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Dead Tree Media: Not Dead Yet

December 8th, 2004 by Bob Bly

Rick Bruner, an active blogger and my polar opposite in all things marketing, questions the effectiveness of my use of traditional media ? specifically, articles I write for DM News

He derisively refers to trade journals and newsletters as ?dead tree media,? and suggests that online communication, like blogging, is really where it?s at.

I?m not so sure.

So far my blogging has brought me a lot of fascinating discussions with bloggers (about 80 posts in its first week), but no posts from potential clients.

My DM News articles, on the other hand, bring me more than a dozen leads per article, all from the direct marketers who are my potential clients — because that?s who reads DM News.

My ?dead tree? medium is highly targeted. I am not sure who reads blogs ? but DM News has an audit-verified circulation of 50,000 direct marketers, which is my target market spot on.

Here?s my quick take on online vs. offline media?.

Online is more high tech, more today?s hot topic, more the flavor of the month, more appealing to the under 30 crowd, and more interactive.

Online is easier to respond to, and the response and discussion is immediately visible to everyone on the Internet. The conversation can spread like wildfire, which is a real plus.

Offline is more traditional, more appealing to the over 50 crowd, and has greater selectivity.

Anyone can publish a blog, Web site, or e-zine. That?s why David St. Lawrence calls blogging ?Citizens Publishing.?

But not everyone can get published in Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal ? or convince McGraw-Hill or John Wiley & Sons to publish their book.

And that?s why these dead tree media, unlike a blog, give the author a certain status and credibility that self-published online writings, like e-books, do not.

The best tact is a mixed-media approach: For instance, I am a regular contributor to dead tree media including Writer?s Digest and DM News. And I am the author of 60 books published by such mainstream publishing houses as Prentice Hall and Amacom.

But I also publish a blog, a free monthly e-zine, and downloadable free articles and special reports available on my Web site.

Does anybody have an opinion on which is better ? traditional paper publishing, online publishing, or a combination? What has worked for you guys?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 8th, 2004 at 10:04 am and is filed under PR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

31 responses about “Dead Tree Media: Not Dead Yet”

  1. Rick Bruner said:

    A few clarifications:

    1) I was being facetious about “dead-tree medium.” I started my career, for the better part of 10 years, as a journalist, including having co-founded and served as editor in chief of a weekly newspaper for 2-1/2 years, having been a special correspondent for a year and a half for Ad Age and having written two books on marketing myself.

    2) I wonder on what basis you think I am your “polar opposite in all things marketing.” That is, I wonder what it is you know about what I believe about marketing and have written about it over the course of my nearly 20-year professional career. For one thing, I think direct marketing is great. But I do think that that it only is one part of the marketing mix, not the entire mix. If I had to over-simplify, I would advocate marketers aim for a brand-response strategy whereby they aim for the best of both of those poles, making brand advertising more accountable to direct response measurements and make direct campaigns more integrated with brand objectives and recognize that not every transaction is an impulse cause and effect.

    3) Similiarly, when it comes to blogs, I do not believe they are the be-all-and-end-all of marketing. They are just one more tool with unique and valuable characteristics that really don’t compete with the role of DM on virtually any level. They are not a replacement for anything. They are something new and worthwhile. The fact that you aren’t selling through your blog yet isn’t tremendously surprising for several reasons, including that your blog is new, the medium is new, it is reaching a different audience and, so far, pretty much all you’ve blogged about is how skeptical you are of the marketing value of blogs, which is both a bit tedious and not terribly compelling from a pro-marketing perspective.

    Most business bloggers use their blogs to evangelize in favor of something. Part of the reason you’re getting a lot of comments every post is you’re being controversial, going after what bloggers hold dearest: questioning whether blogs are worthwhile or not. It’s a great theme (for a while anyway) to get comments, but I don’t see how it’s going to win the respect of marketers in the long-run.

    Another comment about the tone of blogs, per your earlier post about blog frequency, etc., is that not all blogs are purely opinion blogs, as yours is so far. Not that I’m suggesting there’s anything wrong with that. Some excellent blogs are pure opinion essays. But many other excellent blogs are also resources. For example, if you were to use your blog to link to valuable DM resources and commentary off of your site, adding your own perspective to such links, that would be another kind of value you could provide your readers that would be easier to post (quick links with a line or two of commentary instead of a whole original essay every post) plus help establish you as an expert and information resource to more potential customers.

    Not that I’m saying you should do, just another popular approach, dispelling the criticism that all bloggers do is waffle on for the sake of it.

  2. John Dumbrille said:

    Hell, sounds like youve got a balance pretty well worked out Robert. 60 books. Sheesh.
    Writing that’s read is good, writing that provokes action is better. And writing that makes money is great; for some, it’s the #1 metric.

  3. David Burn said:

    Anyone with something to say and the ability to say it can write a book today, just as anyone can publish a blog. To underscore my point, Amazon dot com sells self-published books.

    Consider this. The most popular blogs, political and otherwise, have larger readerships than many large city “dead tree” newspapers. No book, other than The Bible, has that type of readership.

    And Bruner’s correct, he’s not your polar opposite in all things marketing, I am.

  4. Rick Bruner said:

    BTW, per your earlier post that you got the idea there were only a couple dozen marketers blogging, I’ve put together a larger (updated) list. Also, some more big-shot bloggrs.

  5. Bard Marc Gunn said:

    I think a combination works best. But a couple notes.

    One, you are still new to the blog phenomena. So it still will take some time before your blog will attract the attention you need.

    Second, I’m not entirely certain, but is your blog designed to cater to your target client? Offhand, I’d say no. It seems right now focused on pr bloggers.

  6. Leopold O'Donnell said:

    In response to:
    So far my blogging has brought me a lot of fascinating discussions with bloggers (about 80 posts in its first week), but no posts from potential clients.

    I do read this blog for the soapbox nature of its posts and commentary. This kind of discussion/punditry reminds me of newsgroups delivered back in the day (80’s and early 90’s).

    I don’t read this blog to help me become a better, or better-informed Direct Marketer. If you want to drum up business with folks who use DM speak to their needs and offer snappy, valuable DM oriented content with associated self-promotion advertising on the blog page. Can I get white papers, books, tips etc. etc.?

    Personally, I hope you stick with your current format. Punditry in the blogosphere is fairly ubiquitous, robust intelligent discussion is rare.

  7. Joel Heffner said:

    Bob is a bit slow to accept technological changes. In one of his articles, I seem to remember him proudly saying that he didn’t use PowerPoint (or even a laptop) for his workshops. He has since come around. 🙂 He was also somewhat skeptical of websites and ezines. He’s come along with them, too. Being cautious is OK. However, blogging…as well as other techie stuff is here and growing. If it doesn’t suit everyone’s style today, it will soon. It’s inevitible. The only question is how will it fit Bob and everyone else. The answer probably will be that everyone will find a fit…not necessarily the same fit for all. He’ll love it before you can say, “The next technological change will be…”

  8. TC said:


    I’m on the opposite coast and have not quite started my freelance copywriting career. So I’m not a threat to you, or even a colleague. But I have been reading your blog since day one. Here’s a simple reader’s opinion.

    1) The next time you feel like writing a blog while whining about writing blogs, please go do something else. Help your wife with the dishes, run naked against the green lights in Times Square, chant a mantra, do ANYTHING but touch the computer. Okay? Please? I’m begging.

    2) I’ve read “The Copy Writer’s Handbook” and “Secrets of a Freelance Writer”. You’re a bit stuffy, even stiff, in those books. But that’s okay, you’re a professional dispensing career advice. But on the blog, you’re as stiff as a six inch thick piece of oak dipped in cement locked in a steel vault. LOOSEN UP! This stiffness is really off-putting. If I were a client looking to hire you, I would not think you could sell anything to anybody.

    3) As a new copywriter, I would be very interested in hearing about your day at the office. What you did, how you did it, your thought processes. What assignments did you accept and what did you turn down. What do you enjoy writing and why? Do you still have problems with clients? How have you handled that? A diary of your working life would be as instructional as your books, if not more so.

    4) If you want to sell yourself to a client, talk about your thought process. How have you managed to stay fresh after all these years? What assignments do you enjoy most? What are some great client stories? What have you accomplished? Why are you unique among copywriters? Invite them to see a Bob they might not see in their offices. It’s not that different from #3, just slanted to a different audience.

    5) Since you seem determined to consider the blog as a potential source of income, please realize that every second you spend on this Earth being busy does not result in money in your pocket. It’s called Life.

  9. Klaus Eck said:
    Keine relevanten Inhalte in Weblogs
    Bloggen kann eigentlich jeder. Ein Weblog aufzusetzen stellt keine Kunst dar. Und das ist das Problem. Zumindest f?r Fachautoren, die ihre Zielgruppen direkt erreichen wollen. Redaktionell findet jedoch in Weblogs keine Auslese mehr statt. Deshalb werd…

  10. B.L. Ochman said:

    Of course a mix of media is better. I also write for online and offline publications, publish a newsletter and a blog, speak to corporations both online and off and network online and off.

    Nobody ever said that anyone should communicate only with blogs.

    And one of the reasons you haven’t had a client yet is that you have not integrated your website and your blog. It’s called integrated marketing Bob.

  11. Duct Tape Marketing said:
    Blogging has tipped
    In Malcolm Gladwell’s now famous book, he refers to a phenomenon known as tipping – thus the title, The Tipping Point.

    He goes on to present some very well documented events

  12. Vikk Simmons said:


    My writings are a mixture of the traditional and the new electronic age of publishing. Each has its own set of plusses and minuses. I veiw my blog as one more tool in my writing kit.

  13. David Wells said:

    Having a well conceived, cohesive promotional plan that is focused on a specific market is key. Weblogs should be thought of as resource recpticals that help to establish your credibility and your willingness to provide answers to your prospective client base.

    When you figure out how your blog can give your prospective clients what they are looking for is when you’ll begin to get leads/inquiries.

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  18. ProCopywritingTactics said:

    You’re right in the money. I think that you need to look at the results you’re getting. If writing in “dead-tree” mediums get’s you leads and clients, then go for it.

    Sounds like you have a good mixture of marketing mediums that are working for you.

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