A Brief History of Traditional and Print Advertisement

Advertising, Print

A Brief History of Traditional and Print Advertisement

What is traditional advertisement?

People mean different things when then talk about “traditional advertisements”. Sign posts, newspapers, magazines, print media. These are all powerful media for marketing and advertising.

Unfortunately, traditional advertising is considered to be antiquated by some in the post-digital world. This couldn’t be far from the truth, though. Digital helps you reach people in their homes, but traditional media prompts action. You can bombard you audience’s Facebook all you like but traditional media helps you mobilize thousands of people that you may not have captured otherwise.

There are four primary methods of traditional media. Some may be better than others for different services and goods – it all depends on what type of product or service you are marketing. Many of these methods of online advertising have been around for hundreds of years and are still going strong – albeit in new avatars today!

Before the digital revolution, there were only standard billboards. Even going back several decades they were fairly large thanks to our technological advances. Many would not believe that outdoor marketing like that existed even as far back 1500 BC! Obviously, the signs were nowhere near as large as modern billboards back then before the pre-industrialization era.

Print media also existed well before the digital era – and thrived after the first printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg – more on this topic in the section about newspapers. Since the advent of the printing press, advertising has become much simpler. What would have taken many hours to handwrite was done much quicker and more cost efficient. With new printer technology today, the costs have gone down drastically.

When we speak of print media, it does not necessarily have to be a newspaper, but it can also be an advertisement in a magazine, a flyer you put up, or even mailers. The cost of printing these items and mailing them out is covered by the flow of customers that the advertisements generate. Let us take a brief look at some of the common types of print media:


Another form of print media that was very successful for many years is the phonebook. While phonebooks are not as widely used today as they once were, they are still a decent method to used to generate more clients – the bulk of their operations have just migrated online! With all the advances in the internet and the ease of use, it is easy to see why many people would prefer to look up phone numbers and business information online. One of the leading phonebook providers (Yellowpages) have successfully started advertising online. They even provide certain advertising packages that have an ad in their print media and their online phone directory. Their platform allows them to provide a nearly identical online phone book. Believe it or not, this integrated approach allows these ‘enterprises’ more chances to advertise on behalf of their customers. Today, there is a major phonebook provider’s app that comes preinstalled on cellphones now. It may not be traditional marketing in the purest sense, but online phone books are an extension of traditional print media.

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers as we know them did not come into existence until after the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany. The first “ widely distributed” newspaper was printed in Germany in the late 1400’s. However, written newspapers can be traced back to before the first century B.C. – these were hand written pamphlets passed around among the local merchants to share relevant information. Crazy, right?

More fun facts – People that could only read English had to wait until 1622 for the first English printed news pamphlets. These were only printed when something novel and newsworthy happened! The newspaper was a source of information as well as entertainment. During the Victorian era, many people were reading the newspaper, not just because the cost of the paper was going down but the education level of ‘commoners’ was also increasing.

Print media

Stories printed in the newspaper that helped people escape the difficulties of daily life. Ever heard of Penny Dreadfuls? These were cheaply printed, illustrated, pop-fiction stories enjoyed by the working class of the Victorian era.

Since so many people were reading the newspaper, savvy businessmen were taking advantage of this low-cost medium. In 1704, the first newspaper advertisement in the United States was for an estate outside of Boston. In 1729, one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, started producing his newspaper the Pennsylvania Gazette. In his newspaper, he had a section for new advertisements. Benjamin Franklin was also involved in the production of the first magazine carrying advertisements in the United States.

Newspapers were one of the original mass marketing and advertising programs. Businesses caught on among the common man because of the plethora of newspaper options that existed in the late 1880’s. According to census records, there were 11,314 different newspapers in the United States alone during that period!

The magazine industry followed much of the same path as newspapers. After all, a magazine could not have existed without the existence of the printing press. Some early newspapers were called magazines. People were advertising in these as well. Like the newspaper, the advertisers would have to carefully select the medium that the wanted to advertise in.

The future of traditional media

Every layman is asking this question: If the above forms of traditional media are dying, is traditional marketing also going the way of the Dodo?

People erroneously assume that all forms of traditional media are dying, and if that is happening, the traditional advertising formats are also dying. While it is true that physical newspapers are slowly tapering down in number, not all are.

Some newspapers have survived the passage of time, and have only become stronger thanks to the internet.These newspaper providers have leveraged internet communication with their printed newspaper to draw larger numbers of people to their digital portal. This allows the publishing house to reach multiple markets at one time. They could also have more advertisements per leaflet. Printed articles can be expensive, but it can make a help increase your revenue and engagement as a result of its tangible nature.

print media advertising

For example, a full page black-and-white advertisement in the Wall Street Journal(WSJ) can cost over $150,000! This is a rough rate for a full thirty days, but such steep rates are not unusual for such a large and well-connected readership base. The Wall Street Journal might have discounts available to these advertisers and be able to give them a discounted rate on their online advertising platform to create a win-win situation for businesses with limited budgets looking for cheaper options to reach the same readership that follows WSJ off line as well as online. The above is just an estimate – do your homework before booking any newspaper or magazine advertising. Business owners and marketing managers should contact their local newspaper companies to see how much they charge for advertising.Better yet, for one-stop-shop access to multiple newspapers and print media advertising, book through well-connected media distribution websites like www.gainbuzz.com for quality advertising options!

Final thoughts

While no one can say what the future will hold for traditional media, one can design planned strategies to optimize their marketing efforts no matter when changes happen in the marketing biosphere and in traditional media. Traditional advertising and marketing may seem to be declining, but there are still many people that prefer to read a traditional magazine or newspaper over reading a newspaper on their computer, phone, or tablet. The tangibility of print media – the sound of the rustling pages, the feel of the crinkling pages turning, the smell of a newspaper – is still something that advertisers can cash in upon. Taking advantage of these psychological cues is exactly what “good” advertising is about!

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