In the past couple of months, I have seen an increase in the number of instances that challenge us to prove the return on investment (ROI) of our products.

From agencies to local businesses, the questions and challenges are similar. The run-of-paper (ROP) advertisement, or sales circular, doesn’t seem to pull like it used to. In some cases, the challenge includes the ROI from our digital newspaper sites.

The main point is we know there is an ROI from our products, and we have always been challenged to measure it. As the world has moved to more digital and more measurement, more sophisticated analytics have followed.

We understand the “ask” for more and better information and that we are left at a disadvantage if we do not address these challenges.

The headline of Greg Dougas’ March 14 blog post stated it well: “In looming battle for identity, news publishers must claim their audience through more intelligent data.”

This is the challenge being presented by our clients. They are demanding we develop better customer metrics to compete for their business. It is absolutely vital to develop reader-centric analytics that reveal:

  1. The audience value of our news organisations to advertisers.

  2. The value individual readers find in visiting our destinations.

But, as we work toward these more reader- and data-centric goals, we still must compete today.

Immediately, we can reference articles such as the recent, “Cross-media study shows print advertising has highest ROI,” Erik Grimm’s February 2014 INMA blog post.  

Results outlined from Dutch news media and GfK Research methodically correlated the media exposure and purchase behaviour, identifying the additional sales lift gained by fine-tuning media channels.

And, surprise, print media delivered the best returns! Combine print and digital returns, and you have the most powerful combination around.

As we each compete for business and readers in our own local markets, there are a couple of other things we can bring to the table.

First, don’t be afraid to place call-tracking numbers within your client’s ads. Whether print or digital, it will give you performance metrics to illustrate how these ads are driving business.

At The Bee in Sacramento, California, we can do this using our Impress Local dashboard, delivering these metrics to provide a more meaningful discussion between the sales account manager and the client.  

Second, if you have Scarborough data for your market, you can set up views of consumer spending in retail categories against media channels used. Credit to Gary Benjamin, senior analyst and strategist at The Bee, for teasing this information out of our data.

The source for the data in the charts below is the Scarborough Multi-Market Study, R2_2013. The base is set to reflect the total U.S. adult population (within the sum of markets measured by Scarborough), and the media options are general channel variables: “any daily newspaper,” “any newspaper Web site,” “used mobile device to read any newspaper Web site,” and “tablet used to read a newspaper Web site.”  

By using the variables “any newspaper,” “any newspaper Web site,” etc., the power of the channel is evident. Maybe some of you can use these views in your markets if you are without access to such research.

Admittedly, these views are generalities, but generalities can have value when they disclose verifiable trends.

(If you’d like more information or clarification, Gary is always delighted to hear from you at

Newspaper company products are engaged across the diverse points of access that consumers use today.

As we know, printed newspapers deliver an older median age consumer, while the digital portfolios are used by younger segments.

Higher median income consumers are the users found across the portfolio, ratcheting up to extremely high levels among our digital channel users.

Families with children represent another important audience that advertisers target. Our product portfolio demonstrates a high reach of households with children.

Consumers using our products have the means to spend more on groceries than those in the average household.

Another example of our product users being powerful consumers: Our audience across all touch points spends more on furniture than the average household.

It’s a fact that our audience represents the segments that buy more.

And you can further drive the point home by looking at the amount spent on variables, such as furniture, below.

Households that engage with the printed newspaper, the newspaper Web site, mobile site, or through a tablet, spend more money on furniture.

When you sum the dollars spent by adults engaging with the product portfolio we offer, there are significant amounts compared to the average U.S. household. There’s value in being in front of the above-average buying audience that our portfolios engage with every day.