They mean business, those persistent people at the Newspaper
A year ago, they launched a trade press campaign featuring all sorts of
industry luminaries - Rupert Howell, Christine Walker, John Bartle, to
name but three - whose endorsement copy reminded us that even the
smartest cosmopolitan types in the trendiest London advertising agencies
actually come from somewhere that has a local newspaper. Probably a very
highly respected and influential local newspaper come to that.
Then last summer the Newspaper Society began asking the ad industry what
it thought of the medium. And while that consultation process was going
on it initiated a below-the-line campaign to build awareness through the
presentation of case studies.
Now we not only have the analysis of that consultation but a plan of
action. Last week the Newspaper Society unveiled a programme of
initiatives designed to meet the needs of national advertisers - with
the aim of boosting the medium’s share of national advertising
campaigns. These initiatives include commitments that should improve
repro standards, make it easier to plan and buy and make it more
accountable. This year pounds 100,000 will be spent on producing ad
Cathy Richards, the regional press director of Zenith Media, says:
’These initiatives are tremendously exciting. It’s fantastic to see the
entire industry getting behind this campaign.’
She adds: ’While anything that makes the regional press easier to plan
and buy has to be positive, I consider the ad effectiveness research to
be the key element. Regional papers have always been at a significant
price premium to nationals, so they need to prove to advertisers that
this premium is justified.’
Some will still need convincing. The challenge now, they say, is
delivering on the promises. Can an industry of fragmented local fiefdoms
really pull together? Is it motivated enough? National display
advertising accounts for only 10 per cent (pounds 247 million) of the
total ad revenue base.
However, there are those who wonder whether the potential for growth is
there at all. The Newspaper Society’s template in all of this is the
pivotal role played by the Radio Advertising Bureau in repositioning
independent radio, once seen as regional and unglamorous, as a sexy
opportunity for national advertisers.
But radio’s accelerated ad revenue momentum was not solely down to the
RAB. It had just as much to do with the fact that the medium was
delivering impressive audience growth as new franchises came on stream.
It was evolving bona fide national opportunities in any case, with the
launch of Classic FM. You could argue that the Newspaper Society has
less impressive material to work with.
One of the faces featured in last year’s campaign was Robert Ray, the
joint managing director of MediaVest. Is he impressed with this latest
initiative? By and large, he is: ’Some of us outside that community have
whinged for years - moaning about everything from repro standards and
administration to the practical difficulties you encounter in buying the
medium. So for the medium to come up with a manifesto based on listening
to customers is excellent.
It needs genuine commitment, support and backing from the publishers
If that doesn’t materialise, or if the whole thing gets tangled up with
in-fighting, then the manifesto will be forgotten.
’But the most important factor if they genuinely want to capitalise on
these initiatives is improving the way that the medium is sold to
One of the problems regional press has had in the past is the fact that,
by and large, it has always been bought and sold by a small community of
people. They need people who can see beyond that community - I’d
particularly like to see them getting their message across to young
people entering the business on the planning side. Regional newspapers
must always be aware that they are competing with other media.’