Positioning Papers

Successfully positioning print for the newspaper industry

I have to start by setting the stage. There a few things that even the astute members of this audience may not know.

The size of print is enormous. It is by far larger than social media, mobile, etc. And it is larger than all other communication media combined.

I am going to first, briefly review the main segments of printing.

Next, I will show the important role of newspapers in print and finally will present a well developed positioning opportunity for newspapers to position themselves very favorably against social media.

My words today are not just thoughts or opinions; they are facts that are very well researched. My background goes well beyond an association executive. I am also the founder of a 34 year old global marketing, advertising and pr firm… but maybe most importantly i am a long-term professor in the graduate school at New York University where I teach courses in marketing, media and business.

I am considered a media expert and my presentation is grounded in a lifetime of experience.


Let’s begin to review print segments, starting with books….you know those bound things that people no longer buy, but only download.

In September of last year the Wall Street Journal corrected that misinformation by publishing a lengthy business article on books and stated that the printing of books has increased a steady 5% in each of the last three years and that the downloading of books is down by a steep 17%.

The amazon bell curve is in effect. Amazon is only 8 or so years old and downloaded books have already peaked and are starting to reverse.

Possibly they are distracted…maybe its time to sell them some on-page advertising and free standing inserts for whole foods.

And one more point that I gathered from fifteen years of surveying my students. Three out of four students prefer real books over downloads. Some make the choice for practical reasons; like the similarity of cost. If the cost of a real book is only $1 or so more, they will always opt for the real book.  Some make the real choice for sensory reasons; they prefer the touch of paper and the look and feel of a real book. Others choose real books for aesthetic reasons; they have bookshelves that are crying to be filled and a shelf full of books gives their room the warmth that a kindle just can’t possibly provide. And finally some like to be identified by displaying the cover of what they are reading, possibly making them appear smart or just cool.

From this day forward, every time you see someone reading with anonymity on a kindle or similar device you are going to ask yourself…what are they trying to hide. Is it possible that everyone reading on a kindle is reading porn??


Catalogs are making a come back and their biggest fans are millennials.

We make the mistake of generalizing that if millennials like digital they like all things digital. Like most people, they don’t like intrusive digital advertising but do like catalogs, direct mail and advertising circulars.

Catalogs, like newspapers and magazines allow people to shop and at the turn of each page, they are brought something new and unexpected….. If you are shopping online chances are you are specifying just one item and you miss out on the total shopping experience.


Next is the broadest print segment of all and  it is very difficult to properly measure. Collateral  includes pamphlets, brochures, booklets, sales materials, business reports, media kits and much, much more. Have you ever been to an automobile showroom and left without one of those slick, four color documents that has all the pertinent information and the beautiful photos of each model?


As strange as it sounds Amazon is responsible for a real spike in the printing of corrugated materials. Online shopping and grocery shopping like fresh direct and others have made corrugated one of the fastest growing printed segments.

That may bring the environment into question with regards to printing. Trees don’t need saving! Like broccoli they are constantly replanted and are renewable, recyclable and responsible. In fact trees are much more plentiful today than they were 20 years ago.

As far as print’s carbon footprint, print has two short bursts of energy; when paper is made.. And when it is printed. Online activity requires continuous 24/7 energy use from large computers to personal and desktop devices and they are always on!

And those 24/7 devices when they are outdated, become permanent garbage!

Print is more environmentally friendly than electronic communication. It is time to set the record straight!

More than 100 companies including banks, utilities and department stores have stopped using phrases like “pay on line, save a tree”.

It was false advertising, since it was proven that trees don’t need to be saved.

A quick story that you are not allowed to repeat. One of my daughters, who works in marketing for one of the world’s largest banks overheard a conversation I was having about this issue and she commented “dad we had to reassign 10 employees when we stopped saying ‘pay online, save a tree”. When I asked why you would need 10 people to implement this activity, she said it was a profit center and that for every customer that the bank got to pay on line, they saved over fifty dollars a year in postage and printing costs resulting in millions of dollars in additional profit for the bank!

 Direct mail

Direct mail is having a true renaissance. It is the only media that is measured in real true sales results. Dollars! Not clicks, not likes, but real orders.

Targeting of direct mail has greatly improved. Today it is largely printed via high tech digital printing employing ‘variable data ‘ allowing each piece to be printed with a different message and photos.

When a printing company CEO was asked how many press operators he employed, he stated that he employed many more programmers than press operators.


Directories are the only print segment in steady decline. They went the same way that your back end classified sections went. I guess there are a few things that computers can do a bit better.

Labels and packaging

I am changing the alphabetical order here a little by combining labels with packaging and deferring free standing inserts and combining it with newspapers since fsi’s are a true newspaper product.

Labels and packaging are the true winners.

Almost everything comes in a package or has a label. Boxes, bottles, cans, pouches, jars, flexible packaging and many more. Even fruits like apples, oranges and bananas have little stickers.

Packaging and labels can’t be replaced by the internet. They are very resillient and have become real media. How many times a day do you stand in a supermarket, drugstore, pet store, liquor store or newsstand and look at shelves of merchandise and make selections to purchase.

Printed packaging in the aggregate will reach a trillion dollars worldwide in just two years. The top two markets are the U.S. And Asia.


Our sibling media, magazines are also holding their own.

For some reason magazine publishers are very quiet about identifying their sources of profit.

The largest magazine groups like Hearst, Meredith and Conde Nast still make the vast majority of their profits from print advertising.

The value of advertising in magazines continues to determine value by print dollars and digital dimes.


Lastly there is out-of-home media like billboards, transit ads (buses, trains, subways, taxis) and vehicle wraps for trucks and cars and signage in general . Out-of-home has increased due to the technology of wide format digital printing. This process now produces everything from retail store window signage to in-store retail graphics to building wraps and of course in NYC one must think of Times Square. Out-of-home is largely print, but also has a large electronic component.

I will segue to our main subject of newspapers in a minute, but first please allow me to make one last comment on the overall size of print.

Print in the aggregate

In the United States, newspapers, magazines and direct mail total an advertising value of over one hundred billion dollars in measured media. The approximate breakdown is more than 40 billion each for direct mail and newspapers and 20 billion for magazines.

Add in the remaining sources of print, to the 100 million and the total goes to about 250 billion dollars.

Add to the 250 billion dollars, the conservative value of packaging and labels in the U.S., which is estimated at a third of a trillion dollars and the total, goes to approximately 600 billion dollars.

Media is measured in the United States in two categories measured and non- measured.  Print dollars fall into both categories

A word about numbers… never rely on numbers from a source that represents a specific media since there is a possibility of bias. Always use an average of several reliable neutral sources. Finally numbers should be used as a guide since many different criteria are used to define media and its value.

In advertising value, broadcast and all its versions including cable is about 75-80 billion dollars, the internet and all its versions including social media and mobile is also about 75-80 billion dollars.

As you can clearly see print is much larger than the internet. Print is much larger than broadcast and much larger than all media combined!

Sothe next time you make a newspaper advertising proposal, stand a little taller with the confidence that newspapers are part of largest communications media of all!

Now for the main event……


Newspapers have been the mainstay of advertising for centuries.

There is no better way to reach your audience whether it’s on a national, regional or local basis.

On-page ads with coupons and fsi’s are a way not to lose advertising to other media, even if it is just a coupon for a local retailer. The coupon will trigger a sale and at the same time let the retailer know that their advertising is working. National fsi’s are a success story. The News America and Valassis ones can range from 8 to 32 pages depending on the market and have weekly press runs of up to 60 million each. Not to mention the supermarkets, drug stores and electronics.  Local versions of free standing inserts can work just as easily, whether on a co-op basis or stand alone.

Sure we have had a few setbacks with newspapers over the past decades. I can think of three. I am sure you can think of even more.

The first was the loss of the back-end classified sections to computer sites.

The second one is the devastating blow of 2008 recession which caused havoc for everyone not just newspapers.

To put 2008 in clear academic perspective, there have only been two major financial crises in the history of the United States; the 1929 depression and the 2008 recession.

And third, the dent that digital advertising on social media is making on newspaper advertising.

We can’t do much about the first two, but we can certainly start to fight off the threat of social media. In fact, I think they have already started it for us.

No, I am not predicting the second dot com bust. Social media won’t go entirely away, but I think we can have a major correction in our favor.

Why are we at this junction in the first place?  Print is more than 500 years old and newspapers were not far behind. I’ll bet in the 1600 and 1700’s we made a lot of noise because we were new. Now we tend to rest on our legacies and let the new media make the noise.

It’s time to change our strategy and make some noise and frankly the timing couldn’t be better.

There are two tracks to social media; news and advertising.

They are starting to suffer a bad reputation in both areas, so with all the current headlines let’s start with news or should I say fake news.

Our government spent a year going after the Russians, only to finally realize they really needed to focus on the source, social media platforms.

Social media and digital advertising are joined at the hip. Create sensational ‘fake’ news and you will attract a lot of advertising to those sights. For the time being let’s complete the news portion and then I will go digital advertising.

Fake news is not just about the Russians and the 2016 elections; it is about a lot of countries and a lot of opposing views. The Democrats, the Republicans, conservatives, liberals and every possible issue, just to name a few. It’s about company ‘a ‘against company ‘b’ and yes even industries and associations.

Please, I know what some may be thinking. Let’s hire the Russians as the ad agency for the New York press association.

I don’t think we will need there help.

Now we have to ask why groups and individuals use or better yet … abuse social media with fake news. The main reason is that they can. ….and they can do it easily. There are no safeguards and news and advertising on social media are the equivalent of the wild west. There are no rules or regulations. These of course cost money and the motto of social media platforms seem to be “profits at any cost”.

I won’t go into the privacy issue and the selling of personal information. For now, I leave that to the lawyers and to the government. But this issue has additionally damaged the reputation of social media and consumers, especially are not very happy!

You should probably remind your advertisers that their customers are angry with social media platforms for their lack of responsibility.

This is not just about Facebook; it is about all platforms with news and digital advertising. The “fang”tech group on wall street includes; Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google & Youtube (Alphabet). Others are also involved. Of course Twitter, etc.

As I am writing this, it is the  day before the Zuckerberg testimony in Washington DC, but even a perfect ‘mea culpa’ won’t change the headwinds that have been brewing for over a year.

Let’s focus on last week when Facebbok started it’s apology which at the time was diluted and not a case history in sound crisis management practices.

And what media did Facebook choose to give there apology?

Full page newspaper ads of course!


Newspapers can be trusted!

Newspapers are real!

Newspapers are credible!

Newspapers are responsible!

The fake news is getting the headlines, but for us the fake digital advertising is definitely the main culprit and the main thorn in our side. So, let’s go over to the digital advertising side where the news is just as fake. Here we have the assistance of the world’s largest advertisers.

Last year Procter and Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, advised that they were not going to pay any digital advertising invoices that did not have audited measurement from reputable third part sources. It seems that digital advertisers thought they could just get away with self  measurement which of course was always great. My late mother had a saying about…:”s.p.s” self praise stinks.

P&G has started a movement to question all digital advertising, not only for measurement, but also for inflated costs, fees and commissions.  It turns out that digital advertising has a lot of middle men and everyone has their hand out and it is very hard to audit its true cost. There is simply no transparency.

The digital advertising approach is often quantity over quality and that of course brings up the effectiveness of digital advertising.  P&G suspended a hundred million dollar buy of digital advertising for specific products and audited the effect on sales before and after. Their findings were that digital advertising had absolutely no effect on sales.

Digital advertising is suspect with respect to


Costs, fees and commission transparency

And effectiveness

Not only Procter and Gamble but dozens of major advertisers like Unilever, JP Morgan Chase and countless others are taking digital advertising to task.

For Chase their complaint was with videos placed on websites.

They asked for demo breaks of male and 45-50 years of age, which is what they got but unfortunately it included terrorist and porno sites. Programatic is not all that it is cracked up to be!

Chase reduced their sites from hundreds of thousands to just five thousand and insisted that they all be vetted by real human beings.

Another complaint that is made about video measurement is that they measure as positive clicks for only a fraction of a second.

Positioning newspapers

Newspaper advertising has a huge potential to grow!

Newspaper advertising must be positioned against the competition of social media.

Positioning against the competition is now common.

It started in the 70’s with Avis and Hertz.

All you have to do is remember the key words….

Start with the positive……..

Newspapers can be trusted!

Newspapers are responsible!

Newspapers are credible!

Newspapers are real!

Newspapers work!

Then the negative of digital advertising

Effectiveness is suspect

Measurement is not third party

Costs, fees and commissions are not transparent

Digital advertising is part of social media which it is clear that it can’t be trusted.

It’s simple and easy…

Newspapers can be trusted…

And digital advertising not so much!

We have to repeat this story at every opportunity!

You have the positioning points and key words.

 Now its up to you….

Let’s make newspapers the first choice for trustworthy media!!