LONDON: Newsbrands can seem to be heavily focused on digital distribution but for some advertisers print remains the most effective advertising channel.

The Financial Times, for example, operates a paywall but is exploring how it can build social media into its strategy of "reach and return".

Jon Slade, B2C global managing director, outlined to Digiday a shift in thinking as the newspaper has moved away from metered access to paid trials and has also begun making some content free to readers arriving via Google, Facebook and Twitter

"Paid trials optimise our return, and we've seen healthy growth in our subscriptions business there," he explained.

"But we also want to extend the reach of our journalism globally," he added. "Two-thirds of our subscribers are outside the UK, and we think there is more potential to build that."

Hence the move away from curating those articles that can be accessed free to allowing people who discover an FT via Google search to have access to three articles a day; if they come via Facebook or Twitter they're allowed just one article a day.

As a result, traffic from social platforms has risen 80% and the publisher is now "experimenting in earnest" with distributed content on Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Apple News; Facebook's Instant Articles will join the line next month.

Slade welcomed the fact that Facebook is letting publishers test newsletter sign-up messages at the foot of their Instant Articles. "It shows Facebook is listening to publishers," he said, "and if we can't put paywalled articles on there, fine, we'll accept the reach, but the newsletter sign-up offering would be great for us".

The Guardian, meanwhile, is devoting attention to identifying "dark traffic" in order to better monetise its audience.

Between 15% and 20% of an article's traffic can come from unknown sources – which can be people cutting and pasting links in emails and text or people swiping right on their phone's home screen to get links to recommended content.

But print remains an important channel for many advertisers, such as Waitrose, the upmarket UK supermarket chain.

"Print is our most effective ROI channel," said Tim Pearson, the chief executive of Manning Gottlieb OMD, Waitrose's media agency.

"It really does deliver commercial value for the partnership," he told a recent conference, reported by Campaign. "News brands are consistently in the top two [advertising channels] for brand and conversion metrics."

Preliminary estimates from the Advertising Association/Warc UK Expenditure Report put print ad revenue for newsbrands at £2bn in 2015, with a relatively even share for national and regional titles.

Data sourced from Digiday, Campaign; additional content by Warc staff