What newspapers need to know about advertising

In an online news world where every page view counts, RAM (Research and Analysis of Media) Co-Founder Staffan Hulten and Global Sales Director Bob Busch are daring to say that although "clicks are interesting, they’re not what counts.”

During a presentation at the INK+BEYOND newspaper conference in Toronto, the two speakers addressed some of the misconceptions that many in the newspaper industry have about the advertisements that run on their various platforms – print, radio, TV and online. In terms of page views and ad clicks, Hulten and Busch agreed that news organizations focus too much on simply "counting eyeballs" without evaluating the effectiveness of the ad in the first place.

For one, the stats on clicks don’t tell the whole story, says Hulten, because a majority of those clicks come from those dubbed the "heavy-clickers," Internet users who travel from web-page to web-page and click everything, but don’t truly engage with the content. An ad also doesn’t have to be clicked to be effective. As long as the viewer is able to remember it to use down the road, then the ad will have done its job.

Hulten went on to highlight ad recall, brand recognition, engagement and action as the main criteria used to measure ad effectiveness, and how transferring ad campaigns to cover all platforms strengthens numbers on all four aims. News organizations should aim for "optimal purchasing,"—the perfect combination of ads across all platforms—and work to equip sales representatives with concise and clear numbers on how each target performs on each platform.

However, online holds a pitfall of allowing advertisers to do too many things, adding multiple elements that may distract from the brand that the ad s trying to sell. "Never is it a good thing when we sacrifice the message for creativity," says Busch. "If it’s not apparent what [people] are looking for, they’ll look somewhere else."

In fact, Hulten reveals print ad effectiveness can, at times, be even more effective than online and TV and have always consistently measured between good and great. Print news often underestimates how effective their own ads are. By contrast, he says, TV often overestimates how effective their ads are.

"Print is the only medium that people purchase just for the ads," says Busch. He cites the Thanksgiving paper in the United States, which is always larger because of all the Black Friday promotions. But that’s why, he continues, news organizations have to know their numbers for each platform well, so that the best possible combination of ads on different platforms can be sold to the advertiser.