For all the adoration of social media, traditional media still matters. Two eMarketer studies published this year provide insight as to why – and PR pros should take note.

First, eMarketer found that Canadians preferred traditional media sources such as TV, radio and newspapers, as the preferred source of information when researching purchase decisions. A second study, focused on the United States, found a similar pattern with a twist:  consumers trusted traditional media more, but once they decided to make a purchase, they turned to the web to select a brand.

While the online migration from print to digital formats has been rough for traditional media – the state of the media landscape does appear to be stabilizing – and research suggests it still has considerable influence.  For example, of the most read magazines in America, likely candidates remain at the top:

  • Parade Magazine the Sunday paper insert yields a circulation of 33 million readers.
  • USA Weekend, the publication for travelers on Saturdays and Sundays still nets more than 22 million readers.
  • AARP Magazine, which nearly everyone over the age 55 in America will receive one day, has a circulation of 22 million.

My contention from a PR perspective is, more often than not, the mainstream media drives social media. My peers often respond that social media can drive traditional media as well – and there’s no doubt that is true.  The infamous Old Spice campaign is a clear example.

Old Spice took a traditional advertisement, turned it into a very creative social media program, which earned so much attention, the traditional media could not help but notice.  It’s worth noting that the additional traditional media coverage in turn, drove more attention across social media.  In any case, Old Spice is a prefect case for integrated marketing, combining traditional and digital mediums effectively.  And yes, the Old Spice campaign drove sales.

The challenge is that social media must cross a certain threshold before traditional media sees it as newsworthy.  Sometimes this can be a well-timed (or mistimed) tweet, but usually, it requires far more effort. Case in point: Traditional media drove Twitter’s growth.

Am I arguing that social media isn’t important?  Of course not.  It can be very effective for most companies when properly adopted for the right community.  I believe businesses, indeed most organizations, need both – and they need to tie them together – but let’s not forget that traditional media still matters.