The curious case of the shrinking ad media that’s doing better than ever!

Recently one of my colleagues circulated an article about a newspaper that ran an e-auction to sell £1.6m of premium advertising through the duration of the Olympics. Guess what, no-one placed a bid for this ‘premium’ advertising. Not a single one.

Given this and stories about the general decline of Newspapers,  why on a regular basis do my sales team ask me to provide analysis/evidence to prove to advertisers that press is in decline? Why do so many companies in Wales continue to use this seemingly decrepit method of advertising?

Back in 1990 a computer was the size of small a car and there was no such thing as a colour screen (just black and green). If someone told you that you would be able to access your newspaper through online, would you have believed them? What if you’d said access through a mobile phone? And as for tablets they were something we took for headaches!

Today you don’t even need to visit a newspapers website; you can read the headlines from several or even hundreds of media sources for instance, ‘Twitter’.

We no longer need to spend our time negotiating the pages of recycled creased paper whilst staining our hands with ink!

I know what you’re thinking, ‘She works for a radio station so at some point she will say radio is much more effective than press’. Well I pledge to not mention ‘radio’ again, I will merely investigate press as an advertising option.

There’s plenty of proof that fewer people are reading Newspapers. I reviewed 15 Welsh newspapers, from 2009 – 2011 all but 2 had lower circulation figures. One paper’s circulation number was down by 22% in 3 years. They haven’t only suffered from selling fewer papers, but the number of adults reading the paper has reduced in 13 cases as well. This is the number the Newspaper publishers use to calculate readers.

The loss of revenue from the number of papers sold certainly shows up in their financial statements. Even though there are several press companies trading in Wales, financial data was only available for three. All three of them experienced a decline in turnover from 2007 – 2011.

I wondered if the drop in revenue was also a reflection of the advertising market. The answer: Not necessarily, from 2007 – 2011 the amount spent by local advertisers in Wales only reduced by 4%, so it’s not even close to the huge 36% loss in turnover from company A.

It’s not even down to fewer companies using press in their marketing strategy, in 2011 there were 257 more companies in Wales that used press compared to 2007. They have more companies using them than any other form of media in Wales.  In 2011 press accounted for 61% of local advertising revenue in Wales. (Local revenue doesn’t include advertising brought via an agency).

Out of curiosity I looked at the press market share for all monies spent advertising in Wales, (includes campaigns booked via agencies and national advertisers) and press doesn’t fair as well and only accounted for 14% of the market share.

So this is where I have got to!

Why is press advertising so popular? It could be down to cost, putting an ad in the local paper may provide some comfort if the alternative is do nothing at all. What about the risk factor? In the height of a recession maybe the thought of trying something new is a little too daunting? There are so many new ways to advertise now it could be down to knowledge and not knowing where to invest your marketing budget.

I can certainly demonstrate to colleagues and yourselves why I think press isn’t currently the most effective media to use. But what I can’t do is provide a viable case as to why it’s the most widely used form of advertising by local Welsh businesses. I’d like to hear from press advertisers to try to understand your perspective on press advertising and hear what works well and maybe what doesn’t.

Please leave a comment below, or get in touch with me directly on, or @realradiojodi

Leave a comment


  1. K Smith

     /  July 12, 2012

    Depends on the paper and press. Free newspapers are read a lot and I read more free newspapers than paid for (last one I paid for was a year ago?).

    Radio I don’t listen to so those adverts wouldn’t affect me. I can get my own radio station online now playing music I want not what someone else wants (spotify) so I get their adverts.

    But I would say I spend more time on facebook/news websites than anything but trying to get local affordable adverts on these I guess would be impossible.

    • Hi, thank you for the comment. In relation to local adverts online and Facebook, this is certainly an affordable method of advertising for most companies (for example you can cap your daily advertising budget on Facebook). The decline in the readership figures suggest that many consumers have changed the way in which they access news. So even with the declining audience figures the number of companies that advertise in press has increased! There are a few companies in Wales that spend hundreds of thousands of pounds a year advertising in the press!

  2. Brooklyn

     /  July 20, 2012

    Isn’t the fact that less money is spent on press (down in all but two in wales and down 36% in one according to your figures) more important than the actual number of advertisers who spend in press?

    The fact there are a higher number of advertisers (likely smaller companies as press is more affordable now it is suffering- the cost of reaching a thousand has fallen) but revenue is plunging shows press to be suffering. Hardly ‘ad media that’s doing better than ever’!

    I don’t really see what you are getting at here. you seem to be saying that press is doing better than ever yet you are sighting evidence to how much money they are loosing.

    And why do advertisers use press? There are loads of reasons why people use press- if they weren’t any they wouldn’t use it. It’s called revealed preference! If it wasn’t generating a return, in a free market economy, companies simply try something else.

    And they are trying other media-but gradually.

    • Thank you for your comment, you make some great points. With the headline I was actually going for irony, that said when we look at the decline in so many areas it doesn’t account for the increase in companies using press. What this does suggest is that those who use press are driving down the costs, in turn making it more affordable for smaller companies. Of course revenue is important; there aren’t many companies out there with a declining turnover but attracting more customers.

  3. Fantastic info and superbly written. Keep up the superb stuff!


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