Paskalis: News Is ‘Best Performing Channel’ For Ad Investments


After a long career as an ad buyer, Ad Fontes Media Chief Strategy Officer Lou Paskalis turned his attention to the need for quality local journalism, making “fighting to get advertisers back into the news” his life’s work. Now Radio Ink sits down with Lou to dispel myths that make brands shy away from news.

Radio Ink: One of your mantras is that businesses can help save local media by buying advertising. However, brands will not spend money with a news station simply because they want to do the right thing. How do we effectively communicate with businesses about how local media advertising benefits them? 

Lou Paskalis: When I started in this business in 1990, the most valuable real estate you could buy was right-hand side opposite edit in the New York Times editorial page. Thirty-five years later, that’s still true.

The people who read the news have the best socioeconomic and demographic factors, as validated in an Ad Fontes Media study: Core news readers are likelier than any other cohort to have multiple graduate degrees in the household, use iPhones, and take vacations abroad. They’re also likelier to have the highest discretionary income of any other cohort. These are the people who buy things, drive your business, and make it work.

In a world where media investments are increasingly driven by performance, this is the best-performing channel, yet marketers are staying away from it. It’s gotten so bad that the CEO of a major media holding company told me that his senior account leads don’t dare even put news on a plan anymore because they know they will be asked to take it off. The best-valued inventory is the most avoided. So much so that in a 15-year period ending in March of 2020, we’ve seen an 80% decline in advertiser investments in news. In roughly the same period, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there’s been a 50% decline in people working in newsrooms.

Radio Ink: The Local Journalism Sustainability Act was proposed to incentivize local journalism with tax credits. What did you think of that approach?

Lou Paskalis: I thought it an excellent approach. Our economy, society, and democracy runs on truth. You buy a pound of sugar, and you get home and weigh it, and it’s only 14 and a half ounces. That is what happens when truth becomes fungible. We can no longer have civil discourse. I started my career in Chicago. You could walk into a bar and sit with the guy beside you. He could be a staunch conservative, and you could be a liberal like myself, and have a great conversation. We all talk about that moment when Tip O’Neill, Ron Reagan, and a bottle of scotch figured out a deadlock between Congress and the White House, right?

We’re not like that anymore. Now, because facts are fungible, I can bring a set of “facts” into an argument, and you can bring a set of “facts” into an argument, and they can be completely antithetical to each other. And now we can’t find common ground because there is no common truth.

We’re starting to see the fabric of our society come apart, which is why fighting to get advertisers back into the news is my life’s work at this point in my career. Not because it’s their civic responsibility but because journalism is called out in the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights.

Radio Ink: In 2022, you stated that Twitter/X’s decision to cut content moderation would scare away advertisers. That proved accurate. We recently saw congressional hearings about how social media platforms aren’t protecting kids. Do you see an opportunity for legacy media, including radio, to recapture some of those advertising dollars?

Lou Paskalis: I absolutely do, and it requires a step back. Why are advertisers in the community so willing to risk their brand reputation by advertising on YouTube, which is ostensibly user-generated content with very little premium content, but avoiding news because of the potential brand risk? I’m like, “We’ve got the telescope turned around the wrong way, people. Do we think YouTube is safe, and is the news not? What the hell are we doing?”

Want more? You’ll find the entire interview in the April edition of Radio Ink – out now! Plus, we recognize Radio’s Top 20 Leaders. Order your digital or print subscription today.


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