using the print ads to get the word out on its tire pricing. Chabill's has 12 stores in Louisiana, and Lafayette is its largest market.
Print vs. online
How effective is traditional newspaper advertising anymore for tire dealers? The answer to that question may vary by regions, but Mr. Marconi and Ms. Barron are not unique in their attitudes toward print media.
The Pew Research Center, in its 2008 news media consumption survey, found what it called an “unmistakable” trend of fewer Americans reading print newspapers and opting for online news. The survey showed that 39 percent of respondents said they read a newspaper yesterday—either print or online—down from 43 percent in 2006.
The Newspaper Association of America's (NAA) compilation of quarterly revenue data for U.S. daily papers showed a 30-percent drop in print ad revenue to $6.16 billion in 2009's second quarter, compared with a year ago. Online-only advertising also fell 15.9 percent to $653.1 million, according to NAA data.
These results were worse than first-quarter results, which showed print ad revenues declined 29.7 percent and online revenues declined 13.4 percent.
Flint, Mich.-based Northwest Tire & Service Inc. has cut back its newspaper advertising from three days a week to Sundays-only, “with considerably smaller ads,” said President A.J. Faught, noting that some Michigan papers have gone from daily delivery to three-day-a-week delivery.
“We've had to change (our) investment,” Mr. Faught said. “I'm not ready to say it's not worth it. As far as doing it as big as we once had, no. To completely abandon it, we found that that hurt a little bit.”
Mr. Faught, who operates 15 stores across Michigan, said half his ad budget goes to direct mail and TV, but only 11 percent goes to newspaper advertising. Five years ago, more than half of Northwest Tire's ad budget went towards newspaper ads.
Besides TV, Mr. Faught said the dealership is placing ads with online newspapers, Internet search engines and using search engine optimization (SEO). He added that he's not sure if there's a point where he'll drop all newspaper ads except “when they stop printing it, which I think we'll see.”
Ms. Barron, who is the daughter of Chabill's co-owner Charley Gowland, said the dealership spends 40 percent of its marketing budget on direct mail, 25 percent on radio, 20 percent on the Yellow Pages and 15 percent on newspapers. She added she has tried some online ads through yellowpages.com and is constantly updating the dealership's Web site, which gets about 1,000 hits a month of unique visitors.
“I do have a presence there in two of my bigger markets,” Ms. Barron said of the Web ads. “It gets a lot of hits. People go there a lot. I do have a big investment in my Web site. I change my Web site on a monthly basis.”
She said she believes Chabill's needs to move towards online advertising because newspapers are not where people are going anymore, and she's not willing to invest in weekly newspaper ads when she said she could have 20 radio spots for the money.
“I've probably been to 10 or 12 different seminars,” she said. “What the workshops tell you is, don't spend a lot of money in the Yellow Pages. Don't spend a lot of money on newspapers. They tell you to go for the things like radio if you can afford that. They say newspapers and the Yellow Pages are dying. Readership is down in local newspapers around the country.”
The declines in readership primarily are being driven by Generations X (born between 1965-1976) and Y (born 1977 or later), according to Pew data. In 2008, 21 percent from Gen X said they read only a print newspaper, or both an online and a print newspaper. That's down from 30 percent in 2006.
Similarly, among Gen Yers, 16 percent told Pew in 2008 that they read only a print newspaper or both Web and print, while 14 percent of respondents said they read a newspaper only on the Web, or both online and in print. In 2006, more than twice as many in Gen Y said they read a printed newspaper than the online version (22 percent vs. 9 percent).
Mr. Marconi said his marketing budget is split 40-40 between TV and radio, and he uses the rest on SEO and in-house marketing.
“I'm a firm believer in Zip code mailings and introducing myself to the people who don't know me, and also we do a lot of e-mail campaigns, too,” he said. “I gathered a list of all the businesses from the local area and sent out thousands of monthly e-mails to them. That's at no cost.”
He also uses a colorful newsletter he sends to those who aren't his regular customers, and he and his employees always ask everyone who comes into the shop how they've heard of Osceola Garage. So far, TV commercials seem to have worked the best in promoting his business.
Mr. Marconi said he adapts to the demands of his marketplace including in how he markets the business, and he's always measuring the return on investment.
“I always am willing to try things, if it's wrong… so what? You move on…,” he said. “I tried a radio station that was trying to attract people from a different area, so I gave it six months. Didn't pull (in) one person. So what are you going to do? I'm not going to cry about it. Yeah, I spent money on it I didn't want to spend, but I wouldn't have known that if I didn't spend the money.”