From the June 2008 issue of Entrepreneur

What happens when one of the oldest marketing mediums undergoes a new-era transformation? Entrepreneurs discover a whole new way to reach highly desirable customers. Major newspapers across the country have done more than just transfer their content online--many have become the number-one web portals in their respective markets. And advertisers are reaping the benefits of the additional reach that advertising within online content brings.

Advertising in your city's newspaper as well as on its website can deliver extremely favorable market penetration. For example, according to a study by The Media Audit, The Washington Post's website receives more than 1.6 million unique monthly visitors. When its online audience is combined with the print newspaper's monthly readership, The Washington Post reaches 81 percent of the entire Washington, DC, market.

Many newspapers excel at creating an engaging, interactive and unique online environment. Bivings Research reports that more than 90 percent of America's top 100 papers now offer video on their websites, nearly all have at least one reporter blog, and more than 80 percent allow comments on articles. Among the most beneficial new developments for advertisers is that newspaper websites have attracted a younger, educated and more affluent audience. Scarborough Research data shows that newspaper websites have helped drive a nearly 15 percent increase in the total newspaper audience of 25- to 34-year-olds and an almost 10 percent increase in 18- to 24-year-olds.

Consumers who read both print and online newspapers throughout the week are called crossover users. In fact, more than 80 percent of newspaper website visitors are crossover users who've also read the printed newspaper in the past seven days. A Scarborough Research study commissioned by the Newspaper National Network LP shows that these users visit their favorite newspapers' websites to check breaking news, find articles they've seen previously, and look for things to do and places to go. The study confirmed that the core reader accesses the local newspaper both in print and on the web--underscoring the advantages of making a combo buy, using both mediums to reach your prospects.

Website-only users cite very different reasons for reading their local papers online. Their top priorities are accessing local news, entertainment, food or restaurant information. What's more, website-only users are most likely to access the website in the morning, whereas crossover users tend to read the printed newspaper in the morning and visit the website in the afternoon or evening. This critical information can help you decide how to use a newspaper's website. For example, you may decide to have your online ads appear only in the morning or the afternoon.

To make newspaper advertising work for you, consider these additional tips:

  • Newspapers often offer favorable combo rates to advertisers that run in print and online. But you don't have to do both. In most cases, you can choose to place your ads only online, just as you can advertise solely in print.
  • Online newspapers are available in sections similar to those found in printed newspapers. Each is an online search corridor--a place readers look for information that's of special interest to them. As with most forms of advertising, it's advantageous to have your ad surrounded by content your top prospects find engaging. But you'll pay a premium to have your ads only in special sections or pages. Instead, negotiate for a combination of in-section and run-of-site ads. You'll not only save money, but you'll also reach more prospects for less.