College campuses are home to some of the most tech-savvy voters in the electorate. They’re also one of the few remaining areas effectively reachable through print newspapers.
Sure, digital is on track to surpass traditional media in total market share of the advertising industry for the first time in 2019.
But on college campuses, the student newspaper is still going strong and the platform Flytedesk, which sells ad space on universities around the country, wants campaigns to get over the idea that print is dead.
“There’s a bias against print out there, and if it wasn’t on a college campus I’d agree with them,” said Alex Kronman, the Colorado-based company’s founder and CEO. “Print is still huge on college campuses — it might be the last place on earth that’s it huge.”
Take Iowa, where young voters will play an oversized role in the 2020 Democratic presidential caucus. Flytedesk offers a presidential the chance to target 21 campuses with some 200,000 students faculty and staff. A $400,000 multi-channel buy gets a candidate into newspapers, onto college radio and podcasts, and placement on out-of-home outlets on campus for a month.
The appeal of a platform like Kronman’s should be weighed against the alternatives. Yes, Gen Z and Millennials are living their lives online. But they’re also more adept at cord cutting (or never investing in cable to begin with), and digital ad blocking. Surveys have shown anywhere from 17 percent (Deloitte) to 69 percent (Flytedesk) of 18 to 34-year-olds are blocking ads.
“Digital’s not a perfect solution for reaching college kids,” said Kronman. “Print and out-of-home are bigger than digital — it’s very difficult not to see the back page of the college paper.”
Other newspapers are making themselves harder to miss. In Florida, for instance, the Tampa Bay Times recently unveiled racks with a flat-screen monitor that act as mini digital video billboards. One veteran media consultant told C&E they could be an ideal outlet for GOTV.
When it comes to the captive audience of college media, Kronman also noted that university radio and podcasts offer attractive reach at a comparably low price.
“Do they have the biggest audiences, no. But for $25 to get one read on a college radio or a college podcast? It’s a good component of a campaign. Recall rates across college media are really high,” he said, noting that’s it rare for his company to place a buy under $25,000.
Flytedesk, which is non-partisan, recently partnered with vote.org on a survey to help raise it’s profile among political ad spenders. The varied methodology national poll of some 3,000 students found education, perhaps not surprisingly, was a top-three issue for 51 percent of respondents. Climate change, gun violence and healthcare were also in the top three for 41 percent of respondents.
Kronman said the majority of his political business so far has come from Democrats and a recent analysis by Bully Pulpit Interactive, the Democratic digital firm, backs up that experience. BPI analyzed recent Facebook ad spending using the company’s Political Ads Archive and found that Democratic presidential candidates, mainly Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, were spending about 18 percent of their total ad budget targeting voters under 35.
Meanwhile, President Trump was spending just 4 percent to reach the same group — and nearly half (44 percent) targeting seniors.
When it comes to the issues that young voters said they cared about in the vote.org/Flytedesk survey, only Sanders was making a significant investment in messaging about healthcare.
“Bernie, more so than any other candidate, is working hard to size himself up against Trump, as if he were already running in a general election,” the analysis states.