Famous Last Words: Making Sense Out of New Media
As I write this, the media are alive with the great tragedy of the 7.0 earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti. With shaky electricity and phone service in that beleaguered nation, communications are problematical.
In the early days of this country, it took months for world news to get here by ship and weeks for national news to reach far-flung communities. People got their information by gathering in the square to hear the town crier. Then came telegraphy—Morse code over wires—and later wireless telegraphy that became widespread at the turn of the previous century. Newspapers soon replaced the town crier.
In the old, old days when catastrophe struck, emergency communications needs were filled by ham radio operators—tireless men and women schooled in Morse code and voice transmission who stayed on solitary duty 24/7 so they could reliably receive details of a story and forward them on. For example, news of the Titanic sinking went around the world via Morse code on wireless telegraphy.
When radio station KDKA Pittsburgh went on the air in 1920, it soon spawned the notion that radio would replace newspapers. It did not. The advent of television spurred fears that radio would be replaced. It was not. For example, you cannot watch television or read a newspaper while driving a car or sharing a double bed with someone trying to sleep.
On Dec. 15, 2006, the Federal Communications Commission decreed that the Morse code requirement for all amateur radio license classes be dropped. It was the first time in modern history that old media had been replaced—in fact trashed.
With the dawn of the 21st century, new media are edging out old media at a dizzying rate:
- The Internet—where most information is free—is taking a terrible toll on newspapers. Why buy the cow when the milk is free?
- Cell phones enable individuals to snap photographs and send them anywhere along with commentary—either voice or text. News dissemination is in the hands of every person.
- In the Haitian crisis, ham radio operators have been replaced by social networking Web sites and mobile satellite voice and TV transmission setups powered by batteries or portable generators.
- At present, some 1.7 billion people around the world have Internet access—close to 26 percent of the world population.
How Do Marketers Make Sense of New Media?
With billions of e-mail addresses and nearly 250 million Web sites worldwide—plus traditional broadcast and print venues—media placement has become a horrific challenge.
When I cut my teeth in this business, the benchmark average response for direct mail was 2 percent and for space ads, one order per thousand. Today e-mail is so cheap that marketers can make money on one, two or three orders per 100,000.
What are the marketing rules for the Internet age? If I were to posit one rule—or secret—from 25 years of collecting and analyzing junk mail, it is this:
All the communications techniques invented and tested by the great junk mail marketers of the 19th and 20th centuries—lists, offer, content and design—are absolutely relevant to e-commerce in the 21st century.
Variations of thought on this dictum include:
- There are two rules. Rule No. 1: Test everything. Rule No. 2: See Rule No. 1.
- Testing is cheap.
- Unlike traditional media, Internet test results can be charted and evaluated within seconds. Changes can be made within minutes. You can have a control within an hour.
- That control should work not only online, but also in direct mail, space and broadcast.
- Spend time—a lot of it—on the subject line.
- As with direct mail, if your e-mail effort is not opened you lose the order.
- The lion's share of purchase decisions is based on emotion.
- You are a mouse click away from oblivion.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of the e-mail newsletter, Denny Hatch's Business Common Sense. Visit him at www.businesscommonsense.com or www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.