Reading the ads, June 6, 2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The readership study conducted a few years ago by the newspaper industry, in cooperation with Northwestern University, identified several ways in which newspapers could leverage their assets to grow readership.

The study, the largest of its kind every conducted, interviewed something like 100,000 adults about their reading habits. Among the top newspaper content areas that interested readers the most were tidbit information on things to do (number 1), and advertising which, I believe, was third.

No surprisingly, that advertising made the top of the list caught news people somewhat by surprise. In short, readers consider an advertisement for their hardware story inside the paper as content as much as they do a front page story on a tax increase.

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Having been trained as a news person, my entire focus when reading a newspaper has been the news, particularly opinion and analysis. I typically get my "news" from TV or the radio, but look to my large, metro paper to put that news into perspective. The reason is simple, by the time the newspaper hits my driveway, any national and world news in it is old news.

It's not that way with advertising, however. Advertising content is always fresh, and often newsworthy. One such case was in Sunday's News-Herald. In the classified section, Home Depot ran an advertisement seeking employees for its new Suffolk store.

A new Suffolk Home Depot? This was news to me. I had not heard anything about Home Depot coming to Suffolk and do not know when it's coming or where it will be.

I've put in a call to the company headquarters to try to find out and hopefully we'll be reporting on this in Tuesday's paper.

So don't get bogged down reading just the news stories in the paper. There's a lot that can be learned from the ads, as well. But that's probably not news to you.