Media: Double Standards - Why newspapers will weather the digital storm

Rather than competing with each other, national and regional newspapers have the common goal of remaining relevant, their trade bodies say.

MAUREEN DUFFY - chief executive officer, Newspaper Marketing Association

- What is the biggest challenge for the newspaper industry in 2007?

As one client put it, the mantra of digital, digital, digital is taking a disproportionate amount of our mind space. Newspapers, like other media, face multiple challenges from the huge resources required to develop their digital capabilities, while at the same time overhauling their paper format and working out how to profit from all of it.

- Do regional and national newspapers compete against each other?

For consumers they're highly complementary but very different animals meeting unique needs in their readers' lives; regionals serve a local market, while the nationals bring a stature and range of content that is unique and powerful. Many share a common stakeholder and, as with any business, there is always competition for resources.

- What is the extent of collaboration between the two groups?

We have an informal relationship with the Newspaper Society - meeting on an ad hoc basis to update each other on key projects.

- How are newspapers expanding through digital platforms?

Newspapers are extraordinarily dynamic in this area: relaunching websites, podcasts, vodcasts, e-zines, interactivity, partnerships with other media - in short, anything that is possible is being explored and evaluated.

- What sorts of innovations are happening in the newspaper market?

National newspapers are more than 400 years young and will successfully weather the new digital age as they did the onslaught of radio, cinema and TV through constant innovation in their content and how that is delivered to their consumers. At the same time, they are constantly innovating their offering for advertisers.

- How important a role do trade bodies play in the changing media landscape?

Roles vary, but clients and agencies stress the NMA's value lies in it being a single point of access for understanding the value of the medium; specifically, major projects that inform the debate such as the effectiveness tests and category insight work. As the landscape changes, so does our contribution; this year we have a significant digital project building on the pilot work undertaken as part of the 2006 advertising effectiveness tests.

- What proof do you have that your research works?

1) Increase in newspapers' share of advertising revenues for categories researched.

2) Ocean Consulting carries out an independent tracking survey with a battery of measures from rating the NMA's work to much harder investment questions.

3) Advertising effectiveness tests provide rigorous evidence of newspapers' contribution to building brands and generating sales. Also, by making creative pre-testing a requirement, recognition scores doubled in 2006.

- What do you miss about working agency side?

JWT's Hays Mews dining rooms; the bar, agency party, agency planning sessions in Cuernavaca, an information centre with marvellously helpful people, and the IT department constantly to hand for when my computer decides to have a hissy fit!

- How do you spend your weekends?

Varies according to energy and mood; on the sofa reading to browsing art galleries in Skibbereen the other weekend.

ROBERT RAY - marketing director, Newspaper Society

- What is the biggest challenge for the newspaper industry in 2007?

Local press has to maintain dominance of local markets by capturing audiences across multiple platforms. More than 80 per cent of the UK's population read a local newspaper and publishers are actively building reach via other relevant communication channels to remain the number-one provider of local news and information.

- Do regional and national newspapers compete against each other?

Of course. But then we also compete against all other communication channels.

- What is the extent of collaboration between the two groups?

We're focused on local marketing and not on any "generic" newspaper sell. The local proposition is very different in its role to consumers than any national medium, press or otherwise.

- How are newspapers expanding through digital platforms?

The 1,300 regional/local newspapers also have more than 800 websites (some of which cover multiple locations). Digital complements print with additional local news and information via webcasts, podcasts, mobile texts and so on. It also gives additional opportunities for reader interaction via blogs and even local online auctions.

- What sorts of innovations are happening in the newspaper market?

In local press, innovation is about growing audience reach and delivering compelling local news and information. So innovation is everything that will develop further our unique relationship with audiences including different newspaper distribution models, niche publications, webcasts and beyond.

- How important a role do trade bodies play in the changing media landscape?

For advertisers and agencies, we are able to deliver a (relatively!) impartial counsel and robust consumer research and insight to give better context and understanding of our evolving medium. For our members, we provide research, shared learnings and a credible connection with the agency/advertiser community to add value to their sales houses' dialogue.

- What proof do you have that your research works?

It's less a case of whether or not our research works, but whether or not our medium works. The Wanted Ads demonstrates the unique role of local press and the high levels of audience involvement in editorial and ads - ad avoidance simply isn't an issue. We followed this with a number of in-market tests, The Wanted Ads Stage II, which showed how ads are noticed and acted upon. Brands including Heinz, Foster's and Lavazza saw uplifts in brand metrics. We can all make any research "work" but the proof is in brand usage and results.

- What do you miss about working agency side?

A life devoid of committee meetings, some of which go with the patch when you work for a major trade body. Some of the media owner jollies would also be difficult not to miss.

- How do you spend your weekends?

Depends where I am, but water/snow/mud and a board and/or wheels is a start ... not forgetting wife and three kids.