Newspapers’ local pull,
voting readers stand as
strong draw for political ads

By Zilan Jiang
and Alexander Martin

Bulletin Correspondents

There is advertising money waiting to be harvested, and it’s in newspapers’ own backyards, an advertising expert advised a workshop audience at the New England Newspaper and Press Association winter convention.

“Political advertising is a huge opportunity,” John Kimball told about 30 people Saturday, Feb. 20, at the workshop on how newspapers can maximize political advertising revenue despite fierce competition with digital media.

“Our readers are voters,” he said.

Kimball founded The John Kimball Group in Leesburg, Va., in 2009 after employment in the advertising department of the Detroit Free Press and as chief marketing officer for the Newspaper Association of America. The John Kimball Group helps newspapers find local political campaigns to advertise for and provides newspapers with information on SuperPACs and other political groups.

“There’s a ton of good news for all of us in the business,” he said. “Newspapers are a critical piece of the information flow for people who actually go to vote.”

Kimball stressed the importance of political advertising in a physical newspaper, pointing to a 2012 study that said 84 percent of Democratic, 83 percent of Republican and 81 percent of independent voters are regular newspaper readers.

“Digital is, not by itself, going to generate success for a candidate,” he said. “When it comes time to deal with ‘Am I going to win on Tuesday?’, how can you ignore 80 percent of the people who are coming to the polls?”

While social media might have the potential to reach a bigger audience, candidates pay attention to what voters – and those who contribute to political campaigns – use as their information source, he said.

Ads in local newspapers and on their websites are rated the most reliable and accurate among voters, compared to television and social media advertising, according to a 2012 survey of 2,000 registered voters done for the Newspaper Association of America.

And nearly three-quarters of all political activity is going to be at the county and local level, according to Williamsburg, Va.-based Borrell Associates Inc., which focuses on media industry analysis.

The latest research from Borrell estimates that total political ad spending in 2016 will reach $11 billion, and that newspapers will receive 10 percent of that total.

“You will not get into the $11-billion party unless you ask for invitations,” Kimball said.

Kimball noted that, compared to national newspapers, local newspapers play a bigger role in setting the political agenda and altering opinions in their markets. According to a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2015, almost 75 percent of political activity in 2016 will happen at the county and local level.

“This is the story that must be told again and again to implant the idea into the minds of advertisers,” Kimball said.

He also discussed how the local newspapers stand to earn significant amounts of money from political advertising.

“The big money happens in the races in your own backyard,” Kimball said. “Politics is a local business.”

In creating political ads, the most important thing for the newspapers to do is create easy-to-understand advertising packages and get in contact with local politicians, Kimball said.

“You show up and say, ‘We’ve got the solutions for you’,” Kimball said. “It’s not tremendously sexy, but it’s exactly what the candidates need.”


Bulletin photo by Alexander Martin

‘Digital is, not by itself, going to generate success for a candidate. When it comes time to deal with ‘Am I going to win on Tuesday?’, how can you ignore 80 percent of the people who are coming to the polls?’

-- John Kimball

Zilan Jiang and Alexander Martin are undergraduate students at Northeastern University.

 


POSTED 3/22/16


 



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