Newspapers communicate Covid-19 public health guidelines best, research shows

Newspapers communicate Covid-19 public health guidelines best, research shows

Newspaper print advertisements communicated public health guidelines better than social media and radio as well as outdoor methods such as posters. Picture: Leah Farrell/

Complex Covid-19 public health messages communicated by newspapers through full-page advertisements have been the most effective for public awareness, new research shows. 

Printed newspaper advertisements outperformed similar ads in other media channels including television, radio, social media as well as outdoor methods such as billboards and posters. 

An online survey of 750 independent respondents by Research and Analysis of Media (RAM), an international research company, showed 77% of readers remembered the full-page advertisements from the government's Phase Four Covid-19 campaign in July. 

This campaign surpassed other public awareness campaigns in Ireland and Britain with an expected recall figure of 49%. 

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to rank the medium that best communicated the public health messages. 

Those surveyed placed newspapers ahead of television, radio, social media, and outdoor while 65% of respondents said they felt fully informed of the situation as a result of the full-page printed ads. 

Reader's response

The response of younger readers to the printed ads also defied expectations with 78% of readers aged 15-34 having read most of the public health messaging compared to 66% of the general adult population. 

80% of this younger readership also said they would refer back to the advertisement in the future compared to 67% of the adult population. 

Research about the printed advertisements in newspapers also showed: 

  • 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 or 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. 

The surveyed results demonstrated the ability of Irish print media to effectively communicate the public health messages while readers were particularly responsive through the medium said Dianne Newman, Chief Executive of RAM. 

"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," said Ms Newman, "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."

Trust levels

Newspapers also came out ahead for trustworthiness among respondents in the research ahead of radio, outdoor, direct mail, websites, cinema, magazines, and social media.

Ann Marie Lenihan, CEO of NewsBrands Ireland said the public still look to professional journalists for accurate information. 

“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," said Ms Marie Lenihan. "That editorial environment provides an excellent backdrop to important public health advertising messages and this research proves its effectiveness.”

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