Media: Perspective - The Mail on Sunday is making an effort, butwho will listen?

LONDON - You've got to hand it to Associated Newspapers, on one level anyway.

It delivers, on its two paid-for national titles, large circulations and a quality environment for advertisers, combined with smart use of promotions to keep the punters coming in.

Yet recent events at the Daily Mail, which have seen heated negotiations resulting in MindShare and Carat pulling some of their clients out of the title, show how fraught newspaper trading can be. Especially if, like the Daily Mail, you are taking the bull-nosed approach of demanding increased rates from agencies despite a falling circulation (well, down by an average 1,000 readers a month over the past six months, but bouncing back in July).

The big question is whether the Daily Mail will be forced to change its trading policy as agencies threaten to use rival media owners and shift spend into more accountable media. Over the Daily Mail's managing director Guy Zitter's dead body, I would suggest.

At the Daily Mail's sister title, The Mail on Sunday, things seem calmer. But the title is set for an exciting time in the autumn, which might well revolve around developments to its magazines - You and Night & Day.

Ahead of this, but not necessarily related, The Mail on Sunday's ad director, Simon Davies, has conducted a reshuffle of his sales department. Central to this will be the appointment of a strategic planning unit and a head of planning to run it. Davies explains: "At a time when many other publishers are divesting and concentrating on cost-cutting for short-term gain, we are continuing to invest in the long term, where we can see real potential value - and our investment reflects this."

There's no doubt that Davies, an entertaining and larger-than-life character who nevertheless has a firm grip on his business, should be applauded for at least making an effort with customers. Some agency cynics, while welcoming the move, have suggested that it could be driven by downward pressure from advertisers on The Mail on Sunday's rates, with The Mail on Sunday in less of a position to dictate terms than its sister title.

If this is the case, Davies is likely to be under pressure to deliver extra revenue.Critics say that while a planning guru can add value at a title such as Metro - with its young, non-newspaper-buying readership - it might be harder to make this role work at a title aimed at middle England.

All the more reason to do it then, I say. The Mail on Sunday may have contributed to the commodity-driven market that it operates in, but at least it's now attempting to talk in a different way to advertisers. It's just a case of whether they want to listen when there are other, arguably cheaper, options around.