Topics & themes

Research on advertising’s larger topics and themes from audience attention to measuring effectiveness.

Print vs digital advertising

In an increasingly digital world, the fate of newspaper advertising is often called into question. Does the rise of mobile and the internet mean the death of newspaper ads?

This is a topic of debate which frequently rears its head above the parapet and we have to acknowledge that, in recent years, the circulation of newspapers has fallen (although overall, cross platform readership has increased). However, it should also be acknowledged that the knock on effect this seems to be having on advertising spend is disproportionate, with the decrease in spend far outpacing the declining print audience – which is still a thumping 27 million a week, representing 52% of the population.

On a more positive note, the people still reading print are the most engaged and attentive readers. This is providing healthy returns to advertisers and brands from every category, both in terms of short-term business metrics such as sales and market share, but also longer term business metrics such as price sensitivity, loyalty, customer acquisition and profit.

We know from the ROI Effectiveness Study, that Newsworks commissioned in 2016, that adding newspapers to a campaign boosts ROI by three times on average. However, we also have evidence, from the IPA Databank Study that we have conducted with marketing effectiveness guru Peter Field, that print newsbrands are becoming more effective over time at driving longer term business effects when included within the communications mix versus campaigns that don’t use newsbrands.

When looking for some substantiation as to why print newsbrand advertising is becoming more effective over time, we can look to RAMetrics; a database which tests hundreds of ads and articles a year across multiple measures, within both print and digital newsbrands, to provide benchmarks that help us understand how newsbrand ads are likely to perform.

This data highlights that ad recall within print newsbrands has increased by a whopping 45% between 2008/09 and 2015/16, from 42% to 61%. While the trend is the same for digital newsbrand advertising, the positive increments are smaller, with ad recall shifting 6 points (27%) from 22% in 2008/09 to 28% in 2015/16.

When comparing and contrasting the performance of print newsbrand advertising with that of digital advertising (amongst a base of those who have read the newspaper/newsbrand website) across a number of attention, recognition & engagement metrics, it is also evident that print outperforms digital in almost every instance:

  • Ad recall is 2.5 times higher for ads within print newsbrands than it is for ads appearing in digital newsbrands (on average 66% of readers recalled print ads compared with 26% of readers who recalled digital ads)
  • Branding is 138% stronger in print advertising versus digital advertising (31% vs 13%)
  • Print ads are easier to understand by a factor of 2.6 times (46% of readers claimed print ads very easy to understand but only 18% of readers felt the same for digital ads)
  • Readers claim that print ads are 133% more likely to showcase ads that are more interesting to them (28% for print vs 12% for digital)
  • When it comes to driving action, despite digital being a tried and tested response vehicle, RAMetrics data points towards print advertising driving higher levels of web visits (14% for print vs 7% for digital); intention to purchase (12% vs 5%); recommendation (21% vs 6%) and discussions (12% vs 4%)

That said, of the 26% of readers who recall advertising across digital newsbrands (a strong stat in the context of digital ad viewing generally), RAMetrics data suggests that digital newsbrands are comparable to those who recall advertising in print, across key engagement measures such as ‘branding’ at 46% (vs 47% for print); ‘easy to understand at 70% (vs 68% for print) & ‘interesting’ at 43% (vs 48% for print), as well as action metrics such as ‘look for more information at 25% (vs 29% for print); ‘visit advertiser’ at 26% (vs 27% for print) and ‘recommend’ at 32% (vs 31% for print).

We should also be mindful that the inclusion of digital newsbrands within the advertising mix drives both short-term and long-term business effects, that newsbrand sites provide double the viewing time per page versus non newsbrand sites and that ads are much more likely to get noticed on newsbrand sites versus other digital sites.

Finally, it’s important to note that there is increasing evidence that using more than one newsbrand platform delivers more than the sum of two parts. In our 2016 Multi-platform study we saw that print plus digital newsbrands produced a 3.4 times multiplier effect on brand health measures. This is almost exactly mirrored by Peter Field’s latest analysis of the business effects delivered by newsbrands. Using both print and digital in the campaign mix delivers 3.5 times the uplift in very large business effects of using just one platform.

So, the good news is that while print and digital newsbrands individually remain effective at driving brand and business metrics, in terms of platform choice, two is better than one.

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