3 Key Takeaways From the State of Newspaper Advertising

Newspaper ad revenue might not be quite up to speed for overtaking print, but it still contributes an important chunk. Digital readers pay attention, they have a clear, preferred way to consume news, and when they see an ad that they like, they take action. That sounds like a combination for success, and it is.

RELATED: 4 Prevailing Themes That Help Shape News Media Today

Most newspaper consumers are loyal, but the numbers don’t revolve only around Baby Boomers who want their news in print. Millennials are interested and loyal, too, just in a different way. If you lose them, you lose the fight in the long run.

Advertising success right now isn’t just about finding the best ad format or delivering news on a certain platform. Cater to one demographic at your peril. It’s much more about balance and crafting the right message in the right place using the right approach.

The state of the news media today shows little ad revenue change over recent previous years, but that, in itself, is a bit of good news. Here are three key takeaways.

#1: Advertising Reaps the Rewards of Reader Loyalty

People love the news. They love information, and newspapers are still-even in 2017-how they get it. Plenty of unimpressive, fake sites come and go, but quality media holds its own across a wide demographic. What’s important is that advertising needs news consumers, and consumers are loyal to their preferred news source.

According to MansiMedia, most adults read a newspaper every week. That’s nearly 160 million people and 179.3 million unique news media site visitors every month.

About 90 million people, they explain, find news content using a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer. Site visits keep growing, as well, with a ”10 percent increase in adult unique visitors” from one year to the next. That’s double the pace of Internet usage growth.

People who read in print are fiercely loyal, according to Pew Research Center, which is excellent news for print advertisers. Overall, 78 percent of weekday circulation falls into the print category. The number jumps to 86 percent on weekends.

Far from being outdone in terms of loyalty, digital readers wouldn’t have it any other way. The tracked volume is still much lower than print but follows a nearly identical path.

The keyword, in case you missed it, is ”tracked.” Many digital readers go unaccounted for.

There’s simply no reliable way, at least at the moment, to process the volume of people who consume bits and bites of news and contribute to ad impressions in digital form without adding to circulation numbers. That’s both disappointing and intriguing. It may foreshadow the future of news consumers as well as digital advertising revenue’s potential for overtaking print ad performance in the future.

#2: Digital Advertisers Get Plenty of Bang for their Buck

According to Pew, digital ad spend in 2015 made up one-third of total newspaper ad spend, at $183 billion. Advertisers don’t tend to buy in where there are no results. Using a programmatic ad buy, fewer ads fall on deaf ears.

What’s so impressive about digital ads? It’s all in the way readers respond. Far from the ad-blocking reputation that so many news consumers have, digital ads engage readers. Moreover, it spurs them on to take action.

MansiMedia says consumers take several actions after an ad impression. For example, they:

  • Want to learn more about the advertiser, and do so
  • Check out the advertiser’s website
  • Save ads for future use
  • Tell a friend
  • Ask a friend to learn more about the advertiser
  • Visit a store because of the ad impression
  • Think about buying the advertisers product or service

How many people take action? Nearly 80 percent, according to MansiMedia.

Now think again about how loyal news consumers tend to be. Digital might not be king of the hill in terms of circulation or ad revenue, but it’s holding its own. The primary demographic for print readership is an older consumer. Eventually, Generation X and Millennials will factor in more heavily. These generations prefer digital.

#3: Digital News Reaches Millennials but Digital Advertising Needs an Overhaul

Perhaps the most challenging group to engage is the Millennial generation. But according to News Media Alliance (NMA), there’s also a good reason to celebrate.

Millennials read newspapers. Specifically, they read digital newspapers to the tune of about two-thirds of the Millennial population. That sounds great for advertisers, but there’s a catch. If you want to capitalize on their loyalty and watch them react to ads the same as other groups do, ad quality needs a serious makeover.

NMA explains that the Coalition for Better Ads recently released their Better Ads Standards, which apply to desktop and mobile. That’s a step in the right direction. Without it, ad blockers will rise, ad revenue will plummet and the Millennial generation may be the first to see newspapers really crumble.

The Coalition’s standards were loud and clear. Better ad results hinge on ditching what people hate.

For desktop, annoying, intolerable ads include:

  • Autoplay video ads with sound
  • Countdown ads
  • Pop-ups

The mobile experience needs two more ad changes ASAP. On top of desktop’s most annoying ad experiences, mobile would like to see the demise of full-screen rollover ads and large sticky ads.

Most bloggers appear to have given up on their “demise of newspapers” cry. That’s a good thing. Certainly, newspapers and advertising have undergone tremendous change in the digital age. But they’re still here, still generating revenue and still trying to figure out how to please their audience.

The audience part is vital. Digital news consumers are loyal, even if difficult to measure. And it’s still possible to engage them with advertising. Paywalls, alone, aren’t the answer to newspaper revenue’s greatest challenges. Neither is finding the perfect type of ad. The time appears to have come for balance. Instead of searching for the right answer, cultivate a dynamic process that gives any reader what they want, where they want it and how they want to consume it.

If you’re still wobbling along through the shifting landscape of newspaper ad revenue, you’re not alone. You’re also in the right place.

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