WTF?: Buy Some Damn Print Already

I can’t think of an online ad I like. Can you? Online content, sure. Brand supported online content even. But an ad? No. Generally speaking, online advertising is some weak shit. A fact which makes it all the harder to accept that valuable print vehicles are struggling to stay afloat because their lifeblood–print advertising–is migrating online.
Case in point: No Depression, one of the nation’s best music mags is going to stop putting out a print edition. This is a crime against music-loving humanity.
Here’s what’s happening:

The simple answer is that advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that number to continue to decline.
The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and industrywide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from reductions in, say, GM’s print advertising budget; our size meant they weren’t going to buy space in our pages, regardless.
On the other hand, because we’re a niche title we are dependent upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.
That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.

Okay, if labels aren’t going to run print ads in No Depression, then who is? There’s bound to be a solution somewhere. Maybe some generous trustafarians can underwrite the book. Or some generous rock stars. Or maybe a giant corporation who needs to shower itself in cool juice could underwrite the effort. ND is a Seattle operation. Microsoft could step up and run a bunch of double truck Zune ads.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. This post leads to lots of topics worth digressing over. It’s not just that print’s lifeblood advertisers are migrating online. The readers are going there too. And why not? Most publications’ websites feature all the print content at no cost. In these times of recession, why pay for something that’s available for free? It will be tough finding someone to sponsor a publication that fewer people are reading.
    The opening statements on this post are great, unless you’re working in a digital shop. I have trouble thinking of great online ads too. Although there are quite a few I can recall as being annoying (e.g., the dancing people for loans). Funny thing is, the creators insist their shit gets results. Digital remains closer to direct marketing than advertising, and it has adopted a lot of direct’s success criteria; that is, results are more important than creative content. Jane Sample posted a great perspective on this topic:
    There is another notion worth digressing over. I wonder if people have made major mistakes regarding advertising placement online. There seems to be a belief that online advertising is a good thing. But I contend people have already conditioned themselves to ignore online advertising. Can anyone here turn off their computer right now and recall the banners and ads on AdPulp? Probably not. Digital creatives are trying to come up with new tactics, like takeovers and interactive banners, but it really is like direct marketing seeking to enhance letter packages. You’re putting new tires on a broken vehicle. Someone needs to rethink what advertising should be in the digital space. The rise of SEO/SEM kinda indicates that online advertising (banners, gifs, etc.) is being reconsidered. But I’m not smart enough in the digital space to provide keen insights here.
    No Depression needs to reinvent itself too. I know nothing about this publication, but the demise of print does not mean the end of No Depression. They just need to find a new (and profitable) way to deliver their content.

  2. Someone needs to rethink what advertising should be in the digital space.
    You said that right. And until there is a workable answer, I’d want my brand to shine in print while I experiment with new online formats.
    I’m starting to think online and advertising are oil and water. The online experience is all about utility, about getting precisely what value one needs, when and how one needs it. Ads don’t fit into that at all and I’m not convinced they ever will.
    When reading print, however, it’s not painful to leaf through some ads on the way to the desired content. It can even be enjoyable to linger on the ads, when they’re well done.

  3. actually, i just saw advertising age dedicated this week’s issue to digital. matthew creamer wrote an article and did a much better job than i addressing the topic.

  4. Schrodinger's Copywriter says:

    Joseph Jaffe said in “Death of the 30 second spot” something like online marketing and ads suck because they are bought and produced by marketers who are being drastically conservative and penny-pinching out of revenge against the wanton waste they perceive in other kinds of advertising.
    Combine that with interactive shops that sometimes don’t care about creative or ad agencies that don’t understand online at all, and you see the results.

  5. I hadn’t seen that Creamer piece. Weird that we’re saying the same thing at the same time. Although not surprising. It’s obvious (from a creative’s perspective) that online advertising is in need of an overhaul.

  6. Just picked up a relevant new book worth checking out…
    The Open Brand: When Push Comes to Pull in a Web-Made World, by Nita Rollins and Kelly Mooney

  7. High Jive: I agree with you that clients seem to be exacting revenge for the waste due to inflated costs on the part of the ad agency. They seem to think that online advertising should cost them nothing. So, in response, ad agencies are abandoning traditional advertising, which in my opinion they still have not done well in a long time, for “Web 2.0, etc…..”, and they are not doing that particularly well. I really do not recall the last web ad that actually made me think, “Wow, that is a big idea.” I just get treated to crashing browsers and annoying intrusions into my work day.