Newspaper Advertising
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Newspaper Advertising

Q: More and more real estate companies are relying on Web advertising rather than newspapers. They claim that advertising in newspapers is a waste of money. What is your opinion? — Claude

A: You are certainly correct that the conventional wisdom is that newspaper advertising, being on the wane, should be viewed with caution. And, as is generally true with the conventional wisdom, there is a grain of truth to it. But if you are looking for someone to pile-on against newspapers, you are reading the wrong guy. I love newspapers and found success using newspaper ads.

Now let's agree up front that online advertising is great, and powerful. I am a fan, have written about it many times, and will continue to do so. But that is not the question today. Today the question is – should small businesses continue to use newspapers as part of their advertising mix?

The answer is, for the right sort of business, you betcha'.

Of course it all depends upon whom it is you are trying to reach, whom your customers are, and if you can reach them in a newspaper. For example, if you are trying to reach young people, then no, newspapers are probably not right for you; people under 30 are getting their information online for the most part. (But even then, advertising in the online part of the paper may be the way to go.)

So it all depends upon who you want to reach. According to, newspaper readers:

  • Educated: "62% of those with postgraduate degrees said they read a newspaper in an average week"
  • Older: 40+

(Note: Statistics are for the years 2007 and 2008.)

Newspaper readers also now tend to be upper income, so if some of these factors match your target demographic, then newspaper advertising still offers several definite pluses.

The first, is the value of being contrarian. One thing I am in favor of in business generally is going against the grain because, if done right, it makes you more noticeable. That might be the case here where the problems in the newspaper industry can actually work to your advantage.

For instance, right now there are fewer ads and less clutter. That means you can more easily stand out. In addition, lower circulation means that the people who do read the paper are more committed to it and more likely to read it closely. Moreover, since these discerning readers tend to have more disposable income, that means they make better potential customers.

And even with declining circulation numbers, the reach in any case is not insignificant: Just about half of all adults still look at the paper on any given day. It would be hard to find one website with that sort of reach, especially on a local level.

And what about value? Again, the problems in the industry can be a boon to you. The CPM in a paper (cost per thousand people reached) is going to be far more affordable these days.

Of course, don't discount these other possible benefits:

  • Targeting: You can easily target the right lead by advertising in the right section
  • Scalability: Online search ads all look the same. Your newspaper ad can really stand out with a bigger size, color, etc.
  • Options: You can use traditional ads, pull outs, inserts, ads in targeted publications, and even things like sticky notes
  • Trustworthiness: Ads in newspapers seem credible

Consider too the pure physicality of the product. People who read the paper like to read the paper. Many like the feel and touch of it. For instance, people looking to buy a house may like the idea of opening the classifieds and actually circling the ads. Should a real estate office engage in online ads too? Of course; it should all be part of the mix. People learn in different ways – for some, hearing an ad is how they will remember it. For others, reading it online will work. For others still, seeing an ad on TV makes it memorable. And for others, reading it in the paper works best.

Your job is to get in front of as many people as you can in as many ways as you can and if that includes the newspaper, then this junkie says smart thinking.

Today's tip: In this economy it looks like people really believe in small business. According to a recent study conducted by the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), 31% of Americans surveyed expressed "a great deal of confidence" in small business. Only 6% said they had a great deal of confidence in banks, Congress, and the Executive Branch, and just 5% answered positively for major companies, the lowest ranked institution.

© 2010 Steven D. Strauss,