Not All Newspapers Are Dead
by Eric Stegemann
on Jun 21, 2009
Listed in News

It is fairly undisputed that young people don’t read newspapers.  What’s really causing drastic changes in the newspaper industry is that their tried and true customers are cancelling subscriptions as well.  Ad revenue is down across the board with corporations like Tribune reporting as much as a 30% decline in ad sales.

Originally my opinion was that newspapers were dead and it was pointless to advertise in them.  However, while attending REBar Camp – Chicago this past week I spent some time interviewing a variety of age ranges about newspapers for a project Tribus is working on…  What I found is that while trying to find data to prove that our hypothesis was correct in one of the worst newspaper markets in the United States, we ended up finding time and time again that not all newspapers are dead.

Redeye ChicagoOutside of Chicago many people probably haven’t heard of the Red Eye newspaper, a division of Tribune.  However,  after a significant amount of study.  This newspaper seems to capture the minds of a wide variety of age ranges in the city.  I first encountered the newspaper when boarding the L.  A gentleman was handing them out to everyone boarding at the station.  Now normally when you would see people at a station handing out informational flyers, people take them to be nice and immediately throw them away.  But what was shocking was after boarding the L more than a handful of people were actually reading them and the ones that weren’t had places the newsprint in their briefcases and purses.  The daily edition is probably less than 16 total pages.

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Being an inquisitive person, I broke a cardinal rule of the L.  I actually spoke to other people!  I proceeded to ask them what they thought of the paper, why they were reading it, and if they subscribed to any other paper.

Here’s what I found after speaking to people:

  • It’s free and they can grab it on the move
  • Those reading it loved that they could basically read the entire paper between boarding and leaving the L.  Stories are short and sweet and provide just the most important details.  It is not hard hitting journalism, it’s more bullet points to keep them up with current events.
  • It has stories about celebrities and gossip which for many provided their daily fix they are looking for…
  • Guys enjoyed the basic 1 page sports scores
  • There was info on specials at all kinds of restaurants and bars and ratings and reviews that were funny and serious at the same time
  • They liked having something to hold onto in the morning instead of booting up a laptop.  (When asked what about one of the Amazon Kindles, I was told “it’s just not the same thing.”)
  • There were numerous ads but they were relevant to those reading the paper (We’ll get back to this in a second.)

Obviously this data would suggest that if you can keep news short and sweet young people will pick them up and you can hold onto a new generation of readers.  More interesting to me was that people stated they still enjoyed the medium of a newspaper.  I would have guessed if given the choice between the Kindle and the newsprint, the Kindle would have won.  Not the case.

But for advertisers, the important thing to understand is that readers actually paid attention to the ads!  If you are seeking to brand your message to a certain demographic, this might be one of your best bets.  However you have to be careful in your message.  This is not the medium for placing 100 listings and open houses on…  Instead of putting out listings, let these readers know about your real estate search, explain that what you offer and why you are a hip “red eye” kind of company.  Tell them about the first time homebuyer tax credit, state incentives, downpayment assistance, and the availability of FHA loans.  Advertising in the paper is more than just an ad, it’s a way to show this subset of readers that you are part of their crowd.  They are the ones spending now, they are the first time homebuyers, they are the ones that will be moving  up over the next 5 years.  These are the clients you want to get and hold onto for the long term.

Eric works with real estate technology companies and brokerages across the country to see what's next for the future of the industry and directs our internal development projects here at TRIBUS.

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