Every once in a while, someone asks me what I plan to do now that “newspapers are dead.”

But if print is dead, why are so many national companies still sending me their thick, slick, full-color catalogs?”

Connie and I usually get at least two or three catalogs every day. We’ve received catalogs this past month from L.L. Bean, J. Jill, Coldwater Creek, Nordstrom, Harry & David, Front Gate, Hammacher Schlemmer, Kansas City Steak Company, The Vermont Country Store, Pier 1, Artful House, Wine Enthusiasts, Crate & Barrel, Talbots, Pottery Barn, Chico’s and more. Many of the firms are ones we’ve never shopped.

We even got a catalog from American Girl, the doll company. We haven’t bought an American Girl doll or the company’s doll clothing since our granddaughters were in grade school. Zoey, the oldest, is a mature woman today working in Chicago and Katie, her cousin, is a sophomore at Iowa State University.

I’ve wondered how Katie would react if I mailed her the American Girl catalog at her sorority house and suggested she pick out which one she’d like for Christmas. It has been at least seven years since we’ve been a customer and we’re still getting American Girl doll catalogs.

Many of the catalogs are the size of popular women’s magazines featuring nothing but advertising. From experience I would guess each one costs the company at least a dollar, often much more, to cover the design, printing and postage.

Clothing, food and home decor firms are not the only ones pitching their products and services with catalogs. Year around, nothing exceeds the number of direct-mail cards, letters and catalogs Connie and I get from various cruise lines.

We took a Viking River Cruise on the Danube at least four years ago. Ever since that time we seem to get at least one printed piece from Viking cruises each day. Sometimes we get two or three a single day. Usually one is a thick catalog promoting the various river cruises and a second one pushing the firm’s new, small ship ocean cruises. Some days the catalogs are accompanied by an oversized postcard promoting a limited time deal.

Connie and I are convinced the Viking Company has reinvested all the money we spent with them for that one cruise attempting us get us to do it again.

Evidently the mailing companies share or sell each other their prospect mailing list. Along with Viking we also get promotional mailings from a dozen cruise lines even though we have booked cruises on only a limited few.

So, and I admit I am prejudiced, what does this tell me? It tells me print advertising is still an effective way to reach the most-desired, best-qualified buyer.

All the above firms also blast us with e-mail and Facebook advertising. Like many local merchants, these national giants are doing digital advertising at a significant savings compared to print advertising.

National marketers have huge buyer research firms and heavily monitored result-to-spending budgets. They wouldn’t be sending all that printed advertising if it wasn’t getting significant results.

But here is the local difference. What those national catalog firms don’t have is the easy reach of the local paper offering inexpensive, dependable, full-color print advertising. Since they can’t enjoy the ease and savings offered by a local print publication, they have to turn to the more expensive direct mail.

Today’s leading businesses are depending on a wide variety of media: radio, Facebook, e-mail, websites, cable TV and direct mail as well as select local newspapers and shoppers.

But the leading firms never overlook the power of print. Local newspapers and shoppers can present a powerful message that features a combination of beautiful photographs or illustrations, original, highly-crafted copy and marvelous process color.

Locally published papers remain in a home for a full week or more. They are available to be read and reread any time and can be referred to as often the reader desires.

But most of all, local papers are a well-edited, creatively designed, credible and trusted information source. In the minds of the readers, that credibility often extends to cover the advertising, too.


Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder/publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and may be reached at pww@iowainformation.com.