NEWS ANALYSIS: Can regionals deliver display results to fulfil NS promises? - Colin Grimshaw reports on the Newspaper Society’s bid to boost display sales

The Newspaper Society, the regional publishers’ trade body, last week announced its long-awaited initiatives aimed at improving the medium’s poor 4 per cent share of national display advertising.

The Newspaper Society, the regional publishers’ trade body, last

week announced its long-awaited initiatives aimed at improving the

medium’s poor 4 per cent share of national display advertising.



Following last year’s agency consultation exercise Creating New

Perspectives - the first stage of a pounds 3 million a year marketing

campaign - the society has developed 18 solutions to agencies’ most

common gripes. These were presented to key agency executives in a report

called Now.



Given that it challenges regional press owners to provide seven key

solutions to agency concerns by the end of the year, it is an

appropriate title.



The big question is whether the industry can deliver. The Newspaper

Society is convinced that there has never been such a collective

determination among its members.



’The people that have signed up to this initiative - such as Alec

Davidson at Northcliffe, Jim Brown at Newsquest and Mike Masters at

Trinity Mirror - are hard-nosed business people. They wouldn’t sign up

unless they were fully committed and confident of delivering,’ insists

Newspaper Society marketing director Chris Stanley. ’It’s been hard work

getting them all to agree but the result is tremendously exciting.’



The initiative most welcomed by agencies - a digital artwork delivery

system - is also the costliest at pounds 1 million, and will probably be

the first to be achieved. The money has already been collected and paid

into a central fund and the system is expected to be up and running

’within a few months’. Others, such as online booking and electronic

voucher delivery, may take longer to execute.



The agency reaction has been universally positive. ’In the past they

didn’t want to hear criticism, but this time they spent a lot of time

asking their customers what they think,’ says MediaVest joint managing

director Robert Ray. ’And I don’t believe their promises are hollow.

They have been a forgotten dinosaur but if they can break down the key

barriers to doing business, then they can get a huge return.’



Initiative managing director Roy Jeans is even more enthusiastic: ’It’s

brilliant - a genuinely collective initiative. They’ve got the IPA and

ISBA on board and now some agencies need to take more of an interest in

the medium.’



But despite the encouraging response - and even if the promises made

last week are fulfilled - doesn’t the medium still have a significant

image problem?



Ray believes it does. ’They need to get the junior planner/buyers on

board. New to the industry, they are less prone to image

preconceptions.



But they need to be shown how important the regional press is to local

communities. And sales people need to talk less parochially when they

come to us.’



Jeans agrees: ’Graduate trainees come in and think radio is sexy but

regional press is what their parents read. They need to show them their

products and convince them otherwise.’



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