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Pros and Cons of Newspaper Advertising

Posted by Chad Elliot on April 11, 2017 at 8:30 AM
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pros and cons of newspaper advertisingNewspaper print advertising has a long history of reaching audiences to build trust and leverage influence on purchase decisions. And even though we live in an increasingly digital world, the format continues to prove itself useful in reaching consumers — 60.8% of adults over the age of 18 have read a newspaper in the last week, and it still ranks among the most trusted formats before a purchase decision. Thus, newspaper is still an advertising channel that could be valuable to your business, and understanding the pros and cons of newspaper advertising will help you move forward with your marketing plan.

Cross-platform strategies using various types of advertising have been a big part of helping many businesses reach their goals. Even traditional formats have their place when designing a marketing plan to completely reach your audience. That’s why we’ve created this series: we want to provide adequate research to help you fully understand the major strengths and weaknesses of each platform in order to make successful advertising campaigns. Today’s post is part four in a series focusing on the pros and cons of each of the additional platforms: Radio, TV, Billboards, Direct Mail, and Yellow Page Advertising. To see our last post on the pros and cons of billboard ads, head here, or start with our first post about radio, here.

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Pros of Newspaper Advertising


More than half of consumers (56%) find print marketing (i.e., newspapers and magazines) to be the most trustworthy type of marketing in general, but that number jumps to 82% when looking at which channels consumers trust when they want to make a purchase decision. That makes it the most trusted format, even over TV (80%), radio (71%) and online video or social ads (47% and 43% respectively). That means that despite the cons, when consumers are actually exposed to newspaper ads, those ads are extremely likely to be influential.

Consumer Usage

We mentioned that 63% of adults read the paper, but of those, 63% will pay specific attention to the ads as they read. That’s probably why 80% of adults will take action on newspaper ads, including visiting a brick-and-mortar location or discussing the content of the ad with friends and family (40% each). What’s more, 52% of adults use newspapers to plan for their shopping, and 70% of couponers will turn to newspapers to get their coupons. In fact, even 15% of those that don’t otherwise read the newspaper will use one to check on local sales.


Long before digital and TV, and even before radio, newspapers have been a format for sharing news and advertising — the first in America is largely considered to be from 1704, advertising an estate for sale. This heritage has left an indelible imprint on the consumer psyche, and that means that even as digital is on the rise, they’ll turn to newspapers to do things like compare automotive prices, check out local fliers, and turn to the Classifieds section.

Digital Extensions

Of course, newspapers aren’t relying on that heritage to carry them into the future, and successful papers aren’t content to be relegated to the physical format. Like radio, newspapers now have a digital extension that can carry your advertisements as well. In fact, digital readership has outstripped physical readership by 78 times since 2015. Digital has also opened new avenues entirely: some papers have gone online-only, while others have turned to Twitter or other social outlets to publish.

Multiple Options

Newspapers also offer a variety of display options for the ads themselves. Some are cost-effective and minimalist, like a Classified ad or “business card” ad, while others are more expensive and elaborate, like a spotlight ad or display ad that takes up a significant portion of the page. Once you include the circular, which is often actually handled by a third party and distributed with the paper, you realize that there’s ads that can meet almost any budget or creative need.


Just selecting a newspaper to advertise with is a basic form of targeting: they’re distributed to a certain geographic area and are already targeted at particular demographic and psychographic segments. Generally speaking, you’re equally likely to reach men and women (just over half for each), and more likely to reach the well educated (40% of college graduates, 50% of those with at least some post-graduate education) and well off (40% of those with an income at $75 thousand to $99.9 thousand, 45% of those with $150 thousand or more). Investing in the market research to know what sections of the newspaper your audience utilizes also means you can further target them by having your ad included in specific sections of the paper.

Cons of Newspaper Advertising

Decreasing Readership

Print isn’t dead, but newspapers do seem to be diminishing. Where the combined circulation of dailies in 2005 was 54.6 million, that number had fallen more than 14 million to 40.4 million in 2015. The decline doesn’t seem to be slowing to a stop any time soon, either. However, the fact that the medium may be facing an end in the not very distant future doesn’t mean it isn’t useful to you today.

Short Shelf Life

Newspapers strive to be as up-to-date as their medium allows, and that means a new paper is released almost every day. Some papers are published once weekly, which offers a little more life, but the simple fact is, if your audience didn’t pick up the paper on the day your ad was present, they’ll miss it.

Limited Audience

Especially when considering the print format in particular, there are some pretty serious limitations on the type of audiences you’re probably going to reach. After all, you’re not just more likely to reach affluent audiences, you’re also unlikely to reach poorer audiences. You’re also very unlikely to reach younger generations: only about 6% of adults 18 to 24 receive daily papers, and only reach about 10% of adults 25 to 45.

Cost per Reader

If you simply look at the price per ad based on space (usually for the most expensive type, display ads), the cost doesn’t seem unreasonable. What you need to remember is that you aren’t just paying for space, you’re paying to reach a particular audience. How much of that audience are you actually reaching when you pay for an ad? Given the low readership, the proportionate cost works out to a lot more risk for your business than other forms of advertising. This should be balanced against the fact that adding newspaper to your marketing mix can lift your overall ROI by three times.

Weak for Branding

Between the same page clutter and the fact that readers rarely go through the entire paper, branding can be extremely weak for this format. Furthermore, the ads are non-intrusive, which means the impact is largely on readers who are already looking for these ads, and decreasing circulation hurts the frequency necessary to improve that impact for passive readers.

Key Takeaways

Even with the growing shifts toward digital, traditional formats like newspaper still carry a lot of weight with consumers despite decreasing readership and the constraints like shelf life and partial-reads that further limit how your audience is exposed to these ads. That means that the cost to advertise seems reasonable on the surface, but is actually a hefty price when balanced against how much of the audience you’re reaching. However, if you leverage it with other advertising formats, you can see a major lift in ROI for the entire campaign. Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Newspaper ads require a very short lead time, which means your advertising can be more timely than most other mediums. This means you can draft creative that responds to changing social situations, competitor’s actions, or even audience response.
  • Understand the way your target audience utilizes newspapers. Newspapers are already targeted regionally and demographically, and when you know which sections they read most, you can advertise more effectively.
  • Never forget that print media, including newspapers, is still a trusted and influential source of information to consumers, especially when they’re ready to make a purchase decision. That makes it a perfect addition to your media mix in support of other formats.

The pros and cons of newspaper advertising should be used as a way to gauge where this format will best fit into your marketing mix. Remember, every marketing format has potential value for your campaign strategy, so be sure to examine where newspaper ads may work best for your business. Also, please remember to check back soon for the fifth part of our Advertising Format Pros and Cons series focusing on direct mail advertising. At Zimmer, we’re proud to be able to help our clients develop winning marketing strategies across any platform. Contact us today to discover how we can take your advertising to the next level.

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Topics: Small Business Resources, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Strategy