Marketing Strategies: Is Newspaper Advertising Dead?

With web advertising continuing to grow, should a business continue to use newspapers as a part of their advertising mix? Conventional wisdom does suggest that newspaper advertising, being on the wane, should be viewed with caution. There is certainly some truth to this belief; however, there is also room for success with this advertising medium.

Just like with any investment, if it makes sense for your business, then it’s probably a good idea. Of course, it all depends upon who it is you are trying to reach, who your customers are, and if you can reach them in a newspaper. For example, if you are trying to reach young people, then newspapers are probably not the right advertising medium for you. For the most part, people under 30 are getting their information online.

In the end, it really depends upon whom exactly you want to reach. According to, newspaper readers are:

  • Educated (“62% of those with postgraduate degrees said they read a newspaper in an average week”)
  • White (“47% read a daily newspaper in 2007, 54% read the Sunday paper”)
  • Older (40+)

(Note: Statistics are for the years 2007 and 2008.)

Newspaper readers also now tend to be upper income, so if some of these factors match your target demographic, then newspaper advertising still offers several definite plusses.

In addition to a demographic match, there may be other factors that would determine whether newspaper advertising is right for your business.

The first is simply the value of being contrarian. One thing that can help a business is going against the grain because, if done right, it makes you more noticeable. That might be the case here where the problems in the newspaper industry can actually work to your advantage.

For instance, right now there are fewer ads and less clutter. That means you can more easily stand out. In addition, lower circulation means that the people who do read the paper are more committed to it and more likely read it closely. Moreover, since these discerning readers tend to have more disposable income, that means they make better potential customers.

And even with declining circulation numbers, the reach in any case is not insignificant: Just about half of all adults still look at the paper on any given day. It would be hard to find one website with that sort of reach, especially on a local level.

And what about value? Again, the problems in the industry can be a boon to you. The CPM in a paper (cost per thousand people reached) is going to be far more affordable these days.

Of course, don’t discount these other possible benefits:

  • Targeting: You can easily target the right lead by advertising in the right section
  • Scalability: Online search ads all look the same. Your newspaper ad can really stand out with a bigger size, color, etc.
  • Options: You can use traditional ads, pullouts, inserts, ads in targeted publications, and even things like sticky notes
  • Trustworthiness: Ads in newspapers seem credible

You’ll also want to consider the pure physicality of the product. People who read the paper like to read the paper. Many like the feel and touch of it. For instance, people looking to buy a house may like the idea of opening the classifieds and actually circling the ads.

Should you also engage in online ads too? Of course, it should all be part of the mix. People learn in different ways – for some, hearing an ad is how they will remember it. For others, reading it online will work. For others still, seeing an ad on TV makes it memorable. And for others, reading it in the paper works best.

Your job is to get in front of as many people as you can in as many ways, as you can and if that includes the newspaper, then we say smart thinking.

What are your thoughts about newspaper advertising? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

This article was written by Steve Strauss. Senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host at

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