It takes two

Peanut butter and jelly. The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. One just wouldn't be the same without the other. And a recent survey by the Online Publisher's Association (OPA) in the US says that websites mean more to the livelihood of offline media than previously thought.

The OPA suggests media companies can use their websites to cultivate new listeners, readers or viewers. This is the reverse of conventional wisdom, which holds that media companies drive traffic to their websites through offline means (print, radio or television).

The OPA surveyed 4,980 Internet users aged 14-and-up and found that 56 percent of them were more likely to read, watch or listen to the offline component of the brand they visit online. The OPA also found that the more users enjoy a website, especially those who visit special interest or sports websites, the more likely they are to seek the offline brand. Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the OPA, says there's a strong inclination among website viewers to engage the same brand in an offline format.

"Traditionally people thought of this in reverse," Zimbalist says. "That television or magazines would drive traffic to websites, but websites can be helpful to the offline companion brand."

And there's evidence to back up Zimbalist's claim. According to the OPA, NYTimes.com has generated more than 58,000 subscriptions (through September) to The New York Times, and washingtonpost.com has driven nearly 10 percent of new subscriptions to The Washington Post. The OPA also cites a recent MSNBC.com survey showing that 31 percent of visitors to that site said they were more likely to watch MSNBC cable news because of they enjoyed its website.

Zimbalist says the increased brand exposure of media companies is leading to more cross-channel advertising. "It gives advertisers the opportunity to surround the customer with their brand," Zimbalist says. "The amount of attention you get during the day with your target audience is enhanced by advertising both online and offline under the same brand."

Zimbalist says a Web presence can be an effective way to cross-promote and generate additional revenue for all major media (print, radio and television). "TV and the Web together are a potent combination," Zimbalist says, "but this holds true in all media."

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