We received a phone call last week at Inkfast, our online ink and toner business, from a daily newspaper offering a display advertising deal for an upcoming end of financial year business feature. The cost was $5,000. We have built Inkfast to a $1 million a year business in eight months based primarily on a pay-per-click advertising campaign. We ran a test campaign based on faxes to accountants and another using radio 3AW. Neither came close to delivering the traffic of the pay per click campaign.

The offer from the newspaper was compelling. A decent size display ad for $5,000. We could expect a readership of several hundred thousand, well the newspaper could. Who knows what our page could attract. The salesperson from the newspaper called five times over three days despite us saying that we would get back to them if we were interested. In each call the pitch was more urgent. The last call was rude.

We established our pay-per-click campaign without the use of salespeople. We did it all online and are able to tweak the campaign at any time, as we choose. This flexibility and the outcome focused pricing is ideal for our business model. We know that $5,000 spent on pay-per-click advertising for our business lands more than 5,000 people on our website and most are searching for what we sell. We only pay for them to step through the door whereas with newspaper advertising we pay for the right to be near traffic.

For the newspaper approach to work we need a good ad whereas with pay-per-click the website does the work, there is no middle creative point which could be a further barrier. Also, pay-per-click puts us in front of people when they can best respond – they are online. A newspaper ad for an online business means they either have to write the URL down or tear out the ad or remember the details.

We decided not to take up the newspaper offer. While we do want to experiment away from our pay per click model, this newspaper offer was not right for us.

That was late last week. Over the weekend I have been considering this experience with Inkfast in the context of my ownership of a newsagency [and the fact that] newspapers are one of the top two traffic generators. I feel as if I have betrayed myself and my newsagent colleagues in the decision but I know it was the right decision for Inkfast. More and more businesses will decide that newspapers are no longer an appropriate advertising medium.

I can feel the ground shifting from deep underneath.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey