Making Preprints Deliver

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Preprints remain a vital revenue source for publishers and a driver of traffic and purchases for advertisers, but a better sense of the return on investment is needed to ensure their future health, according to speakers at a mediaXchange 2016 session Tuesday.

“ROI is a hot topic across the board, and media do need to be held accountable,” said Susan Jacobs, vice president and general manager of Tribune Publishing’s MediaWorks, acknowledging that the industry has room to improve in the metrics it provides to advertisers.

Emerging research is helping corroborate the value of preprints delivered in newspaper products. About two-thirds of newspaper readers recall seeing a particular insert, and of those, seven out of ten take action as a result, according to Tom Robinson, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Coda Ventures, which launched its new Triad research service last year.

“The bar is pretty high… There’s ROI, but there’s also return on advertising objectives,” Robinson said, pointing to the role preprints can play in broader brand building efforts. “The onus is on the newspaper to broaden the conversation, and it has to be data-driven to broaden the conversation,” he said.

Comparing the effectiveness of preprints across distribution channels is difficult, and is often complicated by different metrics and, at times, proprietary standards used by different media and advertisers, according to Jacobs. She said that publishers should focus on transparency and explore ways to leverage readership data to help advertisers make informed decisions.

NAA is working with Michigan State University to study ROI in new ways, said Jef Richards, professor and chair of the university’s department of public relations and advertising. In the first phase of the project, researchers will collect receipts from 50 newspaper subscribers and 50 nonsubscribers in the Lansing area for a month, adding and removing print subscriptions within each group for two weeks to identify changes in purchasing habits.

Ultimately, the research could contribute to the creation of an “open-source” measure of ROI easily understandable by publishers and advertisers, according to Richards.

“No ROI model is perfect, but if it is open so publishers and advertisers can both look at it and adjust to those weaknesses, that’s the best solution,” Richards said.

With research showing that most consumers prefer receiving inserts in newspapers or alternative delivery products like Sunday Select, publishers can make a strong case for the value of their products, speakers said. “Content and audience-based products play a huge role in the value of the preprint,” said Howard Griffin, Gannett’s senior vice president of national sales.

At the same time, “every advertiser is different,” Jacobs said. “They have different customers who respond differently to media, and we need to respond to that customer… When we improve that, we increase ROI.”


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