Media Facts

Advantages | Disadvantages | Plus Radio

For the past 30 years, if there has been a soundtrack for Radio's battles against newspaper, it would have to be "The Impossible Dream" from The Man of La Mancha.

To dream...the impossible dream...
To fight...the unbeatable foe...
To bear...with unbearable sorrow...
To run...where the brave dare not go...

In more contemporary terms, we would have to say that newspaper has been Radio's daddy for decades. Advertisers have been so convinced that they had to be in the newspaper that they have continued to give the medium the lion's share of their ad budgets in spite of arrogant pricing and lackluster service. Meanwhile, Radio salespeople have had to prove themselves and our medium constantly in return for table scraps.

While it's true that commercial Radio has been around for almost a century, newspaper is almost two-and-a-half times older. With longevity comes credibility, and newspaper is considered to be part of America's very foundation. Another thing advertisers find compelling about newspaper is that their competitors also use it. Many believe they have to be in the newspaper for that reason alone. On a more practical basis, newspaper is definitely effective at providing advertisers with a visual representation of their goods and services. Newspaper also allows advertisers to list a lot of details and technical information. Finally, newspaper is where consumers habitually go for prices and sales when they have made the decision to buy. Those are some pretty good justifications, and you run the risk of looking self-serving and less than credible if you tell a client or prospect that advertising in the newspaper is foolish.

Demographically, if an advertiser is targeting younger consumers, newspaper will not be as effective. According to the 2011 State of the News Media, adults over the age of 65 are the most likely to be newspaper readers. Circulation for the nation’s major daily papers continues to trend downward, based on Audit Bureau of Circulations figures.

When you compare their decrease in circulation to the rate increases most newspapers are imposing on their advertisers, it's not hard at all to raise the question of value, and let the clients answer it for themselves.

While newspaper is great at communicating price to consumers who have made the decision to buy, it does a very poor job of communicating the emotional value of a product or service, and we all know people decide to buy based on emotion. People who do read the newspaper usually don't read every section, and most people who see an ad in the newspaper don't recall the ad after they've seen it.

Finally, the most important concern is the inability of most local advertisers to afford an effective level of frequency. Frequency is critical to the branding process, and it is cost-prohibitive for most of the advertisers you are calling on.

The most effective strategy is to explain the benefits of simply reducing the size of the client's ad and reallocating the savings into Radio. It's been said that opposites attract, and the polar differences between Radio and newspaper make them a very attractive advertising combination for clients who want to see a substantial increase in their return-on-investment without an increase in the investment itself.

It's time for all in Radio sales to wake up to the fact that converting newspaper dollars into Radio schedules is no longer "the impossible dream."


Mass Audience: Newspapers reach a relatively large mass audience throughout the market with a single exposure. A single ad in the newspaper typically can create more impressions than a single commercial on television, a single Radio commercial, a single outdoor billboard, or single insertion in any other medium.

Visuals: The newspaper's combination of text and graphics, when used effectively, can create visual appeal that reinforces the messages of its advertising.

In-Depth: Newspaper ads have the ability to communicate lengthy, complex or detailed information and descriptions.

Comparison Shopping: Newspaper is an effective vehicle for price shopping, and serves as the prime source for coupons.

Ad Variety: The medium offers a variety of ad sizes that allow advertisers to meet their budgetary constraints, from a one-column-inch ad to two full-page ads side by side called a double-truck.

Ease of Tracking: It's relatively easy to track response, primarily through couponing.

Lead Time: Advertisers can place orders and copy with a relatively short lead time.

Exposure: The reader controls the amount of exposure to a given ad. They can spend as much or as little time with an ad as they like.

Geographic Targeting: Zoned editions of newspapers in large metro areas allow for less than full-run advertising.


Decreasing Penetration: Gone are the days when almost every American household subscribed to at least one newspaper. Just after WWII, there were more than 1.2 newspapers in the U.S. for every household. Today, it's 0.4, meaning that on average, a household subscribes to less than half a paper. (RAB Newspaper Performance Reports, based on ABC data, are available for most U.S. markets.) (Knight Foundation, 2011)

Ad Clutter, No Separation: Your ad placed next to your competitors’ can only be an advantage if your price is absolutely the lowest.

Passive: The paper provides information once consumers decide to buy, but it does not build brand awareness or create product demand. Newspaper advertising thus works mainly for comparing prices.

Browsers, Not Readers: Most people don’t read all sections of the paper every day. Ads in a given section reach only those who read that section.

Can’t Target: It's difficult to accommodate selective approaches that improve your cost efficiency and enhance frequency against clearly defined, high-potential customer segments.

Declining Ad Revenue: All three major newspaper print ad revenue categories have declined sharply in recent years. When compared to 2010, Retail is down 42% since 2005; National is down 45% since 2003; and Classified is down 67% since 2005. (State of the News Media, 2011)

New Competition from Outside: One of newspaper's ad categories (classifieds) is under attack both from Internet sites and savvy Radio stations.

Aging Audience: Newspaper readership skews older (50+).

Plus Radio

Radio Excels: Where newspaper is deficient, Radio excels. Combining the two in a media mix capitalizes on the advantages of both media.

Excellent Reach: Radio reaches 72% of every American adults every day, and 93% every week. Using Radio together with newspaper increases the reach of your advertisement among light readers and younger consumers.

Time: Sixty-two percent of shoppers listened to Radio 13 minutes prior to making a purchase -– providing the greatest "purchase proximity" of all major media. Combining Radio with newspaper allows you to influence more customers and closer to the point of purchase when they are most receptive to critical marketing information.(Radio Marketing Guide, 2011)

Linear Medium: Radio is a linear medium, unlike newspaper where the reader can skip past ads.

Intrusive: The success of your marketing strategy depends greatly on how you reach and motivate your customers before their decision to purchase has been made. The intimate power of Radio can stimulate new demand by creating emotional reasons to buy your product and then directing customers to the newspaper for detailed information. It can help maintain loyal customers by keeping your name or brand image top-of-mind.

Listeners hear commercials: Newspapers like to be judged on how many subscribers or readers they have, not on how many people read an ad. Radio judges itself on how many people are available hear a commercial (Average Quarter Hour). Newspaper readership is more comparable to Radio’s cume audience.

Targetable: Radio programs many different formats, each attracting a particular demographic or lifestyle listener. Advertisers targeting a specific audience often find Radio more efficient than newspaper.

Message Frequency: Radio adds impact through message frequency. That means bigger and faster results because repetition sells.

Radio Advertising Effectiveness Laboratory: Additionally, information in the RAL study on Synergy shows when used in conjunction with newspaper, the use of Radio added 100% of total brand recall when compared to newspaper alone.

Ad clutter: Radio features commercials one at a time unlike newspaper that often displays multiple ads on the same page, deminishing branding opportunitites.