In 2010 comShare published a study titled “Site Matters: The Value of Local Newspaper Web sites” (sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America, representing some 2000 US newspapers) that “measured consumer attitudes and behaviors regarding local newspaper Web sites and content compared with other online sources of local news and information.”
While the study discussed which types of online content consumers most trusted for local information, one remarkable fact emerged that bears discussion in this blog: Newspaper web sites ranked highest in terms of the credibility and trustworthiness of their advertising.
This is an important fact missed by many newspapers; the fact that their web sites are more capable of selling than any other local sites. Someone please alert the newspaper sales department!
Newspapers are not only themselves trusted brands, as discussed in my previous post. They are also purveyors of trust: some of the faith that people have in the reliability of local news rubs off on the newspaper’s advertising as well. Place an ad in your newspaper’s web site and people will more likely believe the message.
When you add to this the fact that local news consumers are also well-qualified leads–they live, work, and make purchase decisions in the same market area as the newspaper advertiser, you start to realize the extremely high value of newspaper advertising. In other words, newspaper consumers are also, demographically, the most likely consumers of the advertiser’s goods and services.
It is great news for newspapers that their web sites are the most trusted sources of advertising. But they now need to (1) market this message to their advertisers, (2) position themselves as a high-end advertising solution, and (3) price themselves accordingly.
This means using a “page sponsorship” model, not cheap banner ads. Sponsorship is an old and well-tested model. Newspaper web sites can charge advertisers a fixed fee, not based on ad impressions, but on visibility to the highly qualified local consumer community, for a range of sponsorship placements. These placements can be anything from a logo appearing beside the mast, to co-branding the daily email newsletter, to display ads that follow standard IAB banner sizes but are not sold by ad impressions.
Sponsorship ads should not look like the blinking, shouting, ridiculous banner network ads that clamor for attention in a typical web site. Those just add to the “banner blindness” effect. Instead, they should look like a message from a respected local business promoted by the newspaper. Or even better, display as an actionable message, like a coupon; something capable of demonstrating to the advertiser that the ad is indeed working.
After all, the real value of a sponsorship ad is not that it tallies up thousands of nameless impressions, but the fact that real and potential customers will see and trust that ad.