Navigating Traditional Media Through a Digital Lens


The past year brought significant changes to media consumption habits, placing digital media firmly in the lead. What does this mean for traditional media? Does it still have a place in the media mix?

Television is Seeing the Greatest Change

Cord-cutting has continued to rise at the expense of traditional TV. Although this trend is not new, the adoption of Connected TV (CTV) and other Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming spiked in 2020 as consumers were spending more time at home. Consumers are breaking up with their traditional cable subscriptions at higher rates than ever before as these streaming TV options offer them their favorite programming whenever and wherever they prefer to stream it and at an affordable cost.

CTV Infographic

Nielsen reports that 76 percent of U.S. homes have a least one connected device. Over the last year, minutes spent watching streamed TV content (not including paid services, such as Netflix and Hulu) grew by 57%. That said, the majority of TV viewing is still traditional. A 2021 Growth from Knowledge (GfK) report finds that more than five hours per day are spent with broadcast TV compared with just one hour spent with streaming TV with ads.

Traditional TV has found security with the strength of local news and the ability to reach older audiences, but those advantages are eroding away with the enhanced measurability, targetability and and cost-effectiveness of non-skippable ads offered by streaming TV.

Radio Remains Resilient

After a slight dip in March 2020, radio listening has remained fairly steady. According to Nielsen's November 2020 Audience Report, radio reaches 89 percent of people on a weekly basis, higher than any other media platform. What’s new is increased content available through online streaming. And, with newer types of delivery platforms such as smart speakers and voice-activated assistants, radio has never been more accessible.

Radio Infographic

In early 2020, 55 percent of listening was on a non-digital device. During the second quarter of 2020, as people spent less time in their cars during stay-at-home orders, that number decreased to 47 percent, a trend that persists today.

Out-Of-Home’s (OOH) Digital Transformation

Digital is remaking the outdoor industry. Its growth is being powered by technology along with the expansion of new screens in new environments. Prior to the pandemic, OOH advertising sales had grown for nine straight years, but in 2020, digital out-of-home (DOOH) was projected to comprise 1/3 of total OOH spending (eMarketer).

DOOH is defined by digital screens with creative being swapped out remotely via Bluetooth beacons. It is more personalized, engaging and measurable because messages can be tailored based on demographic profiles affixed to a particular location. Experiences can be enhanced by connecting with a consumer’s mobile phone or audio. Retargeting, optimization and attribution are now all doable. Our digital-centric society wants interactive experiences and DOOH can provide that.

Print Continues to See Tough Times

Year-over-year, circulation and ad revenue declines continue. While consumers are becoming more accustomed to subscriber-supported content, many are choosing TV subscriptions over newspapers or magazines.

Newspapers, in particular, are struggling as online news consumption shifts to social media, apps and podcasts. Traffic to digital news sites, however, has remained relatively unchanged and digital news subscriptions have increased slightly. Magazines are staying relevant by using data to find the right balance between print and digital, and their digital presences have become more integral to their brand.

While the landscape is changing, traditional print will always have the advantage of offering content in a tangible way. Readers are focused on what they are reading thus it holds their attention longer. It sits around longer and offers an escape from consumers’ screens.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Distinction between our digital and physical worlds is blurring. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) allow for more strategic marketing decisions. With the growing number of platforms and devices calling for consumer attention, cross-platform advertising is becoming even more important.

The exciting part is that there are more advertising options than ever before as traditional media continues to morph into digital and digital becomes more technically advanced.

How do you narrow down those media options? What will make your client's media campaign successful? First, lay the groundwork by developing a sound strategic media plan. What action do you want your target to take and how will you measure success? Find out what's important to the target audience, how they spend their time, and when and where are they are most open to receiving your message. How can you make the biggest impact with the budget you have? Are there creative considerations? Second, be knowledgeable about all the available media options. Be willing to learn. Consistently read, attend webinars and self teach via online platforms to stay up-to-date. The media mix becomes much more apparent when putting these two steps together.

Don't know all the upfront questions to ask? Too much to learn and keep track of? No worries! That's where we come in as that's what our media team focuses on at S/B Strategic Marketing.

Laura Krogstad
Media Director