Newspaper ads successfully gain attention

Submitted by: Ulbe Jelluma 12/07/2016

A number of years ago Sir Martin Sorrell made a link between the time spent with newspapers and the advertising expenditures in newspapers; with decreasing total amount of time spent on reading newspapers, the amount of advertising money for newspapers should also be decreased. He recently changed that point of view. And the following research shows why newspapers remain a strong part of the advertising mix.




In today’s multi-media world brand owners have great difficulties reaching consumers. Not only because there’s a multitude of channels, online and offline, at home and out-of-home, inside shops and outside on the streets, on big and small screens, free or on-demand and in real-time or when you wish. 

Obviously the attention consumers pay to advertisements on all of these channels differ. We’re checking our mobile while watching television, reading a magazine while listening the radio, receiving promotions on the mobile while shopping, … 

Consumers fighting to keep updated and trying to do as many things in the available time are mult-tasking. Thinking they’re doing various things at the same time. However they’re alternating tasks, switching between tasks. 

Research from PwC, The battle for attention, says that attention is defined as “selectively concentrating on some information while ignoring other perceivable information”. Academics distinguish between two types of attention: sustained and selective attention and divided attention. Sustained attention for one specific form of information is what every advertisement should receive. In reality however, most advertisement receive divided attention (or worst no attention at all). 

The PwC research included a national adult survey ( 2.643 people) across Great Britain and across 15 different media types providing a total of 7.770 responses. (These data were further aligned with other sources of UK metrics from IPA Touchpoints, comScore and Chartbeat).

Types of attention

The most important type of attention is the sustained attention (also referred to as full attention), the solus attention. Every brand owner wants to obtain consumer’s full attention for its advertisements. The research shows that commercial radio and TV on demand have the highest sustained or solus attention (61% of the viewers and listeners). National print newspapers, short online videos and print magazine follow with only some percentages less solus attention. The majority of the readers, listeners or viewers have only attention for one medium at the time. When focussing on newspapers the study shows that Millennials solus attention for newspapers is 49% (compared to overall adults 60%). 

Consumers also divide their attention to different media at the same time, the divided attention. This divided attention is calculated on the basis of the number of consumers that are multi-tasking times their priority focus on this medium. Total attention for a medium is the sum of solus attention + divided attention. Print newspapers in the UK score highest among the 15 different media types, with 80% of the readers having solus (60%) and divided (20%) attention. Commercial TV on-demand, short online videos and print newspaper websites score slightly higher than magazines that have 56% of solus attention readers and 11% of divided attention readers totalling 69% of readers with attention.

The value of attention

This study from PwC, commissioned by Newswork UK, shows also that people take the time to read newspapers, that they feel connected to the titles and that they have trust in the content. All of this drives attention. Although there is no correlation between time spent and advertising response, the study points at the relationship between high attention and advertising response scores. 

This study adds an important qualitative aspect to the discussion started by Sir Martin Sorrell and that continues with the growing importance of programmatic buying. It’s not only important how many people read or watch media, it’s equally important to understand the quality of the contact with the readers. And in a media planning context, that is dominated by audience coverage and reach metrics, having a better understanding of the quality of the contact might make the difference between a consumer response and a non-response.