Facebook Ads vs Print Classifieds Head To Head

Which gives better value for money, Facebook ads or regular local newspaper print ads?

Let’s find out in a head-to-head battle!

The first thing to say is, it isn’t simply down to how many eyeballs you’ll reach for your dollar/pound/euro. We’ll need to consider some other factors as well, but let’s start with the basic numbers.

The traditional metric for print advertising has always been the CPM, or “cost per thousand” (readers).

Of course, not every reader will look at your ad. But some may look at it a few times. So let’s assume that every ad in every paper gets looked at once.

Cost of Print Classified Ads

My local rag is the weekly Derbyshire Times, which has a claimed readership of 108,000 readers per week (source).

A single-column classified advert will cost you £37.10 (plus VAT)

Classifield ads price

To reach 108,000 readers, that would give us an estimated CPM of £37.10 / 108 = 34 pence per 1000 eyeballs.

Cost of Facebook Ads

Let’s do a direct comparison with the reach of an ad on Facebook. Here are the stats on a recent promotion that we ran recently for a client (click to view full size).

Facebook ad statistics

This promotion is reporting a reach of 5224 people for a total spend of £4, giving a headline CPM of 4 / 5.224 = 76 pence per 1000 eyeballs.

So, on first view, it would seem that the Facebook promotion is about double the price of a print ad. Round one to print?

No — because there are several more factors we need to take into account.

Compare Screen Presence

Not every “eyeball” is the same. Let’s compare the actual Facebook promotion with a typical print classified ad.

Waites FB promotion

Facebook promoted post

Newspaper classified ad

A typical newspaper classified ad (not from the actual publication)

You can immediately see that the Facebook ad is FAR more imposing than the newspaper ad…

  • You get about five times the space, and the text is far easier to read.
  • The picture is in colour.
  • The brand logo is also displayed and in colour.
  • There’s a date, which lets you know the promotion is current.
  • And, of course, the opportunity to interact RIGHT NOW with the promo.

Better Feedback

In fact, this £4 promotion got 438 “post engagements”, which means Likes, Comments, or Shares. Because it’s a competition, it got shared an impressive 480 times.

Of course, somebody might show an ad in a paper to someone else, but a good online promotion can be shared and shared and shared. But we don’t actually know how many people (if any) actually look at a newspaper ad (which is why advertisers traditionally would insert coupons in newspapers that you would clip out and either mail in or take in store to claim a promotion).

The net result that it only cost us one penny per actual engagement. At least 480 people read the ad, got it, and liked it enough to take action in some way.

Comparing Eyeballs

Not every “view” is the same.

Check out the photo of the newspaper ads again. There are dozens of ads crammed into a small space, with tiny text. A reader would need to focus carefully on the newspaper in order to take in the ad content.

On Facebook, however, for a hit to count against your “reach” statistic, someone would need to scroll to or past your promotion, which I think means it is much more likely to be seen than the classified ad.

In fact, the two images are roughly the same size, but the newspaper clip contains about 25 different promotions, while the Facebook ad is just one.


Facebook ads will clearly get you significantly more exposure for your money than newspaper classified ads.

However, you must also bear in mind a few other subtle factors.

  • One is your target audience. It may be that a newspaper’s readership is likely to have a high proportion of the people you want to reach, it may be better value.
  • Not everyone who reads a newspaper goes on Facebook, and vice versa. If you want to reach as many people as possible, maybe it isn’t an either/or question. Maybe you could consider both?
  • Facebook will let you advertise using colour photos, and also video. If your promotion would be more engaging in video, that would be a huge benefit of the social platform.
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