hammerThe last time paid newspaper circulation in the United States was at its current level, a new house was selling for $4,600, a gallon of gas was 15 cents and the average annual wage was $2,400.  Oppenheimer’s Little Boy and Fat Man were about to bring World War II to an end. Clearly a lot has changed in the past sixty-four years.

Unfortunately, furniture marketing is stuck in this mid-20th century fantasy land. Print media is still the dominant media choice for family-owned and family-run furniture companies. According to the 2009 ABTV industry watch report, the Top 25 sources experienced an average drop in sales of 10.4% last year.

According to this same report, “Marketing holds the hope for revival.” This is a scary proposition, because as the report points out, “In furniture companies, of course, marketing has traditionally been weak.” It goes on to say, “Even dire circumstances have not induced furniture companies to try to learn from other consumer goods sectors” (page 15).

Marketing in today’s environment is confusing and difficult. Retailers and suppliers alike are trying to find enough consumer money to keep the lights on. Marketing professionals are paddling beyond control to learn and implement emerging media in a way that benefits their clients.  At the same time, even the studies are confusing and conflicting. An example is a recent NAA (Newspaper Association of America) report stating these glowing claims:

  1. First quarter traffic to newspaper Web sites was reported as 73.3 million unique visitors (average per month) by Nielsen.
  2. That’s 43.6 percent of all U. S. internet users, up 10.5 percent versus the same time last year.
  3. Page views grew from 3.1 billion per month in last year’s first quarter, to 3.5 billion in 2009.
  4. NAA CEO John Sturm suggests these point to “digital success.”

But if we look at each of these “glowing” results in some context clearly the picture is not so rosy! Consider this information about the other side of the statistics:

  1. The top three news destinations on the Web (MSNBC, CNN and Yahoo!News) each drew more than half the unique visitors of the entire newspaper industry in March. Year-over-year, MSNBC grew 9 percent, CNN 4 percent, and Yahoo!News 16 percent.
  2. Yahoo! News alone gained 5.2 million unique visitors in March, or nearly 70 percent of the gain of the entire newspaper industry.
  3. Newspaper page views at 3.5 billion per month are less than one percent of total U.S. page views (386 billion in February).
  4. Time spent on newspaper sites in February, 43 minutes, 9 seconds per month per NAA/Nielsen, compares with total time online of 61 hours, 11 minutes and 56 seconds per U.S. person.  This means newspaper sites get the attention of the U.S. online audience just 1.2 percent of the time.
  5. The total U.S. online audience (what Nielsen calls the “active digital media universe”) in February was 167 million individuals.  As NAA does note, 43.6 percent of that audience visited a newspaper web site, but given that newspaper site traffic works out to only about 1.6 page views per reader per day, many of the newspaper site unique viewers are clearly represent one-time-only traffic.

This information is easily found with only a small amount of time and research. As the leader of your privately owned and mostly family run businesses, why there is NOT audible dull noise leading to an ear drum busting roar of insistence on getting best advice for every area of your media strategy?

The conclusion of the ABTV report and my point are exactly the same: “The furniture industry needs to reject the old formulas that no longer get results, to replace the old dogmas that have lost their meaning, to refuse to settle for mediocrity, and to insist on world-class performance. It’s the only way to survive.”