Does Newspaper Advertising Work?

Sales people are calling you to sell it, sellers are demanding it, and your association is telling you to use it, but is print advertising really worth all the time and money you’re putting into it?

Newspaper Advertising

Newspapers come in many forms:
  • neighborhood newspapers
  • city/state/national newspapers
  • trade newspapers
  • industry magazines
Advertising in each of these types of publications can be done in a variety of ways:
  • classifieds
  • small ads next to relevant, industry-specific content
  • mid-size ads – full-page ads
  • editorial sections

Is Strong Advertising Possible with Newspapers?

A strong advertisement incorporates all of the following:
  • A Strong Headline. It’s been known for years that the most important element of a good advertisement is the headline. It’s such an important “make-or-break” part of the advertisement that copywriters have been known to spend 90% of their time on the headline and 10% on the rest of the article.
  • Send out only material on which you are an EXPERT. Sending out too much information on too many subjects is a huge mistake many agents make. If you’re writing about strategic buying in a certain niche market, don’t include mortgage rates, home decorating tips, lifestyle ideas and health stories – these things all detract from the value of your expertise.
  • LOOK GOOD. Old and grainy photos, outdated colors, blocks of multicolored text, cluttered design… Wow – some real estate ads are terrible! Sending out ugly or amateur-looking ads will cost lots and actually do damage to a Realtor’s image. Ads should be professionally drafted and look good.
  • Include ALL contact information. If you’ve read my other articles you’ll see I’m becoming a broken record… Make sure you’re full name, brokerage, cell phone, office phone, fax, email and website URL are all on your ad.
  • Use a good photo. I’m always surprised by the number of old photos Realtors use. If the photo isn’t from the most recent decade, DON’T use it! Get a nice, high-quality, professional photo of yourself to use on all ads.
So – is strong advertising possible with print? Yes, but it’ll cost you. To include all of these things as part of an advertisement takes room, and you can bet that publications will charge for every square inch you use.

What’s Happening in Newspaper Advertising?

Since 2005, newspapers have been losing advertising revenue. In fact, 2009 saw the largest decline in advertising revenue in the history of the industry:
  • Employment classified advertising dropped 67.4% to $205.4 million.
  • Real estate classified advertising slumped 45.6% to $336.9 million.
  • Automotive classified advertising crashed 43.4% to $332.8 million.
  • National advertising slipped 25.9% to $1.1 billion.
  • Retail advertising stumbled 23.7% to $3.3 billion.
  • Other classified advertising slid 16.5% to $587.7 million
2005 – Newspaper industry’s all-time best year with overall advertising revenue $49.4 Billion. 2009 – Newspaper industry overall advertising revenue at $30 Billion (40% decline from 2005). (source: Newspaper Association of America) The fact is that newspaper advertising is in decline and that during this period, online advertising has increased by double-digit percentages every year.

Is Newspaper Advertising Competitive?

In short – no. Newspaper advertising was competitive years ago when it was the established medium of choice for information distribution, but since the mid-90s and the advent of the Internet, print advertising has all but completely lost it’s advertising value. Here are the reasons why:
  • Advertisers are seeing vastly higher rates of return from internet advertising
  • The majority of news and information once offered exclusively on newspapers is now available freely on the internet
  • Internet advertising can be highly targeted, whereas print advertising is broadly targeted at best
  • Internet advertising is paid on click-through rates, not impressions
  • Internet IDX/VOW searching have opened access for the public to almost all MLS systems in the nation – these services cannot be duplicated in print
There are exceptions, though:
  • Highly-targeted lifestyle magazines are good sources of business if they are read by people in the niche you’re targeting – this is used by some of our top customers and can be extremely effective.
  • Neighborhood newspapers are usually inexpensive and can create branding in your geographical niche.

So What’s the Lesson?

Here’s the surprising thing – in a survey of 30 Realtors we recently conducted, almost 80% reported using some form of newspaper advertising in the last 12 months. When asked if it was effective, 100% reported it was not. So, why are Realtors still using newspaper advertising?


So – the are really two points to be  taken from this:

  • Newspaper advertising is a waste of money unless done very carefully and in the right publications, and
  • Most Realtors will save thousands of dollars/year if they learn how to convince their sellers that newspaper advertising WON’T SELL THEIR HOMES FASTER!

2 thoughts on “Does Newspaper Advertising Work?

  1. Great article. Perfect background facts and information, and I liked the small sample survey you did of your own clients. I have not done any newspaper advertising for over two years and it was a great decision. All our clients prefer our strong web presence, and we focus on our results not the details of what we do.

    Keep up the great work RPM.
    John Carter

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