Coastal Empire Exteriors runs a four-page insert in the 80,000 circulation Savannah Morning News 60 or 70 times a year. Company owner Kip Lee says he has been advertising in newspapers since he started his company seven years ago. Newspaper inserts “drive my sunroom business,” he says.
Joe Hely, marketing director for Garden State Brickface, isn't so keen on newspapers. Three years ago, the stucco, siding, and sunroom company in Roselle, N.J., committed 5% to 10% of its marketing budget to newsprint. Today Hely estimates newsprint's share as “less than 1%.” Calls from advertising salespeople still come in all the time, Hely says. “I'm really frank. I tell them that for us, it's just not working.”
Circulation among the 814 U.S. dailies peaked in 1984 at 63.3 million. By March of last year it had dropped to 45,414,979 . Analysts have little trouble explaining the trend: Newspaper readers are older and are not being replaced. Younger, time-strapped consumers increasingly prefer the information quick-fix and up-to-the-minute reporting of Web sites.
Some home improvement companies don't see this as a disadvantage. For instance, about 25% of leads at State Roofing, in Seattle, come from newspapers, the company's major lead source.
Marketing director Guy Golliver says State Roofing uses full-page color ads in any one of five newspapers. Those leads cost more, “approaching $400,” he says, but close at a higher rate with a bigger-ticket sale. Golliver says the target audience — older homeowners — is just right for the company's products, an observation Gene Ely, editor of Media Life, a Virginia magazine that covers media trends, agrees with. “If you're installing windows, you don't have any need to reach people who are 23 and living in an apartment,” Ely says.
Vicki Kiger, director of marketing for deck-building franchise Archadeck, says several franchisees recently dropped newspaper advertising as leads diminished. She continues to recommend the newspaper as a lead source, but suggests using large ads or ads in the home-and-garden or home improvement sections that newspapers sometimes run.
Kiger also stresses the role of newspapers and similar media in driving prospects to the company Web site, and urges lead trackers to ask prospects not just where they heard about the company but where they first heard about the company. “Magazine ads, local newspapers, home shows, direct mail — something sent them to your Web site,” Kiger says.