Once upon a time newspaper ads and editorial endorsements helped win elections. Those days are long since over. Candidates no longer need to worry about a newspaper’s endorsement or buying an ad in any paper.
I tell the candidates I work with not to put too much energy into seeking a newspaper’s endorsement.
I also tell them not to fret should a paper wind up backing their opponent – or if their opponent gets conned into running an ad in the paper.
Newspapers and their editorials and their ads just don’t help candidates win elections.
In fact, a newspaper ad is one of the last things I’d spend money on in a campaign. Here’s why.
1. Not Enough People Read the Newspaper
While newspapers have enjoyed a rich history in America’s political life, those glory days ended with the arrival of the Internet.
Pew Research Center reported this June that after 28 consecutive decline in readership, “Total weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers fell to 35 million, while total Sunday circulation declined to 38 million – the lowest levels since 1945.”
There’s no way to put lip stick on that statistical pig. In a country of 230 million people, that’s pathetic.
Yes, there are still those who read their local paper cover to cover on a daily basis.
Those people are a dying breed. Literally.
Even those who get a paper delivered usually pick what they want to read, skipping many pages and sections.
That’s what I do. I get The Wall Street Journal delivered to my door and I do read it nearly every morning.
However, I probably skip about half of what’s in the Journal.
I read what I want to read and overlook the rest — including most of the costly full page ads.
My behavior is the same when I look at The Wall Street Journal and any other newspapers online.
I look for what I’m interested in and do my best to ignore the ads put in the way of the story I’m after.
2. Newspaper Ads Are Not Targeted
Conventional wisdom will tell you that a person who receives a newspaper is trying to stay up on current events and is interested in politics.
And as usual, conventional wisdom is wrong once again.
While some who read the paper will fit that bill, not everyone will care about politics.
Some people still get the paper for the sports section, the coupons, and yes even the classified ads.
They ignore the stuff that doesn’t matter to them. Like a full page political ad for a candidate.
Additionally, a newspaper isn’t only delivered to only to the district where you’re running.
Newspapers go out to a much larger geographic area.
That means people who can not vote for you will see your ad. How does that help your campaign?
In most cases, more people who don’t live in your district will get the paper than those who live in it.
Reaching out to voters who cannot or will not vote for you is always a waste of resources.
3. Newspaper Ads are a Waste of Money
Winning campaigns focus their resources on getting the most return from the money they raise.
Newspaper advertising is not the best bang for your buck. It’s probably the worst.
The weak return from an ad in the paper does not justify a candidate spending the money on one.
I recently had a client ask me to get a price on a full page newspaper ad for a paper’s Sunday edition.
The price I was quoted was $5000 — not including the cost of designing the ad.
Most of the papers circulation was outside the district in question.
At the same time, a full color targeted piece of mail going only to likely voters in the district costs approximately $4,900.
That cost by the way includes design, postage and the purchase of a targeted voter mailing list.
For the same amount of money, my client could get the same message delivered directly to only people who have a solid history of voting in off-year elections AND who actually live in the district.
My client wisely decided to pass on the newspaper ad and invest in another targeted piece of mail.
If you’re serious about winning your election, you should do the same.