SAGE Advice: Newspapers Still Hold Their Own in Battle for Help Wanted Ads

By: Leo J. Shapiro, Erik Shapiro and Steve Yahn

Newspapers are holding their own against the Internet in the battle for help wanted advertising, for now.

February’s Leo J. Shapiro national survey of 450 consumers finds the percent who ever use newspapers to search for jobs edging out the percent who ever use the Internet to search for jobs. Specifically, in February almost half (45% of all consumers) reported that they ever used the classified ads to look for jobs. This includes 33% who used newspapers and 29% who used the Internet.

In terms of job hunting during the seven-day period before the survey, 10% reported searching for jobs, with the proportion reporting searching the Internet for jobs the same as the percent searching newspapers: 7% each.

Job seekers do substantial cross-hunting between the Internet and newspapers. Of the 45% of Americans who report that they ever search help wanted ads for jobs, 17% cross-shop — searching for jobs both on the Internet and in newspapers; 12% search only the Internet and 16% search only newspapers. Newspapers are currently comfortably ahead of the Internet in terms of exclusive users 16% to 12%.

However, among those who recently searched for jobs (i.e. searched during a seven day period in February), the Internet rivals newspapers in terms of exclusive users. Of the 10% of Americans who report searching help wanted ads for jobs during a seven day period in February: 4% cross-shopped both the Internet and newspaper; 4% searched only the Internet and 3% searched only the newspapers.

On the face of it, the Internet is likely to continue to take share of job seekers from newspapers given the its performance among consumers who search for jobs during the past seven days compared to its performance among consumers who “ever” search for jobs.

Also on the face of it, neither newspapers nor the Internet fully satisfy the needs of job seekers given the extensive cross-shopping between the Internet and newspapers. Job seekers want the advantages offered by both the Internet and by newspapers. Given the amount of cross-shopping between newspapers and the Internet, job seekers are able to make a choice by comparing the performance of two media. Sooner or later, a medium will develop that will provide job seekers with the advantages offered by the Internet and those offered by the newspapers.


It is an open question as to whether newspapers or the Internet will benefit most from the integration of the two media.

Theoretically, newspapers are in a better position than Internet-based companies, which do not reach consumers with print, to provide job seekers with access to both print and online job listings.

Currently, newspapers have an advantage over the Internet in terms of their cumulative reach. During seven days in February, 67% of Americans were reached by the print or online edition of a local newspaper compared to 52% who used a Internet search engine during the same seven day period.

The Internet has an advantage over local newspapers by virtue of the concentration of that industry, which makes it easier for an advertiser to do one-stop shopping for national coverage. In February, Google is named spontaneously as their favorite search engine by 48% of all consumers, followed at a distance by Yahoo at 16% and AOL at 1%.

Newspapers are challenged to strengthen their online capabilities so they become the doorway readers’ use of the Internet. Consumers would welcome this effort. When asked, 42% said they would be more inclined to read the online edition of their newspaper if they knew it included more information on the covered topics than was included in the print edition.

There is no reason why newspapers cannot accelerate the integration of their print and online editions and rationalize advertising rates so advertisers can choose between paying for print or paying for online space — or getting a discount by purchasing a combination of print and online space.

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