Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Differentiate Between Print and Online

If your ads are the same in both print and online, you’re wasting the potential of the Internet and technology. Online readers are different from print readers, and that should be acknowledged in your advertisements.

It’s no secret that newspaper sales are down and the industry is hurting. In 2011, newspaper revenue decreased by 7.3 percent, which is equivalent to approximately $2 billion. Many attribute the decline of newspapers to its inability to adapt to the digital era. Although newspapers have put their products online, there isn’t a distinction between the print and online versions. While newspapers may claim that they have adapted (Look, it’s online! Look, we have a Facebook!), they’re not actually leveraging all of the capabilities and possibilities of new technologies by merely regurgitating a copy of the print newspaper online. Instead, newspapers need to emphasize the differences between print and online — and that should be reflected in their advertising as well.

Much of the advice on differentiating print and online versions of the newspaper has been given to editorial departments. The stories should be different. Print copies of the paper automatically limit what you can offer readers, in size, length and, consequently, the content itself. Journalists have been told to make it worthwhile for readers to visit the website. They can accomplish this by adding extra details to a story that can’t be found in the print copy. It’s also suggested that they offer pictures, videos and live coverage of events and breaking stories. The Internet frees up the limitations that exist for print. If you can’t do it in print, you should be making it available online.

This leads us to the question, “What about the ad departments?” After all, the goal is to sell more papers and increase revenue. The advice given to editorial departments can be applied to ad departments as well. If your ads are the same in both print and online, you’re wasting the potential of the Internet and technology. Online readers are different from print readers, and that should be acknowledged in your advertisements. In print, advertisers have to create attractive and eye-grabbing, yet static and one-dimensional ads that will be able to compete with pages upon pages of other ads. While online ads also have to compete with one another for attention, advertisers need to recognize the fact that online readers aren’t presented with similarly constructed ads as they are in print. Instead, there are some ads with audio, some with video — their competition is abundant and varied in its design.

Therefore, the experience of an online reader is more dynamic — they scroll down pages and click on links and travel from website to website within seconds. By offering the same ads you run in print on the website as well, you automatically make them look dated and cumbersome, and thus bound to be ignored by readers.  It’s important to take advantage of the Internet and truly engage readers with your online advertising. Get creative with your use of color and placement, and make sure you’re being innovative in their construction.

Just because most websites seem to be placing their ads in the same places (right or left side, and maybe across the bottom of the page), doesn’t mean you should adhere to those unwritten rules. They’re unwritten for a reason. Instead, think of creative placements for your ads that will break up the way readers consume online news. If your online advertising becomes predictable, readers will know where to expect ads and thus know how to avoid them. Often, newspaper websites will present their stories in a news feed of sorts, with pictures and headlines. Think about breaking up this news feed with the occasional ad, so it’s more likely to enter the reader’s view while they are reading the headlines. You could also consider having an ad that pops to the very center of a page when a reader opens a new page. Make sure they have the option to close it immediately, if they have to wait to sit through an ad, they may become annoyed and abandon the website altogether.

Consider creating more interactive and engaging ads by implementing video and audio in your advertising. You could also create ads that require some kind of response or interaction from the readers. Print ads don’t allow for audio or video, let alone an interaction with a reader. All of these things are possible with online advertising — make sure you are leveraging these technologies and creating a distinct online experience for readers. However, you don’t want every single ad on your website to be audio or video, because that would overwhelm the reader’s senses. Perhaps only have one video or audio ad per page. Or control when it plays, like when a reader hovers over it with their mouse.

There is still a demand for the print copy of the newspaper, however it’s important to differentiate between print and online advertising. While other aspects of your paper evolve, make sure you are giving equal attention to both your print and online ads by making them innovative and creative.