Why Newspaper Advertising Still Matters

February 20, 2012

Campaigns & Elections
by Tom Edmonds / Feb 20 2012


Convinced that fewer and fewer voters are turning to newspapers? Think again.

Why newspaper advertising still matters

Just as soon as you’re sure about a new trend, a survey comes out and says, “Not so fast. That’s not exactly true.”

For instance, take a look at the “givens” in this year’s political landscape. Young voters are increasingly turning to the Internet for campaign news, right? Wrong. But at least Twittter and Facebook play big roles when it comes to getting campaign information, right? Wrong. And nobody but senior citizens gets their news from newspapers anymore, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

For starters take a look at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey released earlier this month. The survey of over 1,500 adults (read that 18 plus) conducted January 4-8 found that young adults—18-29 year olds—who get their campaign news online declined from a high of 42 percent in 2008 to just 29 percent today.

Even among Facebook and Twitter users Pew reports that “most say they hardly ever or never learn about the campaigns or candidates through those sources.” Where then do young voters get their campaign news (if they get it at all)?  Maybe they’re among the 9 percent that rely on late- night comedy shows to find out what’s going on.  Should we be concerned that this big important voting bloc is not serious about our elections? Well maybe not.

Under 30’s were only 18 percent of the total voters in 2008. I guess there was no “rock” in Rock the Vote. In fact, this group was the least likely to actually show up and vote. The most reliable voting bloc?  That would be seniors by a mile. In fact, 70 percent of Americans 65+ voted in the last major election followed by 69 percent of those 45-64. Step back please and let the lady in the wheelchair through.

I know what you’re thinking. Where do the most likely voters get their campaign news? Well it’s not late-night comedy shows or Twitter, that’s for sure. It’s actually newspapers. A whopping 80 percent of voters 35 and older are regular readers of newspapers in print or online. Yes, I said online. According to another national survey in January of this year, Moore Information’s American Voters Media Use Study, one in four Americans report using a mobile device for campaign news and of those newspaper sources are the number one choice for 58 percent. Even among young voters who do use smartphones et al for campaign news a whopping 62 percent go to newspaper sources. And it’s not just “mobile devices.” Newspaper websites rank #1 in 22 of the top 25 largest markets.

Need more proof that newspapers have made a comeback when it comes to political news and advertising? In the 2002 elections, the newspaper industry collected a paltry $35 million for political advertising. It’s likely that more money was spent on bumper stickers that year. But fast forward to 2010 and the newspaper industry increased their take nearly tenfold to over $300 million in political ad sales.

So, will newspaper advertising be hyped as the hot new trendy thing for the 2012 elections? Not likely. Then again, just when you’re sure you know something for certain it turns out not to be true. But hey, maybe even Jimmy Kimmel reads a newspaper every now and then. But I wouldn’t know. I’m asleep by then.

Tom Edmonds is a veteran political media consultant based in Washington, D.C. He is past president of the American Association of Political Consultants and the current chairman of the International Association of Political Consultants.


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