What It Is: Print ads that run in local or national, daily or weekly news publications

Appropriate For: Any business

Typical Cost: $200 (for local ads) to $20,000 (for local or national ads), depending on the publication, ad size and your contract with the publication

How It Works: Newspaper advertising has been around longer than any other form of advertising we see today and is still the first kind of advertising that businesses think about doing. These ads can do a lot more than just advertise one item or one sale--each one can work really hard to bring in customers, and then bring them back again and again. They're a good way to reach a large number of people, especially those aged 45-plus who tend to read the paper more frequently than younger demographic groups who tend to get their news from television, radio or the internet. And you can target your ads to the appropriate markets by requesting that your ads run in the section(s) that most closely relate to your target audience, be it sports, lifestyle or business.

Like all forms of advertising, your print ad costs will depend on a lot of things: the size of your ad(s), what publication(s) you use, what sections of the paper(s) you want your ads in, the frequency with which you run the ads, and whether you use color in your ads. When it comes to working with the publication, you'll have a different sales representative from each newspaper who will not only quote you prices and deadlines but will also help you design your ad.

When it comes to price, daily papers are the costliest of your choices and are best handled with annual contracts, since these publications make committing to one ad at a time cost prohibitive--rates plunge dramatically even for the smallest contract, compared to the one-time rate.

If you find dailies to be too expensive, you can save money by only running your ads in the local sections the dailies all provide to their subscribers. These are tabloid-like sections that usually run just one day a week and carry news pertaining to small geographic areas or neighborhoods. For instance, the Post Standard in Syracuse, New York, carries its local publication, called "Neighbors," on Thursdays. This local section is inserted into the appropriate daily papers and distributed to the various suburbs of Syracuse, instead of to the paper's entire coverage area. If your business was based in the Syracuse area, you could choose to run your ad in just "Neighbors East" or "Neighbors West" in order to target your business's neighborhood. As you grow, you would probably want to consider purchasing ad space in the local section aimed at another area along with, not instead of, your original area of coverage.

When you look at a paper, you'll see it's divided into columns. Your newspaper ads are sized according to a very set formula: a certain number of columns wide and a certain number of inches long. Multiplying the two numbers together will give you the number of "column inches" of your ad, which determines the ad's cost. For example, because you'll pay a specific dollar amount "per column inch," if your ad covers three columns in width and is five inches long (15 column inches), and you're paying $30 a column inch, that ad will cost you $450.00 (15 column inches X $30.00). This is true for print ads in any newspaper, whether it's daily or weekly.

If you can't afford to run an ad in your daily paper at all, start with your subscription-based, weekly neighborhood publications. Again, you can purchase one area, two areas or all that are available. You don't need a contract for these papers--they're pretty reasonable and are read more thoroughly than the free, local papers or "shoppers" are because people actually pay to receive them.

Both the daily and weekly papers will have special sections (holiday, home improvement, landscaping and so on) throughout the year, and you should ask when something appropriate for your business is scheduled. Your sales representatives should also contact you to let you know what's in the works. It's a good idea to place ads in these special sections even if you're not regularly in the publications--your competitors will. The good news is, many times these special sections carry a less expensive rate, or automatically runs your ad in all papers, in all sections, and sometimes even offer free color printing, which is a fabulous perk.

Here are a few more tips when it comes to newspaper ads:

  • Use the bottom section of your ad as a coupon to provide an added incentive for readers to visit your location. Be sure to put an end date on the coupon. And use the coupon to track the response rate of your ads--you'll know how good your ads are by the number of people using the coupon.
  • Add your URL to every print ad to drive people to your website where you can tell and sell them more and provide a coupon to print out when they get there.
  • Give your sales rep all the information he or she needs well ahead of deadline so you can get a proof sheet to check all the facts before it goes to print.
  • When it comes to proofing, check your phone number, your URL, any percentages off, brand names, and every other detail to be sure what the reader sees is what you intended. Get another pair of eyes to check for mistakes, too.
  • Be sure your print ad corresponds with any other advertising you may be doing for maximum impact.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder of Silent Partner Advertisingin Syracuse, New York. She is also the author of Advertising Without an Agency Made Easy.