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Internet, Newspapers Most-Effective Ways to Reach Small-Business Customers

man-reading-newspaper-11121402 Credit: Dreamstime.com

If you're trying to figure out how to spend your advertising budget in 2012, the answer is a little complicated. New media – the Internet – and old media – newspapers – take the top two spots in terms of effectiveness  for small-business and restaurant advertising.

That's the finding of new research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which determined that the Internet and newspapers beat out local television and local radio among those looking for information about small businesses.

A majority of the respondents, 55 percent, admitted to researching local restaurants. The study found that of this 55 percent:

  • 51 percent got information from the Internet
  • 31 percent got information from newspapers
  • 23 percent relied on word of mouth
  • 8 percent got information from local television

A greater percentage of respondents, 60 percent, looked for information about other small businesses not including restaurants.  According to the study:

  • 47 percent got information from the Internet
  • 30 percent got information from newspapers
  • 22 percent relied on word of mouth
  • 8 percent got information from local television
  • 5 percent got information from local radio stations

Search engines were the driving force behind the popularity of the Internet, representing 38 percent of people's searches for restaurants and 36 percent of people's searches for other small businesses. Social media, however, was not as influential in the popularity of the Internet, representing only 3 percent of potential traffic to restaurants and 1 percent of potential traffic to other small businesses. Newspapers were most popular among those over age 40, while word of mouth got a boost in rural areas where people did not rely heavily on the Internet.

The findings have pretty big implications for small businesses.

"In a pretty short time, the Internet, particularly search engines, have come to be crucial sources of local information for communities," Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, told BusinessNewsDaily. "This is a big change in the local information ecosystem and I'm sure that there are lots of entrepreneurs and small business owners that are trying to adjust to the new realities that this creates in their lives. There are so many more ways people are getting information that it is probably disorienting particularly for people who have been in the local business scene for many years."

"If you are a local business owner scanning this stuff and you are thinking about your local advertising mix or your presence on certain platforms, looking at this information is something that makes a lot of sense," said Rainie. "Particularly if you are looking for new audiences and trying to expand your client or customer base, there are insights in this data about who is using what."

The information used in this study is the result of 2,251 telephone interviews conducted from Jan. 12 to Jan. 25, 2011, amongst respondents over the age of 18. The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a division of the Pew Research Center, a self-described "nonpartisan, nonprofit 'fact tank' that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world."