NNA works to get more ads for community newspapers

Nov 3, 2014

WASHINGTON—More community newspapers will be tapped with paid advertising to promote Small Business Saturday in 2014 because of the National Newspaper Association’s efforts with American Express. Specific placement plans were being finalized in late October.

NNA began working with SBS as a non-profit partner to support shop-at-home campaigns on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But in 2010, NNA noticed that although community newspapers were doing a lot of local promotion, the principal sponsor of SBS was putting most of its media dollars into electronic media.

NNA wrote a letter to American Express Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault:

“Your comments about the importance of buying local hits home to community newspaper publishers, for that has been our mantra for years, using the pages of our newspapers to remind readers through editorial and advertising space, the importance of shopping at home. As you know, it is through local tax dollars the roads are built, good schools made better and more jobs created. We thoroughly stand behind the efforts of American Express to build Small Business Saturday. But we were concerned that your marketing plan may have missed the opportunity to use community newspapers to help spread your message to the communities where Mom and Pop businesses thrive.”

That letter led to attention from AmEx’s public relations department, but delivered little change in advertising plans. Then in 2013, NNA board member Bill Jacobs noticed a flyer in his own credit card bill offering reward points for advertising expenditures with his card—for radio, TV and online ads. But not newspapers. Seeing that, then-NNA President Robert M. Williams Jr. arranged for a call with the company’s public relations executives.

“I told them we were extremely disappointed—that we felt they missed the whole point of supporting small businesses. I felt the omission of community newspapers was a slight to our industry, and I told them so,” Williams said.

His protests led to a meeting in New York with planners for the 2014 SBS campaign. NNA invited veteran advertising executive Susan Patterson Plank with Iowa’s Customized Newspaper Advertising service to explain how state press associations had simplified one-order/one-bill buying. Negotiations during the summer led to multiple proposals from NNA on how SBS could get more bang for its buck by advertising in the smaller communities where small businesses thrive.

In October, an American Express executive advised NNA that the media buy for community newspapers would be roughly doubled from the 2013 levels.

NNA President John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of The Nebraska Signal, said he believed NNA members and their small business advertisers would benefit from AmEx’s increased attention to the industry over time.

“We had a lot of ideas that we wanted to carry out with them that did not get over the finish line. Of course, we want the reward points program expanded, and have been told that requires interaction with financial regulators so it will take more time. I know we have a lot of deserving newspapers that would like to participate in this program, and NNA has work ahead to educate Madison Avenue on how to use media outside traditional metro areas. But this is a step forward. We have pledged and our partners at American Express have also pledged to continue the dialogue. We hope 2015 will show even more progress,” Edgecombe said.