It is not a big secret that newspapers have lost much of their advertising over the past decade or so. Observers point to the loss of classified business such as recruitment and auto advertising and one of the major factors total ad revenue has been falling in the industry.
But newspapers have been losing the advertising out of many of its most powerful categories for years now, beginning well before the Internet began to syphon off the business. Real estate brokers, for instance, began producing their own tabloid magazines for homebuyers in the nineties; auto traders and apartment rental publications appeared in gas stations, convenience and grocery stores long before the advent of Google and Craigslist. If there is one thing newspaper executives have proven adept at, it is ignoring threats from competitors.
(Disclosure: I worked in both sales and management in the classified advertising and national and retail food advertising departments at Hearst, Copley and other other newspaper chains.)
But that is not to lessen the impact of the Internet, and now mobile and tablet platforms. Marketers have been trying to reach customers directly for years by buying subscriber lists and building their own databases. To do this, without the help of media outlets, brands started building their own websites, their own email capabilities, their own in-store publications. That they would now turn to mobile apps is a natural.
Safeway, the second largest grocer in the U.S. behind Kroger, has had its own mobile apps since early last year. Its brands, such as Dominick's, Vons, Randalls, Pavilions, and Tom Thumb, also have mobile apps identical to the Safeway branded app.
Those mobile apps were updated today. The biggest new features users will notice is that the apps are now supporting the iPhone 5's larger display. But the apps also build on the apps's main purpose, which is to drive offers to customers, help them compile shopping lists, and make the grocery chains more in control of their customer relations.
Newspapers won't be the only publishers effected by the growth in mobile apps and the web. Direct and marriage mailers, too, are seeing their ad space decline and retailers take on more of the marketing burden themselves.