Should You Run A Newspaper Ad?


What's black and white and read all over? The answer is, of course, the newspaper.

But when was the last time you really read all over the newspaper? And for how many people is the paper still a part of their day?

The answers to these questions, I think, aren’t black and white, but there are a few ways to identify whether print is still a good buy for your business’ marketing mix.

Newspaper advertising isn’t all black and white

Ask almost anyone on the street about the state of newspapers, and they will probably say something along the lines of “It’s not doing too well” or even “Newspapers are dead.” This conventional wisdom has been backed up somewhat by the stories we see about newspaper journalism’s continued struggle to make a profit, shrinking newsroomspapers shutting their doors after decades (and in some cases, centuries, of business), and the rise of the internet.

That sounds pretty scary if you are thinking about running a newspaper ad. In fact, you may be tempted to stop reading here! But hold on, because it’s not all bad news for newspaper advertisers.

In fact, once you read past the headlines, there are some convincing facts that point in the direction of newspaper advertising, like this one from Nielson, which says that “respondents rate newspapers (in print and on the internet) as the most effective advertising source among various media” and this one, which says that “of all media, newspaper readers are the most highly engaged with the content and advertising newspaper readers are highly engaged."

Small business owners should take note of this survey, too: "when looking at advertising effectiveness directly, with such metrics as “usually notice ads”, “likely to purchase” or “best place for Black Friday shopping,” print newspapers came in at 41 percent, above radio’s 34 percent and the Internet or TV/TV online, which had 33 percent and 32 percent, respectively.”

Here's more:

  • 86 % of consumers used media to help plan shopping or make purchasing decisions in the past 7 days.

  • Newspapers ranked first as a source by 59% of adults, followed by in store displays, direct mail, television, magazines, e-mail, radio and search.

  • 80% of newspaper readers report looking at advertising when reading the paper.

  • 41% of adults report that newspapers are the media most used to check out ads; more than all electronic media combined (internet, television, catalogs, magazines and radio). Shoppers rate newspapers first of all media for: Bringing sales to attention; Most valuable for planning shopping; Most believable and trust worthy; Look forward to this type of ad; Prefer for receiving advertising information.

  • 82% of readers used a preprinted insert in the past 30 days. On average, adults keep inserts 4.4 days. Uses include 59% to compare prices, 55% to compare one circular to another, 52% saved until visiting the store, 43% showed it to a spouse, friend or family member, 43% to make an unplanned purchase, 42% took it to the store with them.

  • Even if they don’t read the newspaper, consumers want to know what’s inside. 36% of adults who said they had not read a newspaper in the past week, used a newspaper during that same week to check sales in local stores (19% ), clip a coupon (15%), and check movie listings (10%).

I think Adam Burnham sums up the data about advertising in newspapers well (emphasis mine):

"Readers of newspapers pay for the advertising. I apologise to all of my content peers, but we charge a premium price for the Sunday edition because it is filled with advertising. And people pay that premium price so they can see everything that is on sale in the market. This is a developed behaviour that is not going anywhere.  So when I say newspapers have a future, I can think of no stronger argument than this. And if you disagree, ask some of the big box retailers that tried moving away from Sunday inserts. That move didn’t last long."

So, should you run a newspaper ad?

Now that you’ve seen the pros and cons of running a newspaper ad, it’s up to you to find out if newspaper ads have to potential to be successful for you.

According to this article, newspaper advertising is more successful when it is hyper-localized, and according to this article from, targeted to people who are in the market to buy immediately.

Pay attention to your target audience, and don’t let your biases get in the way of the research.

One small business owner, in a discussion about the value of running a newspaper ad, said it this way:

Avoid one of the biggest marketing mistakes, which is assuming that your tastes and preferences and habits are those of your target market. What you do or don't do has no impact on what your target market does or doesn't do.

I think she’s right. Whether you read the paper at 7 a.m. every morning or haven’t read page one in years, your habits don’t matter. It only matters what your target audience will do. It’s up to you to determine if putting an ad in the newspaper has a high chance of success, so make sure you do your research.

If you’ve decided that you should run a newspaper ad, make sure it has the best opportunity to work for you. Here are a few things to pay special attention to:

  • Ad placement: As much as you can, make sure your product or service is being featured in a place where your target audience will be reading. Don’t stick your travel agency’s ad in the real estate section or tree-trimming service with the local restaurant menu page. Talk to your newspaper representative if you are concerned your ad isn’t in the right place!

  • Ad design: One of the most common reasons newspaper ads fail, according to this article, is that they get lost in the paper. “Small businesses tend to run small ads with mediocre copy and no illustrative materials, such as photographs or art."

  • Integrate a coupon or incentive: 21 percent of readers say the main reason they subscribe to a local newspaper is for the coupons! That means one out of five of your potential customers want to buy a paper only because they think you’ll reward them for doing so. So do it, and add a unique call tracking number to see your results (which we’ll talk more about now!).

Now, track your ads.

After you’ve done all of the hard work that goes in to planning and implementing an ad, you can’t afford not to track the results. In the quote from the small business owner above, she goes on to say that “small business people often don’t take the time to measure ad results. Without measuring results, they have no sound basis for improving their creativity, their copy, their offers, or even their choice of media.”

I completely agree with her! After all, you want to make sure it’s been worth it! You can do this easily by adding a call tracking number or website address that’s unique to your ad, which will show you per call and click exactly how effective your newspaper ad has been.

Then, you’ll be able to use the analytics to determine if you should run a newspaper ad again or if you should invest your advertising resources elsewhere.

Now that you’ve read a little bit more about our take on newspaper advertising, we want your feedback! If you’ve chosen to run a newspaper ad, how has your experience been?