Around 40% of Americans still read a print newspaper in a given week, with the majority of newspaper subscribers in an older and more affluent group. If your small business is looking to target this demographic, then newspaper advertising is a good option for you.
A huge plus for small businesses is that many newspapers are local, so your newspaper ad will only be seen by people who live or work near your business. Usually, the most successful strategy is to pair newspaper advertising with other types of advertising, such as online, radio, and TV advertising.
To be successful with newspaper advertising, you will need to understand how pricing works and different strategies you can implement when taking out an ad.
How Much Does Newspaper Advertising Cost
Prices will vary based on size of the publication, so we chose a small, medium, and large newspaper to give you an idea of the range you can expect from different papers.
Newspaper Advertising Costs – Examples
|Newspaper||Circulation||Price for full page ad||Price for ¼ page ad||Price for ⅛ page ad|
|Milwaukee Journal Sentinel||153,207||$23,688||$5,922||$2,961|
|Bozeman Daily Chronicle (Bozeman, MT)||14,069||$2,772||$693||$347|
Prices are based on Sunday advertising in black and white. The cost to advertise in color varies greatly between newspapers, but you can expect to pay up to 50% more for a full color ad.
You will notice that there is a big cost jump in price between small town and big city papers. So what determines whether advertising in the newspaper will be within your small business marketing budget?
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How Newspaper Ads are Priced
There are a variety of different factors that determine how much newspaper advertising costs. A few of the main ones are:
- Circulation of the newspaper – The higher the circulation, the more you will pay for an ad. Note that some newspapers will list their readership instead of circulation on the rate card. These two terms are not the same, as the readership number assumes that multiple people in a household will read the same paper. While this may be true, advertisers pay based on circulation.
- Size/color of the ad – The bigger the ad the more it will cost. You will also pay more for your ad to run in color.
- Number of times your ad runs – If you run your ad multiple times, you will pay less for each individual ad.
- Day of the week/section of the paper – Expect to pay the most on Sunday. You will also pay more to have your ad in the main section than in the sports or travel section.
You will find the cost to advertise on the newspaper’s rate card. Here’s an example of a rate card from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
As mentioned above, the size of your ad is one of the factors affecting cost. There are two ways that ad sizes are priced:
1. Price per column inch
A column inch is a unit of space one column wide by one inch high. A page in a newspaper usually has 6 columns.
Let’s say you want to run an ad that is 4 columns wide by 10 inches deep. This ad is 40 (4×10) column inches total. If the newspaper charges $12 per column inch, you will pay $480 (40×12) to run an ad that size. Most full page ads are measured as 6 (columns) x 21 (inches) = 126 column inches.
2. Modular pricing
With this type of pricing, newspapers charge based on set modules, such as half page, full page, quarter page, etc.
How to Get a Discount on Newspaper Ads
There are a few ways you can pay a lower price on your newspaper ad:
Advertise multiple times
The amount of times that you advertise in a newspaper–also known as frequency–will change how much you pay per column inch. These discounts should be listed in the newspaper’s rate card, and can be broken down by the amount you spend or the number of column inches advertised in the newspaper annually.
Here is an example of newspaper discounting based on how much the advertiser agrees to spend on advertising during a one year period:
Ask for special discounts
Many times newspapers will offer introductory rates for new advertisers. You can ask for your ad to be featured in a seasonal or special insert for lower than average rates. Newspapers also sometimes offer a remnant space rate that can be discounted up to 80% off of the list price. If you go this route, your ad will be placed in spaces that the paper was unable to fill. You are not guaranteed that your ad will run, however.
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A small business owner’s advice on getting discounts:
Rebecca Harnden, CEO of Humboldt Light Dep, LLC, offers this tip to get your business in front of pre-qualified leads cheaper than regular print runs.
“Contact your local newspaper and ask if they have any upcoming special event features. Newspapers run special inserts during the weeks of special events. The cost for printing in one of these special inserts or handouts is usually much less expensive than running an ad in the regular newspaper, since less people will see it. However, the people who do see it will be interested in your product or service.”
She offers this example, “if you are a wedding planner, run an ad in a seasonal industry specific newspaper insert or in a newspaper produced program distributed at a bridal fair. You know the people who see your ad will be brides or know a bride-to-be, making your campaign much more effective for much less money!”
Newspapers Attach Premiums to Popular Ad Spaces
Unfortunately, you can expect to pay extra to have your ad in prime spots, and some publishers charge extra just for you to specify where you want your ad. That being said, you will most likely want to splurge to specify where your ad is placed. If your ad is in a bad position, few people will see it.
Looking to advertise in your local newspaper for free? Bernice Mirrilees, PR Director at the marketing agency Red Caffeine, suggests you try to land press coverage/earned media.
“Earned media – articles written about your company or by a company employee – can trump a paid ad by establishing credibility and authority as an expert in your given industry or field. It takes some leg work to identify the best writer at any given publication and then pitch them on an article idea that is newsworthy to their readers. But it can pay a great ROI by positioning you as a thought-leader.”
For more on this strategy, check out our full guide on how to get local press for your business.
Benefits and Challenges of Newspaper Advertising
Make sure you are taking advantage of the benefits of newspaper advertising when you are running your ad. These include the following:
By advertising in your local paper, you are able to reach people that are in close vicinity to your business. You are also integrating your business into the local community by placing your ad among local news and events.
Reach new customers
People expect ads in the newspaper
People are less likely to be annoyed by your ad in the paper than an ad on the TV or radio. Not only do they expect to see advertisements, but the ads also don’t interrupt them from reading an article.
People can look at the ad for a long time
This is a plus because you can put more information in a newspaper ad (i.e. pricing, phone number, website, etc.) and people will be able to get a good look at it. This differs from radio advertising, TV advertising, and billboard advertising, where the message flashes by quickly.
Target based on interests
If you own a business that correlates to a section of the newspaper, you can target your ad to people that read that section. For example, if you sell sports gear, you could advertise in the sports section of the paper. This is a win-win situation: it will actually cost you less than advertising in the main section, but you will get a more targeted audience.
Can offer coupons
Newspapers are the perfect medium for coupon advertising. The physical act of tearing out a coupon creates a strong level of engagement with your message, increasing the probability of people coming into your store.
However, there are some challenges to print advertising. A few examples are:
People don’t read the whole newspaper
Even if a newspaper has a high circulation, it’s unlikely that everyone who receives the paper will see your ad. If you want maximum exposure, you will need to place your ad in a premium spot, which will cost more.
Your ad is competing with other ads
There are likely to be other business ads surrounding yours. You need to make sure that your ad can stand out amongst the masses. Try asking your newspaper sales rep whether your ad can stand alone, or if they can make sure none of your competitors have ads right next to yours.
Hard to measure results
Unlike online advertising, where you can easily track who came to your website from an advertisement, measuring your exact ROI with a newspaper ad is trickier. We will go into more detail on the best way to measure results later in the article.
Is Newspaper Advertising Right for Your Small Business?
- Do you have an older target demographic?
- Is your small business related to one of the sections of the newspaper (i.e. sports, fashion, travel, etc.)?
- Can you provide an enticing offer or coupon?
If you answered yes to the questions above, your small business can probably successfully utilize newspaper advertising.
The biggest majority of newspaper readers are older, with 64% of newspaper readership over the age of 55. This compares to only 39% of Americans ages 18-34 that have read a newspaper in the past week. Therefore, newspaper ads are ideal if you are looking to target people over 55.
Newspaper advertising is great for businesses that fit into a specific section of the newspaper. For example, if you are a travel agent, you can target your ad to people that read the travel section of the paper. If you own a sporting goods store, placing an ad in the sports section will increase the chance that people that view the ad will be interested in your product. These sections are also less expensive to advertise in then the main section.
Newspapers are key coupon sources, so try advertising your small business with a coupon. Make sure that you have a placement around the edge of the newspaper, because readers are unlikely to clip out a coupon from the middle of the page.
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Where, When, and How Often Should you Advertise?
You can visit USNPL, which lists newspapers by state and city, to find the different local newspapers in your area. To determine which local paper you should advertise in, ask for information on their circulation. Most newspapers will have details on the demographic of their audience.
Decide which section is best for your business
You will have several choices when you buy newspaper ads:
Run of paper
If you choose this option, the position of your ad will be determined by the publisher. If your ad has a bad position in the newspaper, there’s a good chance that no one will see it, so make sure you understand exactly where your ad could show up if you go with this option.
Main news section
This is the most read section, with 80% of readers looking at the main news. Expect to pay the most if you want to advertise in this section. One downfall of advertising here is that you risk your advertisement being next to an article about a horrible human catastrophe or other negative news.
Local news section
This section sees a small decline from the main news at 75% readership. If your product has broad appeal, we suggest advertising in the local section. You are emphasizing that you’re part of the community, and you will pay less than if you advertised in the main news section.
Other sections (travel, sports, health, etc.)
Readership drops off by around 20% for these sections, but placing an advertisement here is a good idea for some business. For example, if you own a health food store, you can target people that are interested in health by only advertising in that section.
Where on the page do you want your ad to appear?
The ideal placement for an advertisement would have the following three traits:
- Above the fold (the top half of the page)
- On the right hand page, right hand side of that page is even better.
- Next to an article; not surrounded by other ads.
Points 1 and 2 will help your ad be seen by readers flipping through the paper, while point 3 will keep readers’ eyes near your ad for longer periods of time. Work with your sales representative to get your advertisement in an ideal spot. You will probably have to pay a premium, but it will be worth it for more people to see your ad.
Which day of the week should your ad appear?
This depends on the type of service that you offer and how attention catching your ad is.
- Monday & Tuesday: There are fewer ads during these days, so your ads may get more notice during these days. However, circulation (the number of people receiving the paper) is usually lower.
- Wednesday & Thursday: Grocery stores tend to like to advertise on these days, as this is when many people plan shopping trips.
- Friday & Saturday: A good day for restaurants and entertainment providers.
- Sunday: The day with the highest circulation and the most ads. The paper is full of coupons on Sundays.
How often should you advertise?
The amount of times you advertise depends on your marketing budget, but you should try to run your ads at least once per week. You will be able to get a frequency discount if you advertise with a newspaper multiple times, and a potential customer will likely need to see your ad a few times before they decide to visit your business.
In addition to running an ad multiple times, you may want to consider putting your business message out there on multiple mediums. Look at our guides to advertising online, on the radio, and on TV to get started.
What size should your ad be?
The cost of your newspaper advertisement is directly proportional to the size of your ad, meaning the bigger your ad, the more you will pay. Even though it’s been proven that the larger your newspaper advertisement, the more likely people will notice it, this doesn’t mean that you should go with a full page ad.
Here is the percentage of people who will remember your ad from a study by Starch Research:
- Full Page 42%
- Three Quarter Page 38%
- Half Page 34%
- Quarter Page 26%
- One Eighth Page 23%
As you can see, an eighth of a page is a big bargain compared to a full page ad. You get over half of the attention of a full page ad at an eighth of the cost. Plus, ⅛ of the page provides enough space for the ad to have a big headline, a couple sentences of text, and a coupon or photo. Going smaller than ⅛ of a page in my opinion impacts your ability to communicate your message.
For certain businesses, there is an argument for larger size ads. If your customers are not necessarily frequent shoppers and are buying big ticket items, having more potential customers notice your advertisement may be more important than the efficiency of the spend. This point of view is well articulated in this article “How big do you need to run?”.
Creating an Effective Print Ad
You can have the best ad spot in the highest read newspaper, but if your ad is not attention grabbing, people’s eyes will glance right past it. We have included some tips to make sure you advertising dollars don’t go to waste.
Writing the Copy
The most important element of your ad is the headline! If those 3 to 8 words don’t interest the reader, the advertisement will fail. Also consider offering a coupon or discount in your ad. That way, the reader will have a motive to visit your business. Lastly, make sure you include your business information, such as address (or proximity to a well known local landmark), website, and phone number.
When writing your ads you should do the following:
- Look at ads from competitors. Though you don’t want to copy their ads exactly, you want to have a feel for what’s out there, and their ad might spark an idea for your next ad.
- Get suggestions from your newspaper account executive. They will often come up with sample ads when trying to initially get your business.
- Test different ads to see which one is most effective. You always want to be improving your ads. However, make sure you have a system in place to track which sales are coming from which ads.
Producing Your Ad
Newspapers will have a production department that can help you create a professional looking ad based on detailed instructions. However, you are going to have to be very clear for the ad to look the way you want.
You don’t need to use the production department of a newspaper to create the ad. However, you will need to find out their technical specifications to provide to a designer. Working with a professional designer will enable you to give feedback and make changes to the ad. Creating a good looking newspaper advertisement should cost around $150 to $500.
Another option is to have a graphic designer on Fiverr create your ad for as low as $5.
Requesting and Approving the Proof
You should always request the proof for a newspaper or magazine advertisement. A proof will show you exactly how the ad will look in the publication. For a variety of reasons, something can go wrong when you give creative direction to a newspaper or hand over files from a graphic designer. A proof gives you an opportunity to check something did not go wrong before the ad is published.
How to Measure Success
You will need to keep a pulse on how well your newspaper ads are performing if you want to run a successful print advertising campaign. If you are not measuring the results, you could be wasting money on ads that aren’t producing any profit for your small business.
Here are some ways to determine if sales are coming from your newspaper ad:
Include a coupon
Coupons are great for newspaper advertising. Include a deal at the bottom of your ad for people to rip out and bring to the store. This is an easy way to track business that comes from your ad.
Use a call tracking number
A great tactic is to use a phone number on your ad that you only use for newspaper advertisements. That way, if someone calls that number, you will know they called after seeing your newspaper ad. We have an article on how to setup phone tracking that will walk you through the process of setting up this number.
Use a vanity URL
Similarly to a call tracking number, a vanity URL can track which people went to your website after seeing your ad in the newspaper. An example of a vanity URL would be www.yourbusiness.com/NYT. You can purchase a vanity URL for your site here (use domain name search). The downside is that this only works to measure success of your ad if you are looking to drive traffic to your website.
Ask your customers
If you are a small business owner that interacts with your customers on a one-on-one basis, simply ask them how they heard about your business. This works well for realtors and doctors, but not so well for restaurant owners and clothing stores (although such stores can ask for customer surveys).
Calculate your sales
If you are running your newspaper advertisements in isolation, you may be able to determine if the ads are successful by looking at how well your business performs during the months that the ad is running. A positive fluctuation in sales is a good indicator that your newspaper ads are paying off. However, keep in mind that other external events, like a holiday, can also be responsible for driving up sales.
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The Bottom Line
Newspaper advertising is a great way to reach middle age to older adults who are fairly affluent. If this demographic is likely to be interested in your products and services, then incorporating newspaper advertising into your marketing strategy is not a bad idea. Newspaper advertising costs can be pretty affordable, especially for your local paper.
Work with your newspaper sales representative to make sure you are getting a good ad placement, and include an offer or discount to get more foot traffic to your store. Following the guidelines in this article should help you get more business from advertising in your local paper.
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