“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

So said Mark Twain in 1897 after hearing that his obituary had been published prematurely. Today, this same level of exaggeration applies to newspapers under the common misconception that they were “done in” by the rise of the internet.

The truth: Print news is alive and well, especially for Mercer County businesses trying to reach local customers. Recent research found that consumers retain 90% of what they read in print versus much lower numbers online — a significant difference for companies who want their advertising to be memorable. Another study reports that the top 25 U.S. newspapers have actually increased their circulation in the last year.

That’s hardly news to Jamie Griswold, one of the publishers at Community News Service (CNS) based in Lawrenceville. Founded in 2001, CNS has grown ever since and now publishes ten newspapers, including U.S. 1, Hamilton Post, Princeton Echo and others serving Ewing, Lawrenceville, Robbinsville, Hopewell, Bordentown, West Windsor and Plainsboro.

“Readers trust what they see in their neighborhood papers. They have a relationship with it,” says Griswold. “Our publications connect businesses with their customers and local organizations with their members. It’s where people turn when they want to know what’s going on in their neck of the woods.“

The predicted “death of print” because of the internet is out of the woods, too. In February, Target Marketing Magazine reported: “online marketing is now too ephemeral and cluttered,” causing a steep decline in open and click-thru rates. Meanwhile, print promotions “have more attention-getting power,” often generating “greater readership and response than electronic marketing.”

So where should your business advertise?
Griswold suggests picking at least three media outlets and committing to them. Yes, that could include online options as well as traditional print, but the point is to be consistent. “Have a regular presence,” he adds. “Budget for a year, then evaluate.”

Noting that many often make the mistake of running just a few ads and expecting immediate results, Griswold counsels small businesses to keep their marketing message top of mind. “Whether you’re a professional practice or pizzeria, an auto shop or appliance store, people may not use your service every day. But when they really NEED what your business sells, that’s when they’ll remember you.”

He also recommends updating ads as they relate to the season, customer behavior, and simply to stay fresh.

“No one would read the same news article week after week, they’d just skip over it. So tailor your marketing to get noticed based on the time of year and different offers.”

For example, newspapers are still the primary source of coupons most consumers prefer. Unlike e-mailed coupons that must be printed out or scan-by-phone discounts that can be difficult to redeem in busy checkout lines, print ads are easy to clip and retain. “And they work well,” says Griswold. “Few people will say ‘hey, I saw your pop-up ad while I was on Facebook,’ but they’ll definitely come in with something they tore out of their local paper and ask about it.”

That’s where partnering with your local publications comes in, he adds. “Our team truly knows the area, what readers respond to, and how to make them pay attention. We have marketing specialists who’ll help you plan the best bang for your budget, graphics artists who will design impactful layouts for you free of charge, and writers who can develop advertorials.”

So what’s the fine print on print advertising?
Price. Dollar for dollar, many agree it’s still the most affordable form of marketing when it comes to full saturation. “Cost per household is pennies on the dollar,” Griswold reassures. “We’re direct mail with localized editorial, reaching 100% of area households and businesses on a monthly basis.”

Extra, Extra! What’s the best way to get coverage of your business in local papers?

Don’t expect every press release to make front-page headlines. Taking a few extra steps — and thinking like an editor — can earn you some valuable ink:

  • It’s All About Location: Just like in real estate, your locale is key. Opening an office in Cape May probably won’t be considered “news” in Ewing. So make your message relevant to local readers and, more importantly, to editors who decide what gets published.
  • The 5 Ws: All news answers the questions of Who?, What?, Why?, Where?, and When? This line of questioning also applies to building relationships with local media. Who covers your town? What kind of stories do they write? Why would they be interested in your business? Where do you fit into their editorial calendar? When are their deadlines? Helping your local reporters do their jobs will make yours easier when it’s time for a little publicity.
  • Go Long: When you become a regular partner with your local paper and are advertising regularly, you’ll often be offered discounts — or better yet, a profile of your company as a value-added extra published in the news section. This content may also appear on their website editions of the publication, giving you added exposure and improving your SEO.