MEDIA: FORUM; Would newspapers benefit from joint marketing?

Do newspapers need to do more to market themselves generically? Would that help to make inflation - forecast to reach double figures soon - more palatable? And anyway, why isn’t the Newspaper Publishers Association already on the case? Does the newspaper business need a new marketing body?

Do newspapers need to do more to market themselves generically? Would

that help to make inflation - forecast to reach double figures soon -

more palatable? And anyway, why isn’t the Newspaper Publishers

Association already on the case? Does the newspaper business need a new

marketing body?



The Radio Advertising Bureau is rapidly becoming the caped crusader of

the whole media business. Whenever a particular sector hits trouble,

someone, somewhere will invoke the RAB. It’s not that they actually

expect the RAB to fly to the rescue, of course - it’s just that they

wished they had their own version.



Last week, the sector in question was the national newspaper business -

and the fact that it is running into difficulties is becoming apparent.

Inflation in the newspaper market is set to reach 10 per cent year on

year and there have been problems in the availability of run-of-page

colour.



Advertisers and agencies are not best pleased. Last week, CIA

Medianetwork published a list of recommendations on action that

publishers can take to ease the inflation problem. CIA believes that

publishers should give preferential treatment to long-standing clients,

be more sophisticated when it comes to research and, of course, set up

their own version of the RAB.



There is a certain irony in this - the RAB’s effectiveness has helped

radio to take a steadily growing share of national advertising revenue.

And where has most of this share come from? Correct - national

newspapers.



But hang on. Doesn’t the newspaper industry already have its own RAB?

Isn’t it called the Newspaper Publishers Association?



Perhaps not. The last generic campaign organised by the NPA was, to say

the least, controversial. Back in 1991, it began running a series of

press ads attacking the merits of TV as an advertising medium - a

disingenuous strategy given that most newspapers are heavy users of TV.

But perhaps the NPA should at least take credit for getting the

publishers to agree to any sort of joint activity whatsoever.



Now there are signs that the newspaper groups are waking up to the need

for a fresh approach to generic marketing. What should they do, and will

that mean the creation of a new RAB-like organisation?



Richard Britton, the non-broadcast media director of CIA Medianetwork,

believes that they should try.



‘There have been many pressures on the newspaper market, principally the

paper cost issue and a long, general trend of falling circulations,’ he

states. ‘It’s obvious that newspapers have to sell themselves in a much

more competitive, concerted and constructive way. Advertisers have to be

kept informed in order to justify the prices they are being asked to

pay.’



Britton concedes that the NPA has been making moves to address this. But

he argues that it’s too little too late. ‘Individual publishers have

done bits and pieces of research,’ he says. ‘But much of it has to be

treated with scepticism because it serves individual interests rather

than the market as a whole. The publishers should look at what is

happening in other sectors of the media industry. Magazines have done a

lot, the outdoor industry has been trying to get its act together and

there is, of course, the RAB. Whether or not it is the NPA that takes

the lead on this, something has to be done and it needs to happen

quickly.’



Stef Clarke, the manager of media and sponsorship at the Halifax

Building Society, points out that some individual publishers are good at

talking to advertisers - but some are dreadful at it.



‘There’s all sorts of research that publishers have - on readership of

sections and on readership on different days of the week,’ he states.

‘But they tend not to show that to clients. So yes - there’s a need for

an effective overall marketing body for advertisers.



‘My job is to spend media money in the most effective way possible.

Anything they can do in the way of research will be a help. If the

publishers can show how I can use my budget more effectively in

newspapers, they might be able to take revenue from other media.’



But Clarke says publishers should not make the mistake they made last

time - which was to knock other media. ‘And they would have to look at

all sorts of related issues,’ he argues. ‘For instance, the sales side

incentives are wrong. They chase share of press budget rather than

trying to increase share of a client’s total advertising budget.’



David Brook, the marketing director of Guardian Newspapers, says that

the issue isn’t as straightforward as some believe. ‘Of course, it is

essential that we do common work into how newspapers are read and

provide better help for advertisers in choosing where to place ads,’ he

agrees.



‘But the NPA does a lot of that currently and all newspapers have signed

up for that and are committed to it. Anything that helps provide more

information has to be applauded - and I suppose that would be an NPA

task. But having said that, I think that this area is often viewed in

the wrong terms. It’s not a case of newspapers as a medium selling

against television as a medium. The Guardian, for instance, has more in

common with Channel 4 than it does with the Daily Express and I don’t

think there is any point in trying to convince advertisers otherwise.’



Andy Tilley, the joint managing director of Zenith Media, points out

that just about every major medium in the UK has envied the success of

the RAB at some time or another.



‘Its achievements have prompted many industry watchers to propose

copycat structures for other media,’ he says.



‘Like many in the business, I believe that national newspapers need to

give greater focus to marketing their medium more effectively - and it

has so much to commend it in its own right without resorting to the

rather naive and counter-productive knocking-copy approach prevalent in

previous activity.



‘National newspapers need to agree precisely what they wish to achieve

in any co-ordinated marketing effort. Only then can they decide on the

route they should take - when they have done that, it will be easier to

decide whether they want to create a separate RAB-type body or give more

systems and support to the NPA.’



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