Since 2005, we have opened our centre to the local community who are interested in meditation. While accessible by car and by public transit, the centre is situated in a business/industrial complex on the edge of a residential community. There is no question that people are interested in exploring meditation. How do you let people know that such a venue exists?
In the past, we have tried placing an ad on various places. We have tried the local community papers (e.g., Scarborough Mirror), free papers (e.g., Now, Metro), and more expensive, the Life section of Toronto Star. Now that people read the physical newspaper less and less, we opted to try Google Ads and Facebook Ads, post event news on sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji. We also tried posting posters at bus stops and community notice boards.
Of all the things we have tried, we had the highest turnouts through the 1”x1” ads on Toronto Star in the mid- to late-2000s. Two weekends is enough to generate a roomful of participants. We have not gotten as much turnouts since. Is it that people have lost interest? I do not believe so. From time to time, an unexpected conversational turn would lead to a topic on what can alleviate stress.
Stress does not arise out of thin air. There are surface issues and there are deep-seated issues. We can discuss what can be done to the leaky roof. We can try to problem-solve the high price of gas. We can even psychoanalyze an issue to death. Regardless the approach, one can query a search engine and there would be 84,000 many takes on the problem.
Speaking on search, there is a phenomenon well-known to the publishing world called “below the fold.” The fold comes from the fact that the physical newspaper is folded twice, once to create left and right folds, once more to create top and bottom folds. (This does not apply to the free papers such as Now and 24, which have only the book-form fold.) The expression refers to people only make cursory glances of the headlines and do not dig deeper into the story “below the fold.” What a good editor does is to guide their writers to write in two ways, keep the story short and sweet, or leave enough cliffhangers to entice the reader to explore deeper into the back pages of a paper or a magazine.
And my suspicion is that the below-the-fold phenomenon may be playing a part in the lower recent turnouts. This is not an attribution of blame on the failure of advertising. After all, good editorial practices apply everywhere. It is the intent (or the lack thereof) that makes the difference. I will explain next time. (The devil is in the details.)