Sweet! Digital Media is Free!

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Apparently, digital is free! Okay, while P&G’s CEO, Robert McDonald, doesn’t actually say anything as naive as ‘digital media is free’, the author of a recent article I read does.

My guess is what he means is that some forms of digital media such as Facebook profiles and Twitter have no cost from the publisher. However there are many forms of digital media that certainly do have a cost attached to them: banner ads, pay per click advertising, co-registration, etc. So to make a blanket statement that digital media is free makes no sense at all.

However, this article did offer two points of interest

Proctor and Gamble, the world’s largest marketer with a $10bn annual marketing budget, are cutting back their marketing forces and budgets and shifting resources towards digital media. This shows the recognition from one of the big boys as to how cost efficient digital marketing is.

In many circumstances, digital media is actually free.

In the IT industry they use the term Total Cost of Ownership. This is often used in relation to free, open source software such as the operating system, Linux. It is an important concept that can be applied here as it relates to the fact that, although the software is free, the implementation and maintenance of it certainly is not.  The same applies with ‘free’ media online. While anyone can set up a free Facebook profile there are costs of implementation attached to this. For example: strategy formation such as how this media will tie in with other marcomms, graphic design for the profile page, analytics and reporting.

Social media may not have insertion fees but it does have ‘labour’ costs. Who do you think is going to update your Facebook profile? Even if you use existing staff it still takes a proportion of their day, which costs money.

Anyway, maybe starting an article with the headline “It’s Free To Advertise On Facebook” wasn’t the best decision – especially when Facebook has a very ‘un-free’ (that’s paid to those of you not in the industry) pay-per-click advertising system that is keeping their little business in the black. Sorry to get your hopes up, digital media isn’t quite free after all.