Does your newspaper’s marketing suck? Probably

Marketing the newspaper

[Samples of marketing campaigns we have produced for client newspapers.
Click above to review more.]


Recently I spoke in San Antonio at a conference for publishers held by The Inland Press Association. During my session titled “Don’t  Just Redesign – REINVENT!”  I included some excerpts from marketing campaigns I have developed for client newspapers. This is a service I began offering about eight years ago, after being frustrated with generic or off-point campaigns produced by expensive external ad agencies or in-house marketing departments who just didn’t get it. Sorry to be so blunt, but being in the middle of the redesign storm, I felt I was often better positioned to get to the essence of the project, more quickly, creatively, and cheaply than an outside agency.

When I showed the Inland crowd some campaigns created recently for client papers, the audience perked up. “We do a TERRIBLE job of promoting ourselves!” one editor exclaimed. Said another: “And it’s gotten even worse with the tightening of our news holes – we don’t even have space for house ads any more.” (Insert collective sigh here.)

But newspapers SHOULD create space for house ads – even small ones that can speak to readers and advertisers about how invaluable your services are. (Aren’t they?) And direct mail pieces. And website destinations that SELL your virtues to both audiences. Particularly online, is ANYONE doing a good job of convincing advertisers why they should jump on board, either the print or online products? Of convincing readers why newspapers are worth saving? [Related post on this blog: I asked the editor of Ad Age and several marketing gurus to give a critical eye to a save-the-industry ad campaign.]

Here are a few tips for better house ads:

  • Don’t be generic. Too many house ads fail because they do little more than announce that the paper, or a section, exists, or alerts readers that you have a web site.
  • Play up your importance to the community. If you really are essential to the life of your readers, brag about it. Be specific. How have you improved their quality of life lately?
  • Don’t over-design them. Too many house ads look like car ads, because they’re designed by the people who create your car ads.
  • Even small one-column fillers will be read. Why not use the space to entice the reader to go online, to find a specific local story, or editorial, or column, they may have missed in yesterday’s paper?

Want to see more? Jump on over to this related post on my site to see samples from some of my marketing campaigns, developed in recent years for redesign clients. They range from simple, impactful “poster”-like designs to create buzz for a redesign, with big headline, image and logo only, to more detailed, text-heavy ads that convey depth about why one should read, or advertise in, your publication. Each sample is just a glimpse of a larger, detailed campaign created for clients, often broken down into pre-launch, launch, and post-launch components. My team created concepts, headlines and visual identity, and each campaign consisted of anywhere from 12 to 36 different components, from house ads to billboards to direct mail to rack cards.

Whether you are going through a relaunch, or starting up a publication, or just need to get your message out there, now may be the time to reconsider your marketing challenge. For more information about marketing your news publications, feel free to email me at ron (at)

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Follow-up post on this blog: I asked the editor of Advertising Age and several marketing gurus to give a critical eye to a new save-the-industry ad campaign.

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