What’s the best way to deliver newspaper marketing in a changing era for print?

Is your brand consider adding newspaper marketing to your marketing strategy? And do you want to know what can the digital revolution in the newspaper industry teach us about marketing and branding?

ProfileTree were given a great opportunity to learn from the heart of the industry when marketer John Brolly of the highly-successful Irish News took part in a far-reaching video interview with a focus on the world of newspaper marketing.

While many prematurely wrote the obituary of print newspapers in the early 2000s as digital consumption grew, hometown papers and national dailies alike have reinvented engagement models and seen stabilizing readership bases.

Pew Research found 65% of adults read a newspaper in 2020 either in print or digital formats – only marginally down from 72% in 1999. The majority getting news via websites or apps still spend an average 70 minutes daily with newspapers.

Additionally, 36% read newspaper print editions exclusively even amid accessibility of freely available online news. Why? Tactile lure and portability play a role but concentration also far less fragmented while avoiding digital burnout through a finite skimmable package. Less news volume paradoxically breeds more focus for some.

Newspaper Marketing: Trends, Challenges and Subscription Models with John Brolly

Both circulation revenues and advertising dollars flowing to newspapers have certainly declined over 20 years but appear to be plateauing. As business models and delivery channels recalibrate for the modern needs of readers and advertisers, the written word holds an enduring place in both informing and influencing communities.

What’s the best way to deliver newspaper marketing in a changing era for print? And what can the digital revolution in the newspaper industry teach us about marketing and branding?

Newspaper marketing refers to a range of advertising and promotional methods leveraged using both traditional and digital newspaper channels. Strategies span buying display ads, classifieds, branded content articles, contests/giveaways, event supplements, inserts, banners and more.

As with all marketing choices, utilizing newspaper advertising has advantages and disadvantages brands should know:


  • High local reach and demonstrable targeting, especially for geo-specific offers
  • Trusted context given depth and credibility of nearby news content
  • Longer dwell times means more time for ad messages to register
  • Scalable a la carte pricing with flexible schedule controls
  • Creative execution options like AR/VR, video, experiential units


  • Fragmentation across titles means less blanket reach potential
  • Readership skews substantially older demographically
  • Shorter shelf life vs. digital or broadcast promotion
  • Production lead time requirements
  • Capacity limitations for measurement pixels/tags

Shrewd marketers leverage newspapers’ unique strengths (credibility and localness, namely) while navigating structural limitations by pairing with complementary digital and mobile activations. Optimization remains contingent on first clearly defining marketing objectives, KPIs, target segments and campaign time horizons.

Covering a huge range of subjects including media trends and newspaper subscription models (see full video), John began by introducing the Irish News (a Belfast-based daily): “The Irish News is…thankfully the top performing newspaper in the local newspaper market.

“We have won numerous awards in terms of our editorial content, we have a very very good Editor and a very very good team of journalists. Thankfully we seem to be satisfying the news need that’s out there.

“We’re a go-to product on a daily basis, and long may that continue as it is a challenging market.”

John also explained his work with the newspaper: “I’ve been with the Irish News for 17 years and I’ve enjoyed it, which is why I’ve stayed there for so long. Previous to that I was with Diageo where I was Brand Manager for a few years, and I spent some time in the advertising industry.

“It is a very tough time but at the end of the day you just have to cater for the challenges that are out there in terms of your content and the product offerings that you are putting out.

“For us, print is very much a core part of the business and we hope that is very much so in the future. But we also have an e-paper available on a daily basis from 5am, so if people want to read us electronically on their tablet or their phone they can do that whether they are in Belfast or Dubai or Sydney.

“So, we’re basically opening up now to a global audience. We have a website as well, so for some people who might not want to go for the full e-paper product we have different subscription packages.”

The key? Understanding that “these days there’s no one fit” for everyone.

Also, being sure to excel in a number of areas – such as sport, business and lifestyle – with the right colleagues the key to making this happen.

“It is all about the people in any business, we have an excellent team. We actually did commission a sizable piece of research in the last 12 months and the focus groups that we did in terms of our business content were really strong.

“Business within the Irish News got a revamp this year because it is the go-to area for everyone at the moment in time, there’s a lot of unknowns out there as regards Brexit etc.”

To find out more about this, newspaper marketing and much more besides, click on John’s video interview for a range of fascinating, specialist insights.

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Print Readership:

  • Global: Newspaper circulation has declined by 24% since 2014, with North America experiencing the steepest decline at 47% (WAN-IFRA, 2023).
  • Regionally: The highest print readership rates are found in Asia (55.7%) and Europe (45.2%), while North America has the lowest at 19.4% (WAN-IFRA, 2023).
  • Demographics: Older generations are more likely to read print newspapers, with 64% of readers aged 55-64 and 70% of readers aged 65+ in the US (Pew Research Center, 2023).

Ad Recall:

  • Print vs. Digital: Studies show print ads have higher recall rates than digital ads, with print ads achieving 70% recall compared to 46% for online ads (Newspaper Association of America, 2022).
  • Factors affecting recall: Ad size, creative format, placement within the newspaper, and relevance to reader interests all impact ad recall (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2023).
  • Evolving trends: The effectiveness of print ads is shifting towards brand awareness and engagement rather than direct response, as digital channels often handle the latter (MediaKix, 2023).


  • Income: Higher income individuals are more likely to read print newspapers and recall ads within them (Pew Research Center, 2023).
  • Education: Individuals with higher levels of education also tend to be more frequent print readers and have better ad recall (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2023).
  • Urban vs. Rural: Rural populations are more likely to rely on print newspapers for news and information, while urban populations are more likely to consume news online (Pew Research Center, 2023).

Additional Trends:

  • Paywall models: Newspapers are increasingly implementing paywalls to generate revenue, impacting readership demographics and ad targeting options.
  • Focus on local news: Print newspapers are finding success by focusing on in-depth local reporting and building strong community connections, particularly in smaller markets.
  • Data-driven advertising: Newspapers are leveraging audience data to personalize ad targeting and improve ad recall for specific demographics and interests.
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Creative Print Ad Design Tips for Optimized Response:

1. Grab Attention:

  • Compelling Headline: Use strong verbs, clear benefits, and a touch of intrigue to hook readers instantly.
  • Bold Visuals: High-quality images, striking illustrations, or unexpected visuals can break through the clutter and capture attention.
  • Smart Use of Color and White Space: Play with contrasting colors to highlight key elements and use white space effectively to balance the design and ensure legibility.

2. Communicate Value Proposition:

  • Focus on Benefits, not Features: Don’t just list features; explain how your product or service will improve readers’ lives.
  • Target Specific Pain Points: Address common problems your target audience faces and showcase how your offering solves them.
  • Clear Call to Action: Tell readers what you want them to do next, whether it’s visiting a website, making a call, or redeeming a coupon. Make it easy and actionable.

3. Design for Readability and Engagement:

  • Keep it Simple and Clean: Avoid overwhelming readers with too much information or complex layouts. Prioritize clarity and ease of comprehension.
  • Use Easy-to-Read Fonts: Opt for legible fonts in appropriate sizes, considering readability on different paper types.
  • Interactive Elements: Consider incorporating playful elements like quizzes, QR codes, or hidden messages to encourage deeper engagement.

4. Optimize for Response Tracking:

  • Unique Tracking Codes: Use specific codes or URLs in your print ad to track responses and measure campaign effectiveness.
  • Offer Incentives: Encourage response with limited-time offers, discounts, or free samples to incentivize action.
  • A/B Testing: Consider testing different headlines, visuals, or CTAs in smaller print runs to identify the most effective combinations for your target audience.

Additional Tips:

  • Align with Brand Identity: Ensure your ad’s design and messaging are consistent with your overall brand image and voice.
  • Consider the Medium: Adapt your design to the specific newspaper or magazine format and printing quality for optimal impact.
  • Think Outside the Box: Experiment with unconventional formats, textures, or interactive elements to stand out from the competition.
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Types of Newspaper Advertising


  • Categorized text-based advertisements, usually compact and concise
  • Traditionally focused on real estate, job listings, automotive and personal ads
  • Often hyper-local and direct response oriented

Display Ads

  • Visual promotional units sold based on ad size/placement
  • Full page, half page, cover wraps and more
  • Effective for brand building although pricier


  • Pre-printed standalone brochures or coupons distributed within print issues
  • Allow high quality color reproduction and custom messaging
  • Readers engage actively with relevant inserts

Native Content

  • Advertorial articles blending brand messaging within usual editorial stories
  • Lends context and trust while educating prospects
  • Prone to audience backlash if too overt


  • Branding attached to specific Columns, specialty publications or events
  • Aligns positively with reader affinity areas
  • Includes related promotional exposure

Options tailored to both direct response performance marketing goals as well as long-term brand favorability pursuits.

Setting objectives, KPIs and how newspapers can support goals:

Brand awareness vs direct response campaigns imply different priorities and metrics.

Brand Awareness Campaign Objectives:

  • Increase awareness of product launch
  • Communicate brand benefits association
  • Drive website traffic to learn more

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Unaided brand awareness lift
  • Increase in ad recall/association
  • Traffic to landing pages

Direct Response Campaign Objectives:

  • Promote subscriber acquisition offer
  • Maximize sales event turnout
  • Drive app downloads

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Cost per lead/order
  • Referral code tracking
  • App installs attribution

Ways Newspapers Support Goals:

  • Brand – longform storytelling and sustained presence cultivate awareness/affinity
  • Direct Response – hypertargeted distribution drives localized action on promotional offers

Considering the exact business goals clarifies the optimal newspaper formats and measurement priorities. Ongoing optimization benefits from isolating the impact on both branding sentiment and direct response rates over time.

Designing newspaper advertisements:

Effective Copywriting

  • Craft a compelling headline – communicate the core benefit
  • Use descriptive but concise body copy – highlight value
  • Include a clear call-to-action – provide next steps
  • Align messaging tone with publication
  • Adapt details for localized audiences

Industry Ad Specifications

  • Design multiple formats for versatility (full page, half page etc)
  • Use high resolution 300+ dpi images
  • Allow for 0.25 inch bleed if ad reaches edges
  • Double check trim size dimensions
  • Mind word count guidelines tied to ad dimensions

Visually Engaging Ads

  • Lead with high-impact image conveying emotion
  • Use white space selectively to direct eye flow
  • Combination of visuals + text balances engagement
  • Carefully pick font styles and text hierachy
  • Strategically highlight parts via bolding/color

The fundamentals of sound copywriting apply across mediums but adapting ads specifically based on adjacent news content and localized reader expectations amplifies relevance and interest. Combining familiarity with the element of surprise also proves important for visual memorability.

Targeting Your Audience

Reader Demographics & Psychographics

  • Leverage reader demographic data on age, income, gender available
  • Layer in psychographic nuances like political leanings, hobbies, values
  • Adapt messaging framing and nuance accordingly
  • Select channels reaching desired target groups


  • Geo-fencing allows micro-targeting specific zip code radii
  • Zone editioning means niche neighbourhood distribution
  • Hyperlocal is ideal for location-specific calls-to-action

Behavioural & Lifestyle Targeting

  • Target readers of specific Sections like Business, Sports
  • Align with Content – sponsor related articles
  • Target seasonality – leverage timing
  • Support launch timing of contextually relevant CPG products

While digital spaces allow more precision, newspapers facilitate effective contextual and geographic audience targeting. This powers relevancy that fuels response.

Newspaper media planning and buying best practices:

Determining Optimal Ad Size and Frequency

  • Ad size impacts visibility + engagement but also costs
  • Frequency fuels memorability – at least 3 impressions recommended
  • Balance goals with budget limitations
  • Consider broad reach vs targeted depth strategies

Negotiating Rates and Added Value

  • Build volume across titles to earn discounts
  • Secure preferential fixed rates for commitment
  • Negotiate free value adds like custom publishe content, event tickets
  • Seek performance protection concessions – make goods or discounts if response falls below thresholds

Managing Insertion Orders

  • Reference and follow inserted rate card levels
  • Track date ranges, ad sizes and placement premiums
  • Outline metrics that impact future discounts
  • Monitor ad production and insertion success

Innovations in Newspaper Marketing

Digital Editions and Ad Integrations

  • Digital replicas enable interactive enhancements
  • Clickable ads can have eCommerce links, video content
  • Leverage banner personalization based on reader data

Augmented Reality Enhancements

  • AR print ads detect triggers driving video/animation overlays
  • Immersive 3D modeling showcases products dynamically
  • Embed games and quizzes into experiential units

Micro-Geotargeting Platforms

  • Leverage real world insights for hyperlocal ad exposures
  • Contextual targeting tech – tailor based on weather, traffic, polling booth locations etc.
  • Next gen personalization to distribute different versions by neighborhood

Newspaper Marketing Case Studies

Sample Outdoor Brand Campaign

  • 2% lift in unaided brand awareness
  • 76% who saw ads visited retailer next 60 days
  • Catalog requests from newspaper effort made up 35% of total

Sample Non-Profit Gala Sponsorship

  • Ticket purchases from zip codes exposed to ads up 76%
  • 73 first time high dollar donors attributed to newspaper inserts specifically
  • Ready internal event attendance goal 6 weeks ahead of pace

Adding testimonials grounds case proof. Metrics showcase the tangible impact possible and inspire orher media mix integration ideas.

Interviewing Marketing Executives on Data-Driven Print Ad Campaign Measurement: Questions and Prompts

Here are some questions and prompts to guide your interviews with marketing executives on data-driven print ad campaign measurement practices:

Campaign Setup and Goals:

  • How do you define the goals for a print ad campaign? How do these goals differ from digital campaigns?
  • What data sources do you use to inform your campaign targeting and budget allocation for print ads?
  • How do you incorporate audience segmentation into your print ad campaign planning?
  • What specific metrics do you track pre-campaign, during, and post-campaign to measure success?
Digital Marketing Campaigns

Data Collection and Analysis:

  • What tools and technologies do you use to track print ad campaign performance? (e.g., coupon codes, QR codes, dedicated landing pages)
  • How do you handle data integration between print and digital channels for holistic campaign measurement?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face in collecting and analyzing data for print ad campaigns? (e.g., attribution, privacy concerns)
  • How do you leverage data insights to optimize your print ad campaigns in real-time?

Impact and Attribution:

  • How do you measure the impact of print ads on brand awareness, engagement, and purchase intent?
  • What specific ROI metrics do you use to evaluate the effectiveness of your print ad campaigns? (e.g., cost per lead, conversion rate)
  • How do you attribute sales and conversions to specific print ad placements and elements?
  • Do you find print ads to be more effective in driving offline or online conversions? Why or why not?

Future of Print Measurement:

  • What emerging data sources and technologies do you see playing a role in future print ad measurement?
  • How do you think the role of data will evolve in print advertising in the next few years?
  • What advice would you give to other marketers who are looking to improve their data-driven print ad campaign measurement practices?

Additional Prompts:

  • Ask interviewees to share specific examples of successful data-driven print ad campaigns they have implemented.
  • Discuss the ethical considerations of data collection and privacy in the context of print advertising.
  • Explore the potential for using AI and machine learning to further automate and optimize print ad campaign measurement.

Strengths of Print Ads vs. Digital Channels

FeaturePrint AdsDigital Channels
Targeted ReachHigh – demographics and readership interests well-definedVaried – advanced targeting options based on user behavior and data
Brand BuildingStrong – large canvas for storytelling and messaging, fosters emotional connectionModerate – interactive elements can enhance engagement, but fleeting nature can limit impact
Tangibility and LongevityHigh – physical presence stands out, can last longer in reader’s memoryLow – ephemeral nature, easily forgotten
Attention and FocusHigh – fewer distractions in print environment, encourages deeper engagementModerate – constant notifications and competing content can distract users
Trust and CredibilityHigh – perceived as more trustworthy and credible by many audiences, particularly older demographicsModerate – depends on platform and brand reputation, vulnerability to misinformation and scams
Offline ReachStrong – reaches audiences not active online, expands potential marketLimited – relies on digital platforms and online user behavior
Real-Time Targeting and OptimizationLimited – based on publication demographics, not individual behaviorHigh – advanced algorithms allow for real-time adjustments and optimization based on user data
Measurability and ScalabilityModerate – relies on surveys, coupons, and indirect metricsHigh – detailed performance data and easy scaling of reach and budget
Interactive and EngagingLimited – traditional print format, some interactive elements like QR codesStrong – videos, quizzes, personalized experiences can increase engagement and recall
Cross-Channel IntegrationModerate – can be linked to online landing pages and social mediaHigh – seamless integration with other digital channels for a holistic brand experience
Cost-EffectiveModerate to high – upfront costs can be significantModerate to low – cost per reach can be lower, especially for large audiences
Flexibility and AdaptabilityLimited – difficult to adjust or update after printingHigh – easy to adjust and update campaigns in real-time based on audience response


The choice between print and digital channels depends on your specific objectives, target audience, and campaign goals. Print offers strengths in brand building, targeted reach, and trust, while digital excels in real-time optimization, interactivity, and cost-effectiveness. A successful strategy often involves a combination of both channels, leveraging their individual strengths to create a comprehensive and impactful marketing campaign.

Additional Factors to Consider:

  • Budget: Print campaigns can be more expensive upfront, while digital advertising can be spread out over time.
  • Target Audience: Consider the demographics and media consumption habits of your ideal customers.
  • Campaign Goals: Focus on whether brand awareness, engagement, or direct response are your primary objectives.
  • Creative Opportunities: Consider the potential for impactful storytelling and visual elements in each medium.
  • Integration and Synergy: Look for ways to combine print and digital channels for a seamless and unified brand experience.

FAQs: Print vs. Digital Advertising

Q: Which is better, print or digital advertising?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer! It depends on your specific goals, target audience, and budget. Print excels at brand building, targeted reach, and trust, while digital shines in real-time optimization, interactivity, and cost-effectiveness. Consider using both for a holistic approach.

Q: Are newspapers still effective for advertising?

Yes, newspapers remain a relevant local channel, especially when objectives align with geo-targeted response or contextual environment. Creative innovation further expands possibilities.

Q: How is print advertising tracked and measured?

AMarketers use coded phone numbers, QR codes, URLs and customized landing pages to attribute response directly. Lifting key digital metrics around site traffic and conversions also gauges influence.

Q: What printing specifications are required for newspaper ads?

Minimum 300dpi resolution images, allowance for 0.25 bleed, adherence to headline length conventions and modular sizing based on rate card dimensions.

Q: How can newspapers complement broader marketing strategies?

The local targeting and trust newspapers cultivate complement digital reach. And innovating experiences sparks chatter that gets amplified across social media.

Q: How much does print advertising cost compared to digital?

Print advertising can be more expensive upfront due to printing and placement fees. However, digital advertising costs can add up over time, especially for large-scale campaigns. Analyze your budget and campaign duration to determine the most cost-effective approach.

Q: How can I measure the success of my print campaign?

Use a combination of direct and indirect metrics. Track coupon codes, website visits from print ads, brand awareness surveys, and changes in sales after the campaign. Consider using QR codes or dedicated landing pages for more precise data collection.

Q: How can I make my print ads more interactive?

QR codes leading to exclusive content, augmented reality experiences triggered by images, or contests with print-based participation can all boost engagement and interactivity in your print ads.

Q: What are some examples of successful integrated print and digital campaigns?

  • Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign: Used print ads featuring diverse models to spark conversation online, then continued the dialogue through social media and interactive videos.
  • Oreo’s “Twist, Lick, Dunk” campaign: Encouraged consumers to share their dunking creativity through social media with the hashtag #DunkWithOreo, creating a viral online community.

Conclusion: Print vs. Digital – A Symphony, Not a Showdown

The debate between print and digital advertising is often framed as a battle. But the reality is, they’re not rivals, but complementary instruments in the marketing orchestra. Print offers the warmth and depth of a cello, building brand narratives and reaching specific audiences. Digital brings the dynamism and interactivity of a violin, engaging users in real-time and driving immediate action.

By understanding the strengths of each channel and playing them in harmony, you can create a truly powerful marketing symphony that resonates with your audience and achieves your goals. So, don’t silence one instrument for the sake of the other. Embrace the unique strengths of both print and digital, and let them work together to create a captivating melody of brand success.

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