2014 Predictions: The year ahead for...Press

The market is in the midst of a renaissance - press innovations and tech developments mean cross-platform trading is a must and advertisers have huge opportunities. By Dominic Williams.

Dominic Williams
Dominic Williams

2013 was full of developments in press and built huge positivity for what is set to be a year of even faster-paced change.

I will remember 2013 as a year marked by the Leveson saga, which now seems to be slowly and quietly resolving itself as publishing companies have collectively decided to snub the royal charter and sign up to fund the Independent Press Standards Organisation. It brought home the pivotal job press titles do and the responsibility they have for decent journalism.

The press industry has a huge opportunity in 2014 to grow its audience and evolve its existing offering. Press is back in fashion. The landscape and technology continue to change and, using the power of content, there will be improved ways in which advertisers will be able to connect with audiences. We’ve seen many examples of this in 2013, such as the introduction of a paywall for The Sun and its Sun+ subscriber benefits, and global web extensions for The Guardian and the Daily Mail.

In the spring, we will see the launch of the ESI Media-owned London Live, the new entertainment channel devoted entirely to London. This addition to ESI’s stable is an interesting move – undoubtedly, tying up press with broadcasters and driving scale that way is a positive thing for the industry.

Northern & Shell has continued to work hard on cross-platform partnerships as advertisers and agencies take advantage of the scale across its print, digital and broadcast products, and it’s encouraging to see other media owners working more colla-boratively, such as Global Radio, which has continued to work closely with press publishers, particularly the Telegraph.

All of these examples show just how much the press market continues to innovate in these areas and extend its offerings in the converging media world. Media agencies need to be working even closer with creative agencies to ensure tailored solutions and the best possible user experience on multiple platforms.

Content is still king

Cross-platform media, especially on tablet, only really found its feet in 2013 as scale pushes forward and publishers realise its true capabilities and the full audience sell they can make. But there is more work that needs to be done. Publishers need to be brave and bold in this new market. Content remains at the heart of everything – readership on any platform is reliant on this and getting the user experience right. Let’s not forget that 21.6 million adults still read a printed newspaper each day. This is something we should not lose sight of as we journey through new technological advancements.

In 2013, we saw more publishers tackling e-commerce through click-to-buy on mobile and tablet, and this will continue to grow. We’ve also been waiting to see how titles will begin to monetise their social platforms, and we await more developments on this in 2014. However, we must remain mindful not to push this too soon at the expense of growing audiences and creating more powerful and influential print brands. The way in which the press industry continues to reinvent itself is exceptional, and we’ve seen huge digital investment across the board at newspapers and magazines, which will be paramount for success.

At Aegis Media, we’ve been pushing cross-channel planning across all of a print brand’s touchpoints for quite some time now. Each and every iteration of a plan shows advancements on the last. We’ve worked very closely with publishers on this because this isn’t about a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to get better at sharing data and collaborating on how best to respond to an advertiser’s needs. In our converging media world, the new ways of working aren’t the remit of just one group of people. The time really is now to embrace new digital capabilities and, for agencies and clients, to work more closely with media owners.

There was definitely a shift in 2013 in how we sum up the complexities of the world of press. Agencies have tried to find a word that encapsulates what we do in print and all of its digital capabilities, but there now seems less of a need to do this. I find this very telling. At the beginning of 2013, there was a collective view that the word "press" seemed too concerned with the printed product. But there now seems to be a general understanding that print stands for a whole lot more than the paper it’s printed on and that the word "press" does encompass digital platforms. This goes some way to describe just how much we achieved in 2013.

Publishers need to connect, discuss adn share their learnings with agencies and trade bodies, and I would like to see more open debate

For news brands, the tide has finally turned and I’d like to single out Newsworks, which has been instrumental in supporting our reappraisal of a newspaper’s platforms through workshops, research and a new set of awards. It’s now rare to consider and plan a printed product without using some or all of its other platforms and digital capabilities. Having a trade body to support what we have been championing ourselves has been critical, and I think 2014 presents a large opportunity for the PPA to support the industry further in this way.

Digital improvements

This year, I would like to see more publishers ensuring their tablet offering is fully interactive and more investment in titles that still create basic replications of their printed product. On the magazine side of things, IPC Media’s Look published its first instantly shoppable and fully interactive print issue last year, allowing readers to buy directly from the printed page. ShortList Media continues to innovate, with Never Underdressed, its fashion and beauty digital magazine, moving on to tablet. Likewise at Bauer Media – it will be launching the women’s digital brand The Debrief at the beginning of the year.

These are great examples of how publishers are continuing to find new audiences and revenue streams, and they demonstrate how strong their resolution is to continue to invest in publishing, whether in print or digitally. Readers of magazines and newspapers have a unique relationship that is hard to replicate with other media. The digital journey we are now firmly on means that, providing we get it right, the opportunities for advertisers can be outstanding. We need to use the data to understand this relationship better so that advertisers can benefit from e-commerce opportunities as well as content creation in partnerships.

The multiple ways in which content is published remains a challenge, however, because there are varying capabilities for publishing content, not to mention no set standard of measurement. Publishers need to connect, discuss and share their learnings with agencies and trade bodies, and I would like to see more open debate in 2014 so we can all move forward and improve the way we operate in this market.

We are stronger than ever as an industry and I’m very excited about all of the opportunities on the horizon. 2014 will be a tough but incredibly interesting, challenging and rewarding year. We will be even more concerned with a print brand’s entire ecosystem and all of the ways in which we can put our advertisers at the heart of them in a relevant and credible way.

The challenge of second-screen planning means the focus will move from purely app advertising to tablet as a whole and the shift in consumer behaviour that this brings. The World Cup will also present new opportunities for clients and an exciting time for press throughout the summer. Real-time planning –
already something we are doing across both traditional print and new digital platforms – is something I expect to see much more of in 2014.

Finally, the creative opportunity for advertisers to work more closely with editorial on impactful and creative formats was spearheaded in 2013 to the point of no return. Who thought five years ago that we would be able to wrap national press titles or run near field communication-enabled creative in magazines? Editorial is becoming more commercial and collaborative than ever before, which puts us in an incredibly strong place for the start of the year.

Here’s to 2014.

Dominic Williams is the head of trading at Amplifi, Aegis Media