Observer readers dig the deepest

Analysis by media buying agency Root Media has revealed which newspaper's readers are the biggest givers. Tristan Donovan reports

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The buzz about online advertising and promotional campaigns that use social networks might have dominated headlines in recent years, but press advertising remains an important part of charity communications campaigns.

Data on readership and reader demographics is widely available, but figures on the generosity of different press audiences are rare.

So Third Sector teamed up with the voluntary sector media buying agency Root Media to find out whose readers dig deepest when asked to give by press adverts. Root Media examined more than 1,000 charity adverts published in the past five years to identify the differences in giving between the readerships of 50 titles.

The results for national newspapers suggest that readers of The Observer are the most generous. The average Observer reader who makes a donation in response to a press advert gives £53.64. Readers of The Times are the least generous.

There was also a clear difference between donations made by readers of Sunday and daily newspapers, says Gary Parkes, director of Root Media. "The weekend titles outperform the weekday titles," he says. "It could be the case that people are more generous when they are more relaxed.

"The gap between titles is actually not that large, but the older, more up-market titles are the least generous. This could be caused by donor fatigue: these people are regularly targeted by a wide range of charities."

The analysis also covers different groups of magazines. "Although they receive more requests for donations, readers of religious titles appear to live up to their charitable principles," says Parkes.

The analysis also shows a noticeable drop in the average amount given in response to press adverts since the onset of the credit crunch. "The figures show a decline in value of 18.2 per cent," says Parkes. The rise of online media is, he says, unlikely to explain this fall. "Any moves to online donations would affect only the overall response levels to more traditional media, rather than the average donation level to the adverts."

Response rates are, of course, the other part of the story. Charities also need to consider the average number of responses to the adverts and the cost. For example, if you factor in the response rate, an appeal in The Times generates, on average, more money than one in The Observer.

"The use of average donation levels is more relevant if the titles compared perform at a similar level in terms of response rates and cost per response," says Parkes. In those situations, "the average donation levels are a useful way to further refine media planning of a campaign".


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