14 . 07 . 20

What we know about newspaper effectiveness

Words by: Print Power
Newspaper advertising is in decline as younger audiences prefer to read their news online. However, newspapers still have mass market appeal and adverts placed in the right title, amongst relevant content, can engage readers, raise brand awareness and drive sales.

Newspapers – or newsbrands, as they are increasingly referred to, in order to reflect their cross-platform nature – are defined as the online and offline publishing platforms of national and regional newspapers, both paid for and free.

Newspaper effectiveness is the quantifiable and attributable effects of newspaper advertising campaigns against defined objectives and metrics.

1. Newsbrands can play a unique role in multi-media campaigns

According to research from UK industry body Newsworks, newsbrands affect behaviour change at two key points in the buying journey:

Driving purchase consideration at the ‘Preparation’ stage (when people don’t currently buy but are planning to do so).
Creating loyalty at the ‘Maintenance’ stage (when people currently buy and intend to continue doing so).

Extrapolation of these findings suggests brands are missing out on £3bn profit by not including newsbrands in their campaigns. The research also found that average campaign awareness was 54% among news brand readers versus 46% generally, and that news brands are especially good at driving brand knowledge, purchase intent, word of mouth and advocacy.

2. Newsbrands can provide a more trusted context than social media

According to the global Edelman Trust Barometer, there is a growing trust gap between traditional media sources and social media. In a world pessimistic about the future, people are increasingly turning to traditional media to find credible information. The report showed a record gulf between the high level of trust in traditional news sources, and the distrust in social media as an information source, following well-publicised privacy scandals.

However, credibility is not a given for a newsbrand, which needs to earn reader trust. Research in 2018 showed that, in the UK, the newsbrands with the highest reach (The Sun and the Daily Mail) were not trusted by 40-60% of their readers. On the other hand, efforts to gain trust pay dividends: a campaign for the New York Times that positioned the title as a truthful source of news generated a 10.7% lift in purchase intent and a 100% increase in subscriptions.


3. Ad placements in ‘hard news’ contexts increase engagement

Newsworks, the UK industry body for newsbrands, conducted research to find out if ad responses were affected by their placement in ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ news within newsbrand titles. It found that average ad dwell time is 1.4 times higher in a ‘hard news’ environment (45 seconds versus 35 seconds) and there was no negative impact on advertising response. In fact, ads in a ‘hard news’ environment are more trusted and create more active engagement among readers. Therefore, advertisers should be careful when employing automated brand safety tools to blacklist content because avoiding a ‘hard news’ context could be a missed opportunity.

4. Newspaper partnerships are a powerful tool for brands

Newspaper partnerships can still deliver mass awareness targets for brands. In Canada, SickKids Foundation’s repositioning initiative succeeded in increasing charitable donations with the help of full-page newspaper ads in Toronto to build awareness for the organisation. The Australian Macadamia increased national awareness of the product with a campaign introducing a baby Koala mascot with a newspaper ad in the Sydney Morning Herald. Pampers used newspaper ads to promote paediatrician-led workshops to educate young mothers about the hygiene advantages of disposable diapers in India. And digital wallet Paytm used a single newspaper ad to advertise its services to the poorest in India, in the wake of a ban on two high-denomination currency notes - achieving great reach, virtually overnight.

Paid newspaper partnerships, are also important, seamlessly integrating brand messaging into contextually engaging and relevant content. For example, Cigna used a paid content partnership with Apple Daily, a leading Hong-Kong-based pop-culture newspaper, to build brand awareness. And Gillette deodorant built market share among the Orthodox Jewish community by sponsoring content on the front pages and inserts within Orthodox newspapers in Israel.


5. Newsbrands can significantly boost multi-media campaign effectiveness

UK newspaper marketing body, Newsworks, conducted meta-analysis and original research aimed at providing large-scale, definitive proof of the value of newsbrands in a campaign. This included studying ROI, effectiveness case studies and multiplatform effects. It found that adding newspapers boosts overall campaign ROI by three-fold on average. Also, that campaigns using newsbrands are significantly more likely to deliver share growth, profit, trial and loyalty, and reduce price sensitivity. Newsbrands also boost the effectiveness of other media – both ‘legacy’ media, like TV, and online video, display and social media. The effect is greater when both print and digital platforms are used.

6. Like in print, advertising in newsbrands commands attention in digital

In general, digital ads command less attention than print ads, but in quality contexts - such as The Times’ site - digital advertising does command attention. Eye-tracking research shows digital ads on newsbrand sites are 80% more likely to be viewed than on non-newsbrand sites. They are also noticed in roughly half the time and dwell time is twice as long. Reasons for this are: the longer time people spend browsing such sites versus more ‘mission-based’ sites; newsbrands’ approach of ‘fewer, better ads’ on a simpler and less cluttered site, creating more stand out; and larger, more central and ‘in-feed’ units that fit the reader’s natural gaze. The research also found that context can dramatically increase attention given to accompanying advertising.

7. Newsbrands deliver reach and enhance the ROI of multi-media plans

According to Newsworks, newsbrands deliver reach comparable to or in excess of digital giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. They can also deliver huge reach among sought after demographics e.g. they reach 96% of Millennials in the UK each month. An analysis of 500 cases by Newsworks and econometrics experts Benchmarketing found significant ROI boosts through the addition of newsbrands to media plans, with the addition of digital to the mix increasing newspaper ROI up to five times. Newspapers were also found to increase the effectiveness of other media, boosting overall campaign ROI by three times on average, and making TV and online twice and four times as effective, respectively.


8. A ‘fewer, better ads’ strategy makes news sites a more effective online advertising context

Eye-tracking research shows digital ads on newsbrand sites are 80% more likely to be viewed than on non-newsbrand sites. They are also noticed in roughly half the time and dwell time is twice as long. Reasons for this are newsbrands’ ‘fewer, better ads’ approach, creating less clutter, and preference for more central and ‘in-feed’ units that fit the reader’s natural gaze.

Brands and publishers investing in a strategy of ‘fewer, better ads’ can regain consumer trust in digital advertising and build longer-term relationships with audiences – leading to longer-term business and brand growth. The alternative short-term approach leads to poor quality advertising, ad blocking and ad fraud from which neither consumer nor brand benefits.

9. Print strategies can still be innovative

Newspapers have the power to surprise and engage readers. This case study describes how Mawbima, a Sri Lankan newspaper, increased sales and advertising revenue by raising awareness of ways to prevent Dengue disease. The medium became the message when the newspaper infused citronella oil, a natural mosquito repellent, into the printing ink. The world’s first mosquito-repelling newspaper sold out and since the campaign sales have grown exponentially. In a crowded, declining market, share increased and Facebooks fans grew by 200%. 

In the fake news era, newsbrands have an opportunity to enhance their trust credentials

Newsbrand trust influences perception of brands advertised within them. Research in Asia-Pacific found trust levels for brands associated with traditional news publishers is 50% higher than other digital news platforms, leading to higher brand consideration. 70% of people also said advertising with an untrustworthy media outlet would put them off the brand.

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Article first published on WARC