Insight from RAMetrics
It has been a long-held belief that right hand pages of newspapers are premium locations for advertising. A quick Google search will find a list of business books and media consultants who proclaim the superiority of the right-hand page. The theories are somewhat conflicting, with some arguing that, as we read from left to right, the right must be dominant, and while others assert that the right is preferable because we read right hand pages first. Much of this theorising appears to be based on personal newspaper reading habits rather than science.
A Poynter US study indicated that people looked at a spread as a whole, but images drew attention – so if there is a particularly dominant image in either the editorial of the newspaper or in the ad, that could affect which element grabbed most attention.
Eye-tracking provides more objective evidence, research by Lumen shows that the natural gaze path for readers is to start in the middle, then scan to the right and back across. This means that ads in the lower left position are seen somewhat less. Keeping in mind that for the research, newspapers are shown on digital screens, so will not account for things that people do with their physical paper, such as folding so only one page is visible at a time, or reading from back to front.
The Lumen data for digitised newspapers shows a viewing bias towards the right-hand page of a spread (58% versus 42% for the left-hand side), partly due to the fact that there are more ads on left-hand pages – and readers are, after all, reading the newspaper primarily for its editorial content.
Full page ads on the right-hand side also achieved higher recognition (94% vs 89% for the left-hand side) and smaller ads performed similarly (17×7: 77% vs 73% for the left-hand side, 25×4: 77% vs 74% for the left-hand side). However, the dwell time for ads is not affected by whether they are placed on left or right pages, according to Lumen.
Analysis of the RAMetrics database determines that being on the right-hand side of the newspaper does indeed have an advantage, ads on the right tend to achieve better recall (all ads ad recall: 68% vs 61% for left-hand side ads), regardless of size (full page ad recall: 64% vs 63%, strip ad recall: 66% vs 56% for left-hand side ads).
Ads on the right-hand side outperform ads on the left across all brand and action measures. Readers find them more appealing (appeals to me: 32% vs 26% for left-hand side ads), easier to understand (easy to understand:19% vs 15%) and they even evoke a greater emotional response (emotional: 21% vs 15%).
However, if we take a closer look exclusively at readers who noticed the particular advertising, we get a slightly more balanced view. Right-hand side ads still demand more attention (44% vs 36% for left-hand side ads) but left-hand side ads are considered marginally more familiar (familiarity: 65% vs 62% for right-hand side ads) and beneficial (benefit: 24% vs 28% for right-hand side ads).
It’s comforting to know that although left-hand page ads are less recalled, they are just as good as right-hand ads at converting engaged readers into action takers (engagement from engagement to action: 49% for both).
What we can say for certain is that although more people might look at, or recall right-hand side ads more, a great ad on a left-hand page will always out perform a lacklustre ad on the right.