Traditional Media vs. Digital Media in Marketing

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 11, 2021

With many different advertising methods available, companies have numerous options for how and where to spend their marketing budgets. In the past, many businesses advertised solely through traditional media, but recently, digital media advertising has increased substantially, presenting many attractive marketing benefits for companies. While often considered to be in competition with each other, traditional and digital media can instead work together to increase a company's overall reach and engagement.

In this article, we define traditional and digital media, provide some examples of each and discuss why both types of advertising can help businesses connect with their target audiences.

Related: 8 Types of Marketing Campaigns To Boost Business

What is traditional media?

Traditional media includes all outlets that existed before the internet, such as newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and billboards. Before online advertising, companies typically allocated most of their marketing budgets to traditional media with the goal to increase their brand awareness and attract new customers. Many businesses continue to rely on traditional media for their marketing and advertising campaigns, which can be very effective if their target consumers regularly engage with these forms of media.

Related: Types of Media: Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

Types of traditional media

Here are some common types of traditional media:

Newspapers and magazines

While subscription rates have significantly declined for print media over the last decade, these outlets still provide advertising benefits for companies. Readers of these publications often view them as extremely credible, and advertising there can help to build trust and legitimacy in a brand. Although ads in print media can have a shorter exposure time with audiences, readers generally are more engaged while consuming this type of media. When considering whether to advertise through print media, it can be helpful to ask for readership and circulation figures to determine whether the audience fits your company's target demographic.

TV

Television and how it's consumed has changed drastically since the introduction of the internet. Viewers can now watch TV in real time over broadcast channels, in a delayed manner with DVRs or on different devices through video streaming. Most people still watch television in their homes, where they're more likely to look up a brand or product if an advertisement influences them to do so.

Costs for TV advertisements vary widely, so companies with smaller budgets might consider advertising on a specialized channel, such as a cooking or sports network, that's more likely to resonate with their target audience.

Radio

As one of the most cost-effective types of traditional media, radio can be an excellent way for companies to reach a wide group of people. Consumers of radio may choose to listen to their favorite stations at various points throughout their day, including while they're driving, working or relaxing at home. Radio ads can increase listeners' awareness of a brand. These types of ads should be concise and creative in order for listeners to remember the messaging even after they've turned off the station. It's also relatively inexpensive to produce a radio ad as opposed to an ad for television or print publications.

Billboards

Billboards can be a powerful advertising choice, particularly for companies interested in advertising their services or products within a specific geographic location. The effectiveness of billboard advertising depends largely on its location. A creative advertisement on a billboard in a well-placed location can yield a desirable return on investment. Billboard advertising can also expand a company's brand awareness because of the number of people who will drive by it.

What is digital media?

While traditional media refers to outlets that existed before the internet, digital media includes any online platform, including email, social media, websites and video streaming. Advertising through digital media, also known as new media, can be an attractive option for companies with smaller advertising budgets because these strategies tend to be more cost-effective. With the use of advanced data analytics, digital media allows companies to target specific consumer demographics.

Related: 8 Types of Digital Advertising: Definitions and Benefits

Types of digital media

Here are some common types of digital media:

Email

Email marketing can be a practical marketing choice because companies can send their messaging directly to a potential customer's inbox. With the increased use of smartphones, many people now check their email multiple times a day. Email marketing can range in price based on the technology and volume of emails, but this type of marketing can have a high return on investment, particularly in website growth and lead conversion. It's useful for businesses to build their email databases to reach the greatest number of people and keep track of click-through and unsubscribe rates to determine the appropriate number of emails to send out to their subscribers.

Social media

The number of people using social media continues to increase significantly, making it an effective place to implement marketing techniques. On social media, companies have the chance to take part in direct conversations with their followers. Organic content, which includes any written, graphic or video post made on social media without paid advertising, has the potential to reach a significant number of people. Companies can also use paid advertising to target audiences based on a range of characteristics, such as a person's location, gender, interests or even job title.

While social media can be a valid marketing choice, it takes time and effort for companies to build a following, and it's important to maintain an active presence to keep pages up-to-date and informative.

Website

A website allows companies to display their content to consumers, and when paired with an effective SEO strategy, a website also has the potential to reach a wider audience through search functions. SEO, which stands for "search engine optimization," helps companies improve their website rankings within an online search engine. SEO strategies lead to more clicks and views on a company's website, which can generate leads and grow revenue.

There are several elements to SEO, including keywords, metadata and links. The correct keywords and metadata will increase a website's chances of appearing at the top of applicable searches, while linking lends credibility to a website. Much like social media, a website requires continued maintenance and new content to keep it relevant.

Related: Guide: What Is SEO?

Video streaming

Video ads can help companies tell a story to their audiences, capturing images that can help sell a product by showing audiences why they should purchase it. Unlike TV advertising, digital video ads give companies the option to target their videos to specific demographics rather than a broad audience. For businesses that choose to run TV commercials, it's often simple to put these videos online as well to allow for the greatest possible reach.

Traditional media vs. digital media

Although traditional and digital media have many differences, it can be beneficial for companies to use both methods of advertising to reach their target audiences. Most people choose to consume various types of media throughout their day, which makes it important for a company to diversify its methods of advertising. By spreading a company's marketing dollars over various media, it can help organizations expand their overall reach.

While digital advertising certainly is growing at a more substantial rate, traditional media still has the ability to reach many people at once. These traditional outlets often have credibility within a community, which can be beneficial for some businesses. Advertising on digital media, however, allows a company to assess campaign data in real-time and make necessary changes immediately. This type of advertising also allows for direct communication with an audience, which can lead to higher levels of engagement and brand awareness. A thorough analysis of consumer behavior and trends can help a company decide exactly which channels to include in its marketing efforts.

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