Research proves newspapers’ effectiveness in delivering vital Covid-19 public information messages

28 August 2020. New research has shown that newspapers play a highly effective role in delivering timely and complex Covid-19 public awareness messagesto the public.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the Irish government have been communicating Covid-19 public health and information messages via full-page advertisements in Ireland’s national and local newspapers.

Independent research conducted by international research company, Research and Analysis of Media (RAM), has shown that these advertisements outperformed all other similar ads in achieving above average recall, recognition, engagement, and action. The online survey was completed by an independent panel of 750 respondents.

77% of readers recalled the full-page public health advertisements. This particular campaign outperformed other public awareness campaigns in the UK & Ireland, which would normally expect a recall figure of around 49%.

According to Dianne Newman, CEO RAM (UK & Ireland) – “This research clearly demonstrates the power and effectiveness of Irish newsbrands in delivering complex messages, that can be challenging to portray through other media channels. It was effective not only in terms of creating strong memory traces amongst the Irish population, but also encouraging them to respond and take action. “

Complex Information

The nature of the information communicated in the government advertisements was highly complex but the newspapers’ full-page platform allowed the vitally important messages to be communicated clearly and concisely. When asked to rate which medium was best suited to delivering this type of complex message, respondents placed newspapers first, ahead of TV, Radio, Social Media, and Outdoor. In addition, 65% of respondents felt fully informed of the situation as a result of these ads

Depth and Retention of Reading

85% of respondents said they would remember between half and all of the advertisement’s content (65% would remember all of the contents)

66% of respondents said that that read all/almost all of the ad’s contents, with a further 17% reading around half of the complex campaign message.  

67% of respondents said they would refer back to the contents of the advertisement at a later stage

Despite misconceptions that younger people no longer engage with traditional printed media, the research confirms that young people respond positively to messages in print with 78% of 15 – 34 year olds having read all/almost all of this complex message compared to 66% in the adult population. 

Furthermore over 80% of this youth market will refer back to the advertisement at a later date – far higher than the 67% in the adult population. 

Level of Trust in Each Media delivering Covid-19 messages

Newspapers and TV came out as the most trustworthy medium for delivering Covid-19 public information, followed by Radio, Outdoor, Direct Mail, Websites, Cinema, Magazines, and Social Media.  Quality newspaper media environments ensure a quality of content and context which is beneficial to the advertiser – this  increases reader’s retention, recall, engagement and the emotional intensity of the message (Source: Newsworks/Association for Online Publishing)

The research was commissioned in July 2020 by NewsBrands Ireland, the representative body for Ireland’s national news publishers, who produce sixteen printed newspapers and twelve news websites and mobile apps. 

According to Ann Marie Lenihan, CEO of NewsBrands Ireland, “At a time when citizens need access to accurate, reliable, fact-checked information about coronavirus, they continue to look to news publishers and information produced by professional journalists for that information.  That editorial environment provides an excellent backdrop to important public health advertising messages and this research proves its effectiveness.”


Research details

The government ‘Phase Four’ advertisement which panellists were asked to review ran from the 18th to 19th of July in all the Irish national newspapers (copy of advertisement available on request).

Research fieldwork was conducted between 20th – 24th July 2020.

Online survey sent to external independent panel with 757 respondents.