Media: Double Standards - Is failing regional media a place for investment?

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 03 July 2009 12:00AM

Adrian Worsley and Lawrie Procter argue the case for continued investment in regional titles despite the industry's bleak past and predicted gloomy future.

ADRIAN WORSLEY - DIRECTOR, CLACKSONS

- Why should major brands continue to invest in regional titles?

Regional press is of course a wide range of media channels including newspapers, magazines, digital offerings and, in some cases, radio. Research figures (from Newspaper Society Wanted Ads) show that 79 per cent of consumers spend half or more of their money within a five mile radius of their home. Brands need to connect with this audience.

- How accurate is the Enders Analysis report that suggests regional press could see a 52 per cent decline in ad revenue between 2007 and 2013, leading to the closure of hundreds of titles?

If we do nothing, the forecast is probably fairly accurate. But no business stands still and the good publishers are aware of the need for strategic thinking, research and brave decision making. We may witness a decline in the number of titles, chiefly in markets that are perhaps served by two or more titles and/or publishers. However, I firmly believe the overall reach of the UK's regional press, through printed and online products, will continue to flourish.

- What's the most innovative activity you've developed for an advertiser in the past year?

Working with MediaVest Manchester, we devised a multimedia campaign in the North Devon Gazette to support "rural trade". Non-traditional creative treatments ran through both editorial and classified pages, both in press and online. Post-campaign research has been undertaken in conjunction with the NS. Great news - it has been renewed for this particular store and is being rolled out to a number of other outlets across the country.

- What's your view on the impact of Google on the media market?

Google creates a more competitive environment for all the traditional mainstream media organisations, whereby previously consumers had limited choice, now their options are endless. However, in a more competitive and fragmented environment companies have to spend a greater proportion of their turnover on marketing in order to cut-through. Although Google will take a cut of existing budgets, ultimately the net effect will be to grow the overall pot from which we will all benefit.

- What differentiates your approach in the marketplace?

Our core values - being marketing focused with a sales hunger and a desire to win, always punching above our weight. We are big enough to count and small enough to care ... ask the agencies!

- Tell us a story from one of your titles that best sums up the appeal of local press.

The Comet newspaper in Hertfordshire fought to save its local hospital and gained cross-party support among five local MPs, along with a petition of almost 15,000 readers - even David Cameron was involved. The hospital won its battle to secure £100 million of investment, which is now being spent on state-of-the-art healthcare. This is just one of many examples of how regional media engages with a community and delivers.

- How well have you developed online revenue streams?

Extremely well. We offer our publishers an alternative approach, leveraging regional opportunities that can attract a significant premium, whether this be within a classified sector (eg. recruitment, property, etc) or environment or content pages.

- What would you do if you were not a high-powered media sales person?

Strive to be a "high-powered media sales person"!

LAWRIE PROCTER - MANAGING DIRECTOR, MEDIAFORCE

- Why should major brands continue to invest in regional titles?

Life remains local and not only do regional and local titles and websites continue to offer unrivalled access to local communities, they also enjoy a level of trust from their audience that other media can only envy. Why wouldn't any brand want to access that?

- How accurate is the Enders Analysis report that suggests regional press could see a 52 per cent decline in ad revenue between 2007 and 2013, leading to the closure of hundreds of titles?

That's an impossible question to answer. The point Enders misses is that future advertising revenues will be based around delivery of audiences rather than platforms. Regional media is in a great position through a well-developed and multiplatform offering, of which print remains an integral part, that penetrates hyper-local markets delivering highly targeted local audiences to national advertisers.

- What's the most innovative activity you've developed for an advertiser in the past year?

The Orange "I am" local branding. We worked with editors to find stories about ordinary people who had done something extraordinary. Fallon then wrote a bespoke "I am" ad specifically about that person which ran in their local paper. A great example of a national brand connecting locally.

- What's your view on the impact of Google on the media market?

Google has had a huge impact on the whole market. Positively - it has introduced innovative pricing and reward mechanisms which have made the whole industry think again. However, my main contention is that Google should be paying regional publishers for linking to their content. It makes no investment in journalism, yet it benefits in ad revenue terms from the work of regional media owners.

- What differentiates your approach in the marketplace?

Scale and specialisation. As Mediaforce represents more than half of the UK regional press inventory, we are the logical "go to" point for agencies and clients seeking regional solutions. Our network of publishers enables us to offer national coverage by local media through a single sales point.

- Tell us a story from one of your titles that best sums up the appeal of local press.

The appeal of local press is obvious in any number of regional scoops and exclusives or the fabulous campaigning work that our publishers do on behalf of their local communities. However, I'll share one of my favourites from the past 12 months: "Naked man arrested in Cockwood after night up tree with mouth organ." You can't really add to that.

- How well have you developed online revenue streams?

We insist that our print sales people are digitally literate. We have a pure-play sales team and we undertake trafficking, optimisation and behavioural targeting to maximise results for all campaigns that we sell on to our publishers' sites.

- What would you do if you were not a high-powered media sales person?

I'd ideally be helming Ericsson 4 to victory in the Volvo Ocean Race.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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