Last week, I attended the News Media Alliance mediaXchange conference in New Orleans. One of the sessions focused on new research being conducted by a team from the Advertising and Public Relations Department at Michigan State University about the ROI of preprinted inserts distributed in newspapers. The research is attempting to quantify the amount of consumer spending that is attributable to exposure to preprint advertising.

Preprinted inserts, or free standing inserts (FSIs), are big business for newspapers and advertisers alike — and have been for a very long time. The reason is simple: Newspaper-distributed inserts work for advertisers, and they continue to work even as digital couponing grows and evolves.

So why are preprinted inserts so effective?

One reason is reach.

According to Nielsen Scarborough’s USA+ database (Release 2, 2016; Triad Newspaper Insert Study, “Quantifying the Effectiveness of Preprinted Inserts Among American Newspaper Readers”), printed daily and Sunday newspapers are read by more than 117 million adults in the United States each week, or 47% of all U.S. adults (five-day daily print cume and average print Sunday [net]). Among newspaper readers, “advertising circulars/inserts” are the fourth most-read part of the newspaper, behind main news, local news, and the comics.

A second reason preprinted inserts are so effective is that more U.S. adults get their coupons from newspapers than almost any other source. Among total U.S. adults, 38% said they usually obtain their cents-off coupons from newspapers.

That’s second only to in-store coupons at 40%, and well ahead of mail, customer loyalty cards, and e-mail. Among frequent coupon users — those adults who use coupons once a week or more — 66% said that they usually obtain their cents-off coupons from newspapers.

The utility of newspaper advertising is also an advantage for preprint advertisers. As I mentioned in my January blog post, Nielsen Scarborough has partnered with GfK MRI to include 13 categories of attitudinal information within our syndicated datasets. One of the attitudinal categories is about advertising.

Respondents are asked whether they agree or disagree with a number of statements about advertising in various media:

When asked about which advertising medium provides “useful information about bargains”:

  • Newspapers are the clear winner, with nearly 20% of adults saying they “strongly agree.” 
  • Television advertising was second, with 14% saying they “strongly agree.”
  • Internet advertising came in at 11%.
  • Magazine advertising, 9%.
  • Radio advertising, 9%.
  • Advertising on mobile phones, 8%.

There is plenty of research available that speaks to the effectiveness of preprint advertising. An October 2015 study conducted by Coda Ventures as part of its Triad Newspaper Ad Effectiveness Service found that nine out of 10 newspaper readers take specific actions as a result of reading or looking into inserts. Visiting a store, dealer, or other location ranks as the most common reader action, followed by coupon clipping, product purchasing, and purchase consideration.

The study utilised a Web-based methodology to measure the opinions of 3,619 American newspaper readers. Respondents were asked about their readership of newspaper inserts and the specific actions they take as a result of exposure.

Maybe the most important reason preprints distributed in newspapers are so effective is the high-value audience that newspapers deliver. Newspaper readers are shoppers and buyers and they tend to spend more than the average U.S. adult (five-day daily print cume, average print Sunday and past week Web site [net]).

Newspaper readers are more likely than the average U.S. adult to have spent US$1,000 or more in the past year on a variety of items, including:

U.S. adults have spent US$1,000 or more on the following items in the past year.
U.S. adults have spent US$1,000 or more on the following items in the past year.

Newspaper readers are more likely than the average U.S. adult to have spent US$500 or more in the past year on these items:

Adults in the United States have spent US$500 or more on these items.
Adults in the United States have spent US$500 or more on these items.

The research is very clear that newspaper-distributed preprints are an effective advertising vehicle, providing wide reach of high-value audiences in environments where consumers look to find coupons and useful information about bargains.

Expectations are high that the results of the Michigan State study, due later this year, will show that preprint advertising drives consumer spending — and generates the ROI that advertisers demand.