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 25 million a week, representing 47% 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 Newsworks commissioned in 2016, that adding newspapers to a campaign boosts ROI by three times on average. Evidence from the IPA Databank Study – conducted with marketing effectiveness guru Peter Field – also shows that including newsbrands in the marketing mix means they are becoming more effective over time at driving longer term business effects, vs 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 increased by a whopping 55% between 2008/09 and 2016/2017, from 42% to 65%. The latest 100 ads tested in 2017/8 see an even bigger improvement, raising the recall average to 72%.

While the trend is the same for digital newsbrand advertising, the positive increments are smaller, with ad recall shifting 5 percentage points (23%) from 22% in 2008/09 to 27% in 2016/7.

When comparing and contrasting the performance of the latest 100 print and digital ads, among a base of those who have read the newspaper/newsbrand website, it is also evident that print outperforms digital across all brand and action measures:

  • Ad recall is 2.6 times higher for ads within print newsbrands than it is for ads appearing in digital newsbrands(on average 72% of readers recalled print ads compared with 28% of readers who recalled digital ads)
  • Branding is 107% stronger in print advertising vs digital advertising (29% vs 14%)
  • Print ads are easier to understand by a factor of 2.4 times(46% of readers claimed print ads very easy to understand, but only 19% of readers felt the same for digital ads)
  • Readers are 190% more likely to say that print ads are interesting to them (32% for print vs 11% 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 (13% for print vs 7% for digital); intention to purchase (11% vs 4%);recommendation (23% vs 6%) and discussions (13% vs 4%) 

That said, among the 28% of readers who do recall advertising across digital newsbrands (a strong stat in the context of digital ad viewing generally), conversion through to action is strong.

RAMetrics data suggests that digital newsbrand ad performance is comparable to print among the people who recall it across key engagement measures such as ‘branding’ (50% vs 41% for print); ‘easy to understand’ (66% vs 64% for print) and ‘interesting’ (41% vs 44% for print). The same goes for action metrics such as ‘look for more information’ (26% vs 21% for print); ‘visit advertiser’ (22% vs 18% for print) and ‘recommend’ (25% vs 32% 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. Newsbrand sites provide double the viewing time per page vs non newsbrand sites and ads are much more likely to get noticed on newsbrand sites vs other digital sites.

View more RAMetrics insight

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