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New categories, easier access and one-buy, one-bill produce leaps in linage this year.

by Pete Wetmore

Judging by national ad sales, newspapers must be doing something right.

At San Jose-based Knight Ridder, national ad linage rose by double-digit percentages through April, peaking at 25.6 percent in March. Cincinnati's E.W. Scripps Co. also bounded ahead by double-digits; its high was 41.9 percent in January. The same was true for the major-market papers operated by Phoenix-based Central Newspapers Inc. -- January was their best month, too, at 26.5 percent.

What's going on?

"Our trends have been dramatic but it's been based on a very low base," says Nick Cannistraro, president and general manager of the Newspaper National Network of New York. NNN was created by the Newspaper Association of America in 1994 to facilitate ad insertions by national advertisers in a limited number of categories where newspapers' share of total expenditures was below five percent.

That low base is growing, with the value of bookings through NNN up 15 percent in 1998. In 1999, "year to date, we're up over 30 percent over the same period last year," Cannistraro says, noting that the boom is "virtually all volume increases," as NNN's rates have hardly changed since the first year.

A similar service, Media Passage of Seattle, also reports gains. "The clear thing that's happening is there are more advertisers, via their agencies, that are at a minimum considering the newspaper as a vehicle," says Carlton Bryant, executive vice president for business development. Newspapers are getting consideration because advertisers and their agencies now hear not about one or two papers at a time, he says, but about "the newspaper as a medium."

Ad buyers also have shifted away from agencies that acted as newspaper representatives, sales teams "that would go out and represent the interests of small groups or individual papers," Bryant says. With NNN and Media Passage, the door is wide open for national advertisers to buy exactly the markets they want, and pay one bill.

While some categories have declined recently -- such as banking, where advertisers have been lost through mergers, and direct-to-consumer pharmaceuticals -- Bryant says newspapers are benefiting from new ad categories. One is the wireless phone industry, which has several national providers, as well as regional companies that may be facing five competitors in every market. These are advertisers who have come to rely on newspapers to present almost daily changes in rates and services.

Then there's the "explosion of the dot.coms" -- a reference to web sites that turn to newspapers because they're "very flexible" and "deeply reach into demographic categories," Bryant says. Internet advertising is going in large chunks to "those cities who are defining our future economy," he says. "Anywhere you're going to have a high usage of the Internet is where you're going to find the dot.coms advertising."

At NNN, consumer package goods form the foundation for building national ad accounts. Cannistraro cites the Cincinnati home products giant Procter & Gamble as one company that bought once into newspapers and has come back for much more. A campaign to build brand recognition for Tide laundry detergent not only won awards, it induced P&G to start similar campaigns for nine other brands.

The growth of national advertising also has been felt at the Associated Press of New York, whose AP AdSEND delivery service has grown every year for the five it's been in operation. "We now have close to 700 advertisers using the service," says AdSEND Director Jim Farrell.

Transmission volume topped one million items last year, Farrell says, with this year expected to see an additional 150,000 ads distributed over the satellite-fed network. "Definitely higher volumes" are coming earlier in the week because, Farrell speculates, "advertisers have gotten comfortable sending things out in advance" and now routinely move Sunday ads earlier.

At the other end of the schedule, going down to deadline is increasingly important. Among advertisers needing to use AdSEND's one-hour delivery service to make last-minute changes are banks and airlines, who are "always waiting for the last second so they can check competitors' rates."
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Comment:New categories, easier access and one-buy, one-bill produce leaps in linage this year.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 5, 1999
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