Most newspapers are interested in building readership across all their platforms. And given the pace of change today, it is difficult to continue with the strategies that used to work, as some are no longer effective. 

For example, it is harder and harder to get people on the phone to build a subscription base. And it is challenging to compete with free news (from less reliable sources, in some cases), which some treat as good enough.

Our newsrooms have content covered. They are integrating systems and people that allow them to deliver vibrant news across multiple platforms.

This is good.

But we have overlooked another piece of our content: the advertisements. A newspaper is not a newspaper without them. It is why studies show we are the most acceptable source for ads; readers expect there to be ads, as they are part of content.

So how can we leverage ads to be a readership builder?

What if we recognised that people like ads? Actually, they like good ads. They will pay to see a reel of the best TV ads from around the world. So how can this apply to newspapers?

Let’s turn the current model on its head.

Right now, if advertisers want to do something innovative in your newspaper or on your site, they are asked to pay more for that privilege. In turn, this discourages advertisers and we garner fewer creative ads.

What if we encouraged and rewarded creativity?

USA Today just announced a competition for creative ads, and the winner will receive US$1 million in free advertising space!

Or, on a more feasible everyday basis, what if we provided more frequency, free of charge, to those running creative ads? This benefits the advertiser because we know frequency works. And it enhances our newspapers at a minimal cost. And I am sure we can devise other ways to reward our innovative advertisers.

Imagine the water-cooler conversation being about the cool ad that ran in your newspaper or on your site.  

Need some creative ad inspiration? Well, that’s another article. But what is shown (above) is a well-crafted local retail ad that uses nothing more than a good idea to break through.

The editorial surprises and delights readers, and the ads, can too, making your newspaper an even more enjoyable read.