Fight fear and negativity with positive points — and, oh yes, facts

Tom Silvestri

Jul 29, 2020

The survey, which was conducted by the research firm Coda Ventures, also confirmed newspapers were the top source that Tennesseans turn to when looking for information about their local government.

Newspapers need more relevant facts.

The battle for eyeballs and ad dollars is won by the media team that makes the best case.

In spirit, The Relevance Project maintains that newspapers win hands down.

When it comes to local news and advertising, we're the best, most trusted medium.

And we've proven our worth for many, many years.

That's even more reason why we need to push harder on articulating facts that keep newspapers in the lead.

Give a loud round of applause to the Tennessee Press Association, which this week released the results of a readership study that shows 8 out of 10 adults in the state are depending on newspapers to provide accurate and trustworthy information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, which was conducted by the research firm Coda Ventures, also confirmed newspapers were the top source that Tennesseans turn to when looking for information about their local government. The local newspaper at No. 1 attracted 53% of the respondents. Want added strength? Reading newspapers for advertisements and public notices was rated as being very important to survey respondents.

We need more relevant facts like this.

The newspaper industry can do a better job of celebrating and disseminating facts that illustrate the quality of our audience.

Keep talking, for example, about newspapers' bedrock readers, the Baby Boomers, and their hard-earned disposable income that's attractive to advertisers and sponsors.

We also need to talk more about where we are going and why. And most importantly of all, we need to show how our news coverage and enterprise stories improve our communities.

While we're at it, let's make that conversation inviting to younger generations who didn't grow up with a newspaper in their homes. Deal with the harsh reality that they didn't love our comic pages, earn money from a newspaper route or get their first job after reading a classified ad. We can win here, nonetheless. Study the relevant facts.

(Breaking news: The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association just released a new ad campaign to “tout your newspaper's strengths against social media misinformation.” Included are references to various generations and how they rely on newspapers. Nice.)

Advocates for the newspaper industry have done a lot of good work to promote trust in newspaper journalism. While we've made progress touting our news value, there's still much to do in stressing the value we offer local advertisers.

That's why the Relevance Project was excited when Tennessee Press Association Executive Director Carol Daniels shared with Newspaper Association Managers (NAM) members a giant scoreboard called the Newspaper Ad Effectiveness that was compiled by Coda Ventures.

The facts from the research firm showed that newspaper ads motivate readers to take action. Overall, more than half of all readers can recall a newspaper ad, and nearly seven out of 10 of those readers say they've taken action.

In her July column in The Tennessee Press, Carol called the results incredible. “That means 36% of the people who read your newspaper do something in response to an advertisement they saw,” she wrote. “The actions readers take range from looking the advertiser up online, talking with a friend, making a recommendation, going to a store or making a purchase. BUT they are taking action ... The money your advertisers spend with you works. And they should spend more.”

The news is even better for circulars/preprints where reader recall jumps to 66%, with 71% of those readers motivated to act. Coda Ventures' data are based on more than 700,000 issue-specific surveys measuring more than 6,000 ads across 40 newspapers around the United States from January 2016 to May 2020. “It is NOT a small sample survey!” Carol added.

Taking a cue from Carol's sharing, The Relevance Project secured Coda Ventures' permission to use the data as well. That research is the basis of our emerging Newspaper Ads Work campaign that zeroes in on specific advertising categories — grocery stores, retail, financial, automotive and real estate, for example — where at least 6 out of 10 readers acted on the ads they reviewed in the newspaper.

We are lucky and grateful that the Tennessee Press Association not only commissioned Coda Ventures for a readership study but also thought of NAM members in spreading the facts.

A top-notch readership or advertising study costs money. For many, it's a big expense.

But the cost of losing business and missing revenue opportunities could be a bigger price to pay.

We need more relevant facts.

Tom Silvestri, most recently president and publisher of the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, is the executive director of the Relevance Project, the joint effort of the Newspaper Association Managers to strengthen the industry’s unique role as the provider of quality journalism and the keeper of public forums for thousands of communities across the continent. NAM is a group of state, regional and national press associations across the U.S. and Canada.