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Macy's Ad Chief to Newspapers: Paid Circ Is What Matters

At NAA: Readership May Be Up, but Macy's Wants to Target

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When the latest round of newspaper circulation reports again revealed that paid circulation was continuing to fall, industry advocates pointed out that newspaper readership -- including websites and pass-along copies -- is growing. But Macy's ad chief told newspaper executives today that paid circulation still matters more.
Winning ad dollars, says Macy's Anne MacDonald, requires one thing above all: 'You need to be winning in the marketplace.'
Winning ad dollars, says Macy's Anne MacDonald, requires one thing above all: 'You need to be winning in the marketplace.'

That's because the brand wants to reach its target customer repeatedly and through a platform that matters to her, said Anne MacDonald, president-CMO, Macy's corporate marketing, during a talk at the annual Newspaper Association of America conference. "What we try and do is make sure that we talk to her on a continuous basis," she said.

Not swayed by emotion
Earlier Ms. MacDonald told the crowd she is an "absolute newspaper junkie" and wants to see the business regain its footing. "But our business decisions, like yours, are driven by facts and results," she said. "And they can't be driven by emotion or personal predilection."

Winning ad dollars, she said, requires one thing above all: "You need to be winning in the marketplace."

Publishers of newspapers and magazines have tried to shift advertisers' focus to overall audience from the established metric, paying subscribers and newsstand buyers. Part of the drive reflects growing research suggesting that eyeballs are eyeballs -- as they are in other media -- regardless if anyone paid 50 cents, a dollar or $5 for a publication. But it also dovetails with the reality that free readership, particularly online, is the one circulation measure showing growth.

The perspective from Macy's is particularly important because its parent, Federated Department Stores, buys more than $1 billion in measured media each year, including around $830 million worth of newspaper space. But Federated and Macy's are increasingly looking at national TV and magazines over its stores' traditional homes such as spot TV and newspapers.

Leveraging content online
Ms. MacDonald agreed that newspapers' online plays are important, to the point that publishers' frantic recent efforts aren't close to sufficient. "You need to be much, much more aggressive in leveraging your content online," she said.

But turning around paid circulation declines will require an advertiser's approach, Ms. MacDonald said. "Newspaper will need to think more like brands and more like marketers," she said. "Show the consumer the value in your reports and your columnists."
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