The launch of Sojern today, a service for placing targeted ads on airline boarding passes, raises an interesting question. Could targeted ads be a new revenue source in newspapers, magazines, or other print journalism?
Targeted ads are most well known for online ads, where they can be placed in front of a user based on past Web sites browsed–behavioral targeting–or based on what the user is doing at the moment–contextual targeting–for example, searching for shoes brings up shoe ads. There is also demographic and geographic targeting. A variety of studies show the boost in user interest with these various forms of targeting.
However, targeted print ads are more difficult to pull off. Setting aside national print magazines or national newspapers that are large enough to run different ads for different geographic regions, most newspapers and magazines have not been able to create targeted ads. Once you set an ad in a publication and it runs in print, that’s it.
One example of successful targeted (contextual) print ads is Catalina Marketing, which provides coupons on the back of receipts at the point of sale. Based on what you buy, you get different ads. Sojern is just starting out but the idea is similar. Based on what destination you are going to, as well as your budget–e.g. economy vs. first class ticket–different ads and content appear on your boarding pass, from weather info to restaurants and events.
Could newspapers or magazines implement a similar idea? While it’s clear that newspapers are moving further into digital and there is a need for rethinking models of publishing and distribution, there are still many print publications. If one were to design a newspaper (or magazine) from scratch, what type of ads would one design? Ads targeted so that home delivery newspapers or magazines have ads targeted to that specific geography, lifestyle or demographic of that household, which would bring in much higher ad rates. I’m sure this would require an expensive (maybe impossible) rebuilding of the entire printing process. But since many newspapers have cut way back on the number of print pages, wouldn’t it make sense to make those ads that are there worth more?
Maybe this only makes sense if you are talking about a print-out-your-custom-newspaper-at-home model. It especially makes sense in that case, in the way Sojern prints targeted based on destination, newspapers could offer extremely targeted ads along with the 5 stories a person wanted to take with him or her on the subway to work.