Business demographics have been somewhat out of fashion in recent years. If the City of London tends to set the tone for the business community as a whole, then its mood has been subdued of late. Living for years with a chancellor whose middle name is Prudence (and with the hint of recession continuing to linger in the air), the money men and corporate movers and shakers have not found it easy to be exuberant.
Meanwhile, in the shadow of a handful of big business scandals and with Labour in power, it has become almost impossible to take seriously the image of the businessman (or woman) as hero - and newspaper coverage of business matters has been further ghettoised by other factors.
For instance, the fact that the serious press has been far more focused on shopfront issues - such as how they keep up appearances when their gravitas is squeezed into reduced page sizes. And most of the excitement in recent years has clearly been about consumer and lifestyle strands - in other words, the art of spending rather than making money.
Recently, though, something has been stirring. The most obvious manifestation of this is the City AM freesheet, which, true to its title, is handed out to City types on their way to work in the morning. This, in turn, has galvanised the Financial Times (a paper that many feared was losing its way); and, only last week, The Daily Telegraph reconfigured its business coverage, housing it in a new standalone broadsheet supplement.
So, all in all, publication of the latest British Business Survey, which was released last week, is arguably rather timely.
1. The British Business Survey is conducted roughly every two years and this one, carried out by Ipsos Media, is the 16th. It contains readership data for 65 newspapers and business publications as well as information on TV, radio and internet consumption.
2. The demographic it explores is generously defined. The universe comprises 1.55 million AB individuals of professional or managerial status, from blue-chip company chief executives to the directors of small businesses. Their average gross annual income is £54,000.
3. Business people spend more than average on airline tickets, hotel rooms, PCs and hi-tech entertainment equipment.
4. The general patterns of media consumption are relatively predictable - these people are lighter-than-average viewers of TV and almost all are web users (compared with the surprisingly small fraction, around half, of the general UK population), with 61 per cent having broadband connections at home.
5. These people have a deeply ingrained newspaper habit. The biggest finding in the latest survey is that The Times has overtaken the Daily Mail as the most widely read national daily among businesspeople. It remains a close-run thing, though: 339,000 taking The Times as opposed to 338,000 reading the Mail.
6. The Economist is, as you would expect, their favourite weekly title, with 135,000 readers. The second-placed magazine is less predictable - Computer Weekly, with 127,000 readers.
7. It was a good survey for the Evening Standard, which is read by 195,000 businesspeople - a vindication, its publisher says, of recent investment in business content. The Standard points out that it now outperforms the FT, which is read by 174,000 people in this demographic. The Standard will also be cheered by one of the quirks of this group - the survey shows that 28 per cent of businesspeople read a newspaper between the hours of 6pm and 8pm.
8. The FT was quick to counter jibes from rivals that it had performed poorly among its core readership. The FT, its publisher says, cannot be judged against mainstream, high-circulating newspapers, which may well be read by businesspeople (in the broadest sense of the term) alongside millions of non-business readers. In contrast, there is no wastage if you use the FT to target the business community - and it remains unparalleled in its performance against what is charmingly known as "the C-suite" (people with the words "chair" or "chief" in their job titles). The average personal income of an FT reader covered by the survey is £82,249.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...
- The survey gives planners a clearer indication of how newspapers, the web and other media can be used together to reach an affluent and upmarket audience.
- For example, a combination of The Times, The Sunday Times and Times Online can reach 48 per cent of corporate budget-holders. To achieve that elsewhere, you would have to use all the online and printed properties of the Telegraph, Guardian and Financial Times groups.
- Planners are also reporting an increasing interest among advertisers (especially in finance, IT and motoring) in targeting business readers.
- Specialist business titles have an ambiguous attitude to this survey. On one hand, it helps to give their specialisms more prominence among agencies and their clients.
- On the other, it can be irritating to be seemingly outgunned by the mainstream press. Ideally, they would like to set a tighter audience definition that would play even more to their strengths.
- Some publishers are critical. As one puts it: "You could question the validity of a definition of businessmen that includes everyone from blue-chip chief executives to pet-shop owners in Prestatyn."