Research Behind the Numbers: Newspapers

When Americans are in the mood to buy, or just browsing, they turn to daily and Sunday newspapers for the advertising information that will help them decide what to buy and where to make their purchase, according to a recently released report by the Newspaper Association of America. The 2001 National Report shows that more than eight in 10 adults regularly or occasionally use inserts, seven in 10 use ROP advertising with the same frequency. Nearly two-thirds of consumers say newspapers are their primary source for advertising and shopping information in general.

The study’s findings, culled from a national telephone survey of 4,000 adults, focus groups, and a pretest completed in May 2001, show that 70 percent of adults used newspaper inserts to plan shopping in the previous month, compared to 51 percent from direct mail. And they prefer preprint delivery via newspapers (inserts) by a 63 percent to 25 percent margin over direct mail.

Nearly two-thirds of surveyed readers look through the inserts even when they’re not looking for something in particular, 70 percent use them when they are in the market, and 75 percent check them out just to see “what’s on sale.” And demographically, households with incomes over $75,000 prefer newspaper delivery of inserts over direct mail by 75 percent to 16.

With this rosy report on a strong medium that substantially influences consumers, who says newspapers are in the tank? A majority of editors and publishers surveyed in the latest E&P/TIPP poll in December expect advertising, and thus revenue, to improve in the coming year.

Forty editors and 73 publishers were interviewed by TIPP, a unit of Technometrica Market Intelligence. A year ago, these newspaper executives predicted 2001 would see substantial cuts and the coming of an economic recession. This year, two-thirds of them, predict the recession will be over within six months, and almost half say they plan to make “substantial expenditures” on plant and equipment in 2002.

Raghavan Mayur, president of TIPP, told Editor and Publisher, “Though newspaper execs may be lukewarm about the current health of the business, they are clearly bullish about 2002.” While three out of four papers have made overall budget cuts in the past year only four in ten publishers expect cuts this year. In fact, a startling 58 percent of publishers expect overall circulation gains in the coming year (despite recent trends), 41 percent expect no change, and only 1 percent fear a decline.

Not surprisingly, when asked “What is the greatest concern at your newspaper for the coming 12 months?” most responses were related to attracting advertisers and growing circulation. While the papers work on circulation, this admission may well provide buyers with some bargaining leverage in preparing their 2002 media mix.

Staff writer Jack Loechner can be reached at

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