It is impossible to imagine modern use of media by consumers without social media.

Advertisers feel they can no longer reach their target group through the traditional media alone and look for advertising opportunities on Facebook and Twitter.

Nevertheless, successful advertising campaigns through social media are rather exceptional, and the role of newspapers and magazines in creating brand awareness remains much more important.

To demonstrate this, De Persgroep België (publisher of newspapers such as Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen) carried out a survey in the summer of 2012, in cooperation with InSites Consulting, on the position of newspapers and magazines in the present media experience of consumers. Similar research was conducted by De Persgroep Nederland in 2011.

The Belgian survey comprised two parts: 

  • Qualitative online blog, where 30 Flemings added posts on their use of media for two weeks.

  • Quantitative online study among 1,247 Flemings who reported in detail on the conversations they had about brands. This produced a total of about 3,500 brand conversations.

Here are five notable conclusions from the survey:

All media are important, but have a different role: Depending on the situation in which we find ourselves, media have to fulfil a different function. We sometimes need information, while at other times we look for entertainment.

In some cases, we need a radar device for screening; in others, we require a microscope to absorb every detail. Newspapers fulfil, above all, an informing and screening role while social media, just like television, mainly provides entertainment.

Context is key: Those who read newspapers are mainly looking for information. The reliable and credible context of the newspaper is also reflected in the advertisements.

Therefore, advertising in newspapers is experienced as less disruptive than advertising in other media (22% versus an average of 32%), and it is considered more informative (30% versus an average of 22%) and more credible than in other media (27% versus 18%).

All media are social, but in a different way: Anyone who thinks that conversations today take place only on social media is wrong. Most chats about brands still take place face to face. However, where these conversations take place is not that important. What counts is the conversation potential of each medium.

Newspapers play a crucial role in conversations by ensuring that you:

  • Can be well informed to take part in a conversation.

  • Have sufficient topics and subjects suitable for starting a conversation yourself.

Newspapers and magazines have their way of building brands. This was measured in the survey based on three dimensions:

  • How often do advertisements stimulate conversations?

  • How often do advertisements result in positive or negative conversations?

  • To what extent can advertisements help us convince others?

The survey shows that newspapers and magazines contribute to a greater number of conversations and also to more positive and credible conversations.

Newspapers and magazines have unique conversational characteristics.
The survey shows that advertisements that fit within the context of the newspaper and that are geared to the strengths of the newspaper (for example, infomercials) are even more valuable conversation starters about brands.

In summary, the fact that we now have social media does not mean that newspapers have become “anti-social” media. What is more, the majority of the conversations on Facebook and Twitter are about subjects read in newspapers, magazines, or on news sites.