Every PR person knows that all client executives wants to see their name in the paper. But is that really going to deliver the results these clients seek in terms of web traffic, brand recall, revenues, etc.? The juries still out.

PR industry veteran Peter Himler shared a post recently by Paul Gillin with the bodacious title Why Online Matters More Than Print.

In it, Mr. Gillin extols the superior buzzmaking virtues of online media versus print (and broadcast), which builds on the theme of his other more provocative blog "Newspaper Death Watch."

In his post, Gillin observes the tangible effects of three different media mentions of his blog (in BuzzMachine, The New Yorker and The Economist). Both BuzzMachine and The Economist mentions appeared online, while The New Yorker ran in the magazine only.

"Prior to the reference in BuzzMachine, the site was getting about 500 unique visitors per day. After Jeff Jarvis linked to one of my year-end roundup articles, that average jumped by about 200 visitors a day. It jumped again after the mention in the Economist... However, a prominent reference in the New Yorker...had no discernible impact. Why? Because The New Yorker reference was the only one that didn’t include a hyperlink. ...In both the BuzzMachine and Economist cases, a surge of inbound links from other bloggers followed the mentions on their websites. This improved my Google search performance and Technorati authority rankings. Subscriptions to my RSS feed shot up by about 5% in each of the days following the links’ appearance."

Now we can debate the qualitative differences of each mention, let alone the intangible prestige of The New Yorker, but Mr. Gillin weighed the publicity's value on quantifiable metrics, e.g., site visitors, Technorati rankings, etc.

Without question media relations is still about garnering good editorial coverage, whether that be online, print or broadcast. What’s changed is that our success may finally be accurately measured by the action the publicity spurs, not by the coverage itself.

Mr. Gillin concludes: "Not long ago, online publishers were frequently called upon to defend the value of a mention on their properties. Public relations professionals told me that Web coverage was nice, but their clients really valued a mention in a prominent print publication. I would submit that this scenario has now been reversed. With companies increasingly using the Web for promotion, lead generation, sales and customer support, a link from a prominent website is of far greater value than a print article in a prominent print or broadcast outlet. And as a younger generation of business and consumer readers gathers more of its information online, that value will only accelerate."

What does this all mean for the PR industry, with its fancy clip books as the client deliverable? It means we should continue to deliver on our promise of using media relations to build brand awareness, drive revenue, increase web traffic, etc. The difference now is we have more ability to measure our success and our clients will soon realize the impact digital media relations has on their bottom line.