Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Kickin' It Old-School

For the first time, Google is testing out print advertising. The plan: Buy advertising space in magazines and resell that space in chunks to AdWords advertisers. Reactions have been mixed, but some parties are excited about the idea of Google bringing its Midas touch to an old-and-busted medium:

Bill Adler, chief executive of security software company CyberScrub, another of the Google advertisers in PC Magazine, said print ads are a welcome alternative to pay-for-click, which "tends to be somewhat up and down as far as effectiveness, for any number of reasons."

Welcome to Labor Day Weekend, son!

If I were an AdWords advertiser, I'd be rather skittish about taking part in this venture. It's damn hard to accurately measure your ROI from a print ad for your website. PPC (pay per click) model advertising is so much easier to work with, from an analytical standpoint, than traditional print media advertising. Apparently Mr. Adler would rather be able to shrug his shoulders and make up numbers he likes than have to face the sometimes unfavorable fluctuations of data he can trust.

Measuring business generated online from an ad displayed offline is hellaciously fuzzy. Note that the ads show the advertiser's URL and phone number. The Inksite and 602 Software guys (or whoever wrote their ads for them) were clever enough to provide a URL ending in "/pcmag", so they can be fairly sure that anyone who ends up at that page got there because they saw the print ad. Except that, uh, I didn't have to pick up the magazine to find those URLs, since they're right there in the online version of the ad... assuming the URL in the online version is the same as in the print edition (and I ain't going down to Fry's to check)... You see what I mean? Hard to track. Furthermore, I hope that those phone numbers are either also special lines set up just for readers of the ad ("[877] INK-SITE"... probably not), or that the CSRs answering the phones are asking callers if they called up after seeing the ad. And that they have a magic wand for making sure they don't double-count people who see the PC Mag ad and then both visit the website and call the phone number.

Of course, figuring out how much business you got by advertising in a print magazine becomes even harder when that magazine has a naughty habit of doctoring its paid circulation numbers.