Print is Prestige - But Does Online Outperform?

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Sometimes volunteer writers think their article is considered less valuable if it’s published online instead of in the association’s print publication. But here are some solid reasons why online articles get more mileage.

By Marsha Friedman

There's just something about holding the printed word in your hands that continues to resonate with people. It has actual texture. It has actual weight. It just seems more substantial, so surely it must be. Hey, I understand. I'm something of an ink-on-paper kind of person myself. I can't even imagine starting my day without my coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other.

Because print has a tangible worth, sometimes your association's contributing authors don't want their article only published online if it's not going to appear in print, too. However, our reverence for print shouldn't color our attitudes about just how valuable online articles can be.
Let me share a few reasons why online coverage has more heft than your volunteer writers might realize:

  • Staying power. An article on the printed page is valuable today, but it's gone tomorrow. Most people toss magazines and newspapers in the recycling bin. You can clip the article out and have it framed, prominently displaying it in your office. And there's nothing wrong with that. I do it, too, and there certainly is value to a "wall of fame" that members see when they drop by. But that's a limited audience.

An online article, on the other hand, could still be floating around on the Internet weeks, months, or even years later, easily accessible to anyone. Now, granted, it probably won't be there forever. It's a good idea to keep a screen grab of any online article that you write or that features you or your members.

  • Ease of sharing. When your members are featured in or author an online article, sharing it with others is a snap. They can email it with a link or put a link on their website, too. Perhaps more importantly, both the association and the author can share the article on social media. That not only promotes your organization and the author, but also promotes your association's online publication.
  • Potential reach. The traditional newspaper tossed on your driveway each morning or the magazine that arrives in your mail is appealing, but these days, a large chunk of the population goes online for news and information. Just look at a couple of major newspapers and how their print circulation numbers compare to the online reach. The venerable New York Times has a daily print circulation of 2.2 million, but a whopping 63 million people visit theTimes' website each month. USA Today has a daily print circulation of 3.2 million. That number pales in comparison to the 26.2 million people who visit the newspaper's online version each month. You can find similar numbers for many publications across the country.

Even though association audiences may still be catching up in this respect, in most publications, the online visitors almost always will outnumber those who read the print alternative.

  • The serendipity of online searches. In addition to reaching people actively seeking out specific publications online, digital articles could end up on the screens of people who are simply searching for information on a particular topic - and this leads them to your association.
  • The sway of authority sites. If you're lucky enough to be featured, along with your website, on what Google calls an authority site, your website will get a big boost when people do Google searches. Authority sites are the high-quality sites that Google trusts, including many news websites. If you're quoted in USA Today, for example, and the article includes your website, a backlink to the USA Today site is created. That backlink provides incredible value to your SEO effort and will influence your website's page ranking.

None of this is to belittle the power of traditional print. But next time a volunteer writer grumbles about their article appearing online and not in print, you can point out that online coverage is equally powerful.

Marsha Friedman is the founder of pay-for-performance public relations firm EMS Incorporated.

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