Digital newspaper: same advertising impact and so much more


Dutch news media have invested heavily in editions for such devices as smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. A good decision because the penetration of tablets doubled last year.

About one-third of the Dutch population uses a tablet nowadays. With this growth, an enormous market opens up for mobile news. In December 2012, 21% percent of the Dutch used the iPad for reading a newspaper, and this number is growing every day.

Working in the advertising sector, the first question that comes to mind is, “Do the ads on a tablet work as well as on paper?" An interesting research question that is picked up by Cebuco, a news media marketing organisation in the Netherlands.

Reader Groups Research company Ipsos homed in on the reading behaviour of four representative newspapers in the Netherlands, at their request. More than 2,500 readers were divided into three groups: digital readers, conventional (“paper”) readers; and combined (“print + digital”) readers. 

They were questioned about their reading behaviour, their attention for advertising, brand recall, and buying intentions.

The main conclusion from this study is that the reading behaviour of print and e-paper is similar. The pleasure and intensity of reading is the same, just like the engagement with the newspaper. Nine out of 10 enjoy the edition and two-thirds read almost every page. The engagement is high; 70% feel connected to the news brand.

Reassuring for advertisers is the observation that the advertising impact is just as powerful on the tablet as it is in print. There is no significant difference found in advertising reach.

Diving deeper into the data, a few interesting differences pop up. Looking at the same ad, online readers seem to feel more stimuli for ideas and originality. The printed versions manage to realise more credibility for the advertised brand. Also the printed ads manage to get a clearer message across.

You might expect that print and tablets are read in other places. The differences are obvious. The Ipsos study shows that print is read more often in the kitchen, while the online edition is consumed more often in the bedroom, in the study, at work, or on the go.

Double readers, who consume both print and online, are more aware of the ads and consequently have better brand recall. This makes us aware of the added value of the tablet; the online edition often causes a second confrontation with the creative, which makes the ad effectiveness grow.

A special finding in this research is the “trigger eagerness” of the digital readers. Sixty-two percent of the readers state explicitly that they feel the need to interact with the ads. They like to click through. The observed online newspapers don’t offer that functionality yet, but it’s obvious that here is a golden opportunity for both publishers and advertisers.

Once the commercial content is clickable, the effectiveness of the ads can be enhanced. The online display ad gets the message across and offers the opportunity to interact with more information and may even offer the chance to order the product. The online editions will be able to offer the advertiser the total AIDA-formula: attention, interest, desire, and action with one device.

The first quarter of 2013 seems to be the season for studying the iPad. The lessons from different studies appear to be quite compatible. New American research for Condé Nast shows the consumer behaviour of its online magazine issues is very similar to the print editions; the time spent, the reading pattern, and audience accumulation on the mobile edition are similar.

Recent Danish research from Visiolink takes another angle. This organisation found out that a combination of the familiar newspaper layout along with online news and interaction possibilities best satisfies the wishes of a modern news consumer.

Potential readers are most likely to pay for a subscription when they receive their news in this specific format.

The overall conclusion we can draw from these studies is that the online edition of a newspaper meets the demands of news consumers. It might meet their demands best if the online edition has the look and feel of the news brand and if the issue has interactive features.

The Dutch research shows that the display impact of the e-paper is as strong as the printed edition. If the ad can be enriched with interactive functions like displaying a commercial, a catalogue, or a link to the online shop, it might be one of the best propositions that news publishers have in store for the demanding advertising market.

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