For sheer diversity, look no further than European newspapers. From
the unique might of the British press, to the magnificent innovations of
the Spanish regionals, here is a medium that offers more variety than
any other. It is also enjoying more success in the rapidly changing
media environment than it is sometimes credited with.
In recent years, the main concern has been falling sales, but since 1992
newspaper sales in Western Europe have declined by less then 1 per cent
a year. In France, Germany and the UK, the decline has been considerably
less than that. The majority of newspaper titles in the UK are showing
circulation increases. In Spain and Portugal, sales are rising
In Ireland, the indigenous titles are growing despite an influx of
cheaper UK newspapers. In the Netherlands, too, the market is
Newspaper sales appear to be healthier than the average TV or radio
audience figures. Traditional media are all suffering from diminished
interest as people turn to a wider range of leisure alternatives. At a
time when broadcast audiences are being tempted by a plethora of new
services, the newspaper audience appears reasonably stable. New-media
services - such as the Internet and CD-Roms - appear to be taking
audience from broadcast media rather than print.
Publishers have good reason to be optimistic - not only do they dominate
the content of these new options, but they also have a host of more
exciting and positive issues on their priority list. The first is focus.
In the UK, we are preconditioned to the strength of national, rather
than local, newspapers. But in this we are unique. In the majority of
European markets, the newspapers offer a largely regional service.
In France, for example, where the media scene is considerably smaller
than our own, with advertising per GDP at half the UK level, the print
medium is dominated by local newspapers - which outsell the national
press by three to one - and weekly magazines.
As for Scandinavia, where newspapers are even more popular than they are
in the UK, geography precludes the value of national media and local
newspapers are truly dominant. Even in the South, where newspaper
superiority declines as the weather improves, the medium has a primarily
Media buyers seek the biggest or the best-focused solution. Whether
geographically or demographically positioned, the newspaper medium
increasingly provides a better one-off hit than any alternative.
Then there is tailored content. Contemporary newspapers provide more
than a record of events - they’re increasingly proactive and
Continental readers want their newspaper to get things done. They want
relevance and material value. The subsequent quest to deliver has a
knock-on effect on the advertising environment as publishers strive to
satisfy better-defined interest subsets within their audience with
tailored supplements and sections.
Third, there is marketing. The objectives vary from Northern Europe,
where newspaper sales are primarily subscription-based, to the
Mediterranean, where single-copy sales are universal. Thankfully, the
days are long gone when bingo, or some other equally inane bribe,
offered a short-term attraction.
Readers can now enjoy real benefits, with the increased use of clubs and
special offers. There are loyalty cards, often in partnership with
retailers or financial institutions. Partworks are also part of the
armoury. All of these tactics provide advertisers with an opportunity to
get closer to their target audience.
The message in all this is that as marketers increasingly shift their
spend across the line, newspapers offer a wider range of marketing
solutions, either close to the point of purchase, or through a direct
link with the reader.
Globalisation is a developing issue. An increasing number of newspapers
are available in countries outside their own. More and more newspapers
are producing international editions, and the market for international
advertising in these titles is now gathering a critical mass. This will
be an important area of growth and opportunity during the next few years
and, given the universality of the English language, the UK has a unique
Which leads me to the final, and trickiest, issue - diversification (or
as one cautious publisher insists I call it, ’controlled growth’). The
recent World Forum of Newspapers Strategy, organised by the World
Association of Newspapers, brought together 50 leading publishers from
around the world to discuss the future. The debate was dominated by the
question of distribution channels. There is broad agreement that demand
for information and the enabling of transactions can only accelerate in
the future, but what will change is the means of distribution, which is
currently dominated by newsprint.
The outcome, however, will be the greater polarisation of audience,
along with content and service requirements. From the advertisers’
perspective, this will enable them to focus far more clearly on their
audience and the offer, but the means of doing so will be very
Traditional advertising is undergoing a period of dramatic change.
Evolution, not extinction, is on the cards. The newspaper industry knows
all about this. And the newspapers of Europe are better placed to
deliver this brave new world than any other medium.
Advertising Expenditure Breakdown by Medium (% of Display Adspend for
News- Magazines TV Radio Cinema Outdoor
Finland 63.3 11.6 18.4 4.1 0.1 2.5
France 25.0 23.4 31.2 7.7 0.6 12.0
Germany 51.2 21.0 19.1 4.0 1.0 3.7
Greece 14.2 16.0 61.5 5.3 0.0 3.1
Austria 44.2 19.3 20.5 9.6 0.4 6.0
Belgium 27.7 28.2 27.5 7.5 1.1 8.1
Denmark 63.2 14.2 18.1 1.6 0.7 2.2
Ireland 63.6 3.9 21.2 7.0 0.3 3.9
Italy 27.1 21.3 47.5 1.3 0.0 2.8
Netherlands 44.2 23.8 16.8 3.3 0.4 11.6
Norway 66.1 14.0 12.9 3.6 1.1 2.4
Portugal 18.1 18.7 49.3 6.1 0.0 7.7
Spain 29.7 8.9 51.1 6.2 0.7 3.3
Sweden 67.4 11.7 15.1 0.3 0.6 4.8
Switzerland 58.3 17.3 8.1 2.6 1.0 12.6
Turkey 45.0 6.9 47.8 0.1 0.2 0.0
United Kingdom 29.1 17.5 42.6 4.7 0.9 5.1