Get the Scoop on Newspaper Preprints

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The residents of Boston read America's first newspaper advertisement on April 24, 1704, in the Boston News-Letter. Almost 300 years later, advertisers spend more than $28 billion in domestic newspaper advertising alone. From 1704 to 1996, newspapers relied on "run of press" to lead the way in ad dollars. In 1997, newspaper preprinted inserts surpassed ROP in revenue dollars and continue to grow in popularity among advertisers.


Newspapers now face the challenge of adjusting advertisers' perception of newspaper inserts vs. direct mail inserts. Similar to direct mail, newspaper inserts offer advertisers a cost-efficient way to influence and target consumers, which translates to higher response rates.


In a national study by the Newspaper Association of America, newspapers were the leading category used to help consumers plan for shopping or make buying decisions. Newspapers' influence over consumers is dramatic: They inspire more than 60 percent of consumers' purchasing decisions. Direct mail, the second-leading category, sways only 11 percent of consumers.


The Ad Design Study, performed by Burke Marketing Research, illustrates how consumers spend an average of 22 minutes reading the newspaper, while direct mail inserts are read for only 3.5 seconds. Moreover, almost two-thirds of consumers keep newspaper inserts for three days. Consumers welcome newspapers into their homes, subscribing or buying them off the rack.


Advertisers can target households in various ways with newspaper inserts. They can use full-run or zoning by ZIP codes, income level, age or even household size. Advertisers also can segment geographically to target large, midsized or small cities. In more rural areas, newspapers are usually the only avenue covering local issues, thus creating a strong tie between the newspaper and residents.


Unlike direct mail, which usually mails to consumers whether requested or not, newspapers must cater to both consumers and advertisers. Newspapers must continue to provide advertisers with cost-effective buys in order to maintain ad revenue, as well as keep the readers happy so that circulation continues to rise.


Response rates are a closely guarded secret in direct response. The average response for a direct mail insert ranges from about 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent. The NAA's study polled consumers on their preference regarding their receptivity to preprinted inserts, and consumers preferred newspaper inserts to a direct mail version 63 percent to 25 percent. Households with an annual income exceeding $75,000 favor newspapers over direct mail almost 5 to 1, as consumers have grown accustomed to reading the paper for promotional events or coupons.


In particular, the Sunday paper offers consumers a virtual shopping mall of opportunities. Unlike direct mail, the news and feature sections in the Sunday newspaper enhance the value of the inserts, as a substantial majority of readers initially buy the Sunday paper for editorial content rather than advertising.


Outside of Sunday, most daily newspapers have a unique day called "Best Food Day." This derived from grocers placing their circulars on a common midweek day in order to attract consumers during the week. As a result, advertisers receive the Sunday benefits of preprint insertions midweek.


The NAA's national study on newspaper insert preferences illustrates that an advertiser should follow a few guidelines to increase product awareness. Nearly 50 percent of consumers prefer an insert that ranges from 7x10 to 8.5x11 compared with tabloid-sized inserts and broadsheet sizes. Glossy paper is preferred over newspaper print by a 65 percent to 16 percent margin, and photographs are favored over drawings 92 percent to 6 percent. For multiple-page inserts, consumers choose folding over stapling 55 percent to 26 percent.


Once newspapers began placing inserts into publications, they permanently altered consumer purchasing decisions. Meredith Kobzik, an account manager for Echo Media in Atlanta, states, "As a former new customer acquisition manager responsible for annual placement of close to 500 million inserts per year, I can say firsthand and with passion that newspaper inserts are worthy of any mailer's attention."


In 2001, U.S. Sunday readership averaged more than 140 million weekly. Newspaper preprints are a viable option for advertisers looking to avoid postage increases, enhance return on investment, increase circulation, reduce lead times and complement any direct mail campaign. Whether you are trying to reach a mass audience or target demographically, newspapers can meet your marketing plan's expectations. n


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