Should I consider local newspaper advertising to grow my business?

By Kevin Anderson | Uncategorized

Nov 09

I had an interesting situation this week. My new job and old job collided. One of my newest writing clients asked for my advice on whether they should advertise in a local newspaper. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that question, and it won’t be the last.

Local newspaper advertising

For those that don’t know me, although I make my living as a content writer and copywriter, for the majority of my career I’ve worked in the publishing and advertising industry. Most recently I was part of the management team within the advertising department of a local publishing company.

It’s an industry I’m all too familiar with, and I’ll be honest, my advice when asked ‘should I advertise in a local newspaper?’ is usually ‘no’. But it’s always ‘no’ for a reason.

When I WOULD consider local newspaper advertising

Here’re the circumstances I’d consider taking out a local newspaper advert

  • You have something to sell
  • You have a time limited event or offer OR
  • You have a stock/service limited event or offer
  • Selling 1 to 3 of your items will cover the cost of your advertising and take you into profit
  • You’re committed to a minimum of 3 adverts
  • You can afford to lose your investment

I know that local newspaper advertising can work. How do I know? Well, part of my job in my ‘employed’ days was to compile and use the testimonials that our advertisers shared with us. And I’ve spoken to advertisers who have enjoyed hugely successful advertising campaigns.

But it only works in very specific circumstances. Most buyers of local media view their advertising as a straight-up punt. A gamble. A toss of a coin. It might work. It might not. For them, it’s just part of the game – a cost of doing business.

Local Newspaper Advertising - A Gamble?

No advertising sales rep will ever guarantee you results. Because they can’t. But some media buyers use that as an excuse to put no thought whatsoever into their advertising. That’s a massive mistake.

Ultimately you have to make up your own mind about whether you advertise in a local newspaper.

If You DO advertise, DO this.

If either the set of circumstances are right for your business, OR you are in the mood of a PUNT, please, please – do the following. End the cycle of taking a succession of uncalculated gambles. Put in place a unique mechanism to make your adverts truly accountable. No excuses.

The beauty of Facebook, Google Adwords, your email newsletter and your site is that they are accountable. You can get real-time feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. You have the ultimate flexibility to stop something or change it. You can pause a campaign when you want and start it again when it suits.

Now don’t get me wrong – online and social media advertising isn’t perfect. It’s certainly not without its flaws. It’s also fair to say that there are a huge number of people wasting just as much money on digital advertising as they do on traditional media.

But you can make a local newspaper advert accountable. Here’s how you do it. You share a single offer or a single product in the advert. An exclusive offer. A unique price. It has to be something that you don’t share elsewhere.

This might seem counterintuitive. After all conventional, accepted wisdom is that you need to have a mix of media and a blend of channels. But if you want to stop your advertising being a punt and start looking at it as a genuine investment you need a means to measure what works. A way to isolate and focus on one single media that you’d like to test.

Local Newspaper Advertising - Does it work

Stop wasting your money.

But I think you can have a broader campaign and still measure the effectiveness of a single channel. What you could do, and if your margins allow – you could offer an additional discount that you don’t share elsewhere. You can take a coupon approach or use a specific voucher code.

You need to factor this into your financial model. In other words, you need to make sure that you’ve built enough margin in to be profitable.

It’s simple and obvious advice, and the small margin that you give away in the short term could save you a fortune in wasted, unproductive advertising in the future.

If nobody redeems your exclusive local newspaper offer, then you’ll have your answer. Don’t be fooled into trying again. Don’t convince yourself that ‘maybe the copy was wrong’ or ‘maybe it was in on the wrong day’. Satisfy yourself that it didn’t work for you. Move on. Don’t repeat the error by trying again.

And what if it does work? If it works – do it again. Consider increasing the frequency or even the size of the advert.

Ultimately the message I want you to take away from this blog post is this – local newspaper advertising should be viewed as an investment and not a gamble.

Take Responsibility

You’ve got to take responsibility, though – so here are my Top Tips for those considering launching a local newspaper advertising campaign.

  1. Let the publisher design the advert for you. (this is usually a free service.)
  2. Ask the sales rep specific questions about their ability to deliver a relevant audience.
  3. Do your homework – search JicReg database for free to get some insights into the circulation and readership of the local newspaper you’re considering advertising in.
  4. Do your homework – check the audited circulation (ABC) figures for the newspapers sales figures.
  5. Focus more on copies sold rather than the number of readers. Copies sold is a guaranteed, audited and reliable figure. Readership data is modelled – in other words, they are an estimate only.
  6. When offered a price – ask how this relates to their published rate card. Your job, as a savvy media buyer, should be to maximise the discount you receive off the rate-card.
  7. Any advertising should be ‘Direct Response’ based (make sales) rather than ‘Brand Building’.

I don’t offer local newspaper advertising related services personally, but if you have a question, or would like some free, impartial advice. Drop me an email and I’ll try to help.

The decision my colleague made was, on this occasion, not to advertise in the local newspaper. That decision was made on financial logic. The sums just didn’t add up and that brought the campaign into the realms of a gamble, rather than investment.


About the Author

I'm Kevin Anderson, the captain of the good ship Square Tree Marketing, an average husband and father to three highly entertaining boys.

Leave a Comment:

(2) comments

Alan November 9, 2015

Excellent blog post Kevin, well done! I really liked your suggestions for how you can make your ads more measurable and the links to where people can do their homework on each publication will come in handy for a lot of readers I’m sure. In my experience too many people buy advertising either because of the “smooth talking” sales person or they are attracted to an on-deadline deal, without that whole strategy piece first. No matter what the price, it is still a waste of money if you are not advertising to the right audience.

    Kevin Anderson November 13, 2015

    Hi Alan, Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and yes I completely agree – getting a ‘bargain’ is pointless if it doesn’t work. I’m obviously focussed on copywriting and content writing for my own business – but my background means there is ‘other stuff’ I’d like to talk about from time to time. As I say though – it can work well for some, but the conditions need to be right and, in my experience, too many advertisers go about it completely the wrong way. They ABSOLUTELY take a punt and have no underlying strategy behind their campaign.

    Thanks again Alan,

Add Your Reply

Leave a Comment: