CAMPAIGN DIRECT: ISSUE: Newspapers appeal to readers’ baser instincts - Newspapers are finding it hard to pull in new readers without cutting their cover prices. Meg Carter reports
By MEG CARTER, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 15 August 1997 12:00AM
The Telegraph’s recent reduced-price subscription promotion has prompted debate within the industry about the effectiveness of newspapers’ loyalty programmes. Opinion seems firmly divided on the best tactics to use.
The Telegraph’s recent reduced-price subscription promotion has
prompted debate within the industry about the effectiveness of
newspapers’ loyalty programmes. Opinion seems firmly divided on the best
tactics to use.
Since the newspaper market remains static, rival titles can recruit new
readers only by stealing from their competitors. The result is a dual
approach, with promotions tailored to encourage sampling and promotions
targeting existing readers to keep them keen.
However, the task is getting increasingly tricky, the Zenith head of
press, Caroline Simpson, says. This is because editorial packages change
by the day. Price cutting is being used tactically - on particular days
of the week and in different parts of the country. And on-going
promotions are also muddying the waters.
’All of this encourages, rather than reduces, promiscuity,’ Simpson
’And, without daily average circulation figures, it’s very difficult for
any of us to see what works.’ Although National Readership Survey data
does show which papers people claim to read most frequently, even that
doesn’t necessarily mean those people spend most time with their papers,
or that they are most loyal.
To what extent price promotion drives loyalty is a key issue. Those who
use price cutting give one answer, those who don’t, another. Advocates,
like News International, talk of sampling, and point to additional sales
at their rivals’ expense. However, the Guardian’s brand manager, Niall
Murdoch, expresses reservations.
’At the end of the day you want to know readers are buying into the core
values of the paper rather than simply being driven by price promotion,’
he claims. Tony Coad, the development director at the Telegraph, agrees.
’I don’t think newspapers are doing anything in loyalty yet,’ he says.
’If they offer a discount and say ’my product’s cheaper’, that can only
Coad points to the example of supermarket loyalty cards. ’If I go to
Sainsbury’s and flash my Reward card I get money-off coupons. If I go to
Tesco and flash my Clubcard I get points sent to me later, along with a
magazine reflecting my lifestyle and demographics.’ One is a price
promotion, the other is about building loyalty, he claims.
This might come as a surprise in the light of the Telegraph’s recent
cut-price subscription promotion. The Telegraph offered discounts on
both its daily and Sunday titles. For pounds 1, people could obtain
papers worth pounds 3.50. Response to this was significant, not only
from new readers, but also from existing ones. This resulted in a
dramatic increase in subscriptions but a fall in revenue, reports
Latest ABC figures, published last month (Campaign, 18 July), show
subscriptions sales of the Telegraph in June were a whopping 25 per cent
(or 275,992) of total sales of 1,090,515. The equivalent subscription
sales figure for the Times was 16,503 on total sales of 735,714 - just
2.5 per cent.
But, according to Coad, the promotion was more to do with price than
loyalty. ’Loyalty is about better servicing the reader, better
understanding their needs and better exploiting the interactive
relationship between reader and newspaper,’ he explains.
It’s about cultivating an emotional reaction between consumer and
’Increasingly, people do not see themselves as merely passive recipients
of a newspaper title,’ he adds. ’The newspaper of the future will have
the capability to interact with, and serve the needs of, the individual
Tim Coton, the director of new business development at Arc Advertising,
is not so sure. ’You can’t look at loyalty in newspapers as you do
loyalty in other sectors,’ he insists. ’Loyalty promotions are not
really relevant in the sense that the newspaper itself is the loyalty
vehicle. The key for newspaper publishers is to encourage trial.’
Sampling driven by promotions and price cuts is therefore, by
definition, a loyalty initiative, he claims. ’Once a person starts
reading a newspaper it gathers its own momentum - they don’t need to be
promoted to anymore.’
Ellis Watson, the marketing director for the Sun and the News of the
World, adds: ’Any look at latest circulation figures will show you who
has the greatest reader loyalty.’ What they don’t show, however, is why
so many within the industry feel the Guardian’s readers are among the
most loyal. A greater value is placed by some on those willing to pay a
premium price for a premium product.
At Express Newspapers, the marketing director, Justin Jameson, runs a
dual strategy. Promotions are tailored to two groups - core readers who
are generally older, and new readers who are generally younger. Recent
initiatives include a sports ticket give-away and the offer of 100
Daewoo cars free for one year.
With more sophisticated data management, this approach will become more
tightly targeted, he adds. ’At the moment we are enhancing our database.
We have 1.5 million readers detailed, split between our commercial and
marketing departments. We want to integrate this to enhance the database
and allow it to be used in a more sophisticated way by all
All publishers are now investing in upgrading their reader databases to
be able to offer more discreet and relevant communications.
’When you hear of a newspaper direct mailing 1 million people, you can
only wonder how this can be appropriate,’ Jameson adds. ’Our aim is to
move away from high-volume crude mailings. The next stage is to aim
specific and relevant information at individual groups.’
Newspapers are only scraping the surface of reader loyalty, according to
Andrew Walker, a consultant at the loyalty specialist, Abram Hawkes.
’Where customer loyalty schemes work, they have an emotional hook rather
than simply relying on money-off benefits,’ he says.
’You must always offer something extra. With BA, this means more than
Air Miles - you receive a better service and perceive the brand as
offering you better value.’ The question publishers must answer is how
else can they add value to the core product aside from continual
improvements to the newspaper itself.
NATIONAL NEWSPAPER READERSHIP FREQUENCY
Title ’quite ’only ’almost
often’ occas- always’
The Sun 83.6% 10.4% 6%
Daily Mail 80.1% 11.6% 8.3%
Mirror 79.8% 12.4% 7.8%
Express 77.8% 11.1% 11.1%
Telegraph 77.2% 12.4% 10.3%
Guardian 70.2% 16.3% 13.6%
Star 70.1% 15.5% 14.5%
Times 69.8% 17.4% 12.8%
Independent 63.9% 18.3% 17.9%
FT 62.9% 19.2% 18%
Figures cover Jan-Dec 1996
’almost always’ = at least three out of four issues
’quite often’ = one out of four issues
’only occasionally’ = less than one out of four issues
Source: National Readership Survey
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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