In recent months, there has been much speculation about moves by
the giant media conglomerates to forge alliances that will allow them to
exploit digital television opportunities in Europe. Rupert Murdoch’s
News Corporation, Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Leo Kirch’s Kirch
Group are all understood to have held talks about co-operating on new
Pragmatism is one factor behind the talks, as by sharing the
considerable risk involved the conglomerates hope to avoid
But these moves may also be seen as part of a wider trend towards
co-operation between media owners, in both the provision of editorial
content and the selling of advertising space.
’Currently, there are a lot more examples of media companies forming
alliances,’ MediaCom Europe’s director of international media, David
McMurtrie, says. ’But they tend to be more editorially and cost-led
rather than formed as a way to maximise advertising revenue.’
Nevertheless, some interesting partnerships have been created to boost
advertising revenue. An example is the national newspaper market in
France, a media sector that has found the going tough in recent years.
According to Le Monde’s vice-president of advertising, Gerard Morax:
’The national press has low penetration, reaching 42.8 per cent of all
newspaper readers in Paris.’
Fairly high page costs have been a barrier to entry for some advertisers
and the relatively fragmented nature of the marketplace - due to the
range of titles - has meant that the national press has struggled to
compete against television. Spending on print advertising in France
actually fell by 7 per cent between 1990 and 1996.
The gravity of the situation brought five newspaper publishers together
to discuss how they might generate more income through co-operation.
Although two publishers dropped out, the three others created Plein
Cadre, a marketing drive to offer advertisers space in three leading
titles - Le Monde, the financial newspaper, Les Echos, and the sports
daily, L’Equipe. The three titles have a combined circulation of about
’With print media, the buying shops have a lot of publishers and
publications to deal with, so it’s hard for them to follow everything
that’s going on. So if we can make it easier for them it will help us,’
Le Monde Publicite’s deputy managing director, Jean-Christophe Demarta,
The Plein Cadre proposition is a simple one: big, national advertisers
are offered insertions in each of the three titles to run on five
consecutive days. The aggregated readership is attractive to media
buyers who might otherwise dismiss the titles on an individual basis.
’We feel that it really is extra revenue being generated,’ Demarta
The success of Plein Cadre encouraged three other major French titles -
Le Figaro, Liberation and France’s other financial daily, La Tribune -
to co-operate and create a counter offer, Piment.
There are also two national newspaper advertising alliances in Belgium:
Scripta and Full Page. ’It helps the media buyer because all the
information is concentrated in one company,’ Scripta’s marketing
manager, Claude Surmont, explains. Between them, the publishers involved
in Scripta account for 44 per cent of the Belgian national daily
newspaper market and own titles such as De Standaard, La Libre Belgique
and Het Belang. Recently, Scripta and Full Page co-operated in a drive
to raise the profile of Belgium’s leading newspapers at a time when some
mass-market titles have been hit by circulation decline.
Chris Manning, regional managing director, Europe, for the sales house,
Publicitas Promotion Network, which acts internationally for newspapers
such as The Times, El Pais, and Suddeutsche Zeitung, thinks more
alliances will develop in Europe. He points to the success of a group of
11 family-owned newspapers in Latin America, which in 1991 banded
together to form an alliance, GDA.
As well as offering buyers a single point of contact for advertising to
ten million readers, the publishers participating in GDA also make cost
savings by sharing resources such as photo libraries. New features, such
as columns on Latin American issues and travel, have been created and
are shared across the titles. Manning says: ’There is more value to the
reader and new ad opportunities. Revenue related to GDA has increased
five-fold since 1996. Ad dollars are incremental and the trend is an
Alliances are not confined to print media sales. In July 1996, six major
German publishers, including Gruner + Jahr, set up a sales house, Online
Marketing Service, to represent the internet versions of their regional
newspaper titles. OMS aims to attract major advertisers by offering them
an aggregated national audience. There are now 24 shareholders in OMS,
who between them own 34 online regional newspapers.
In France and the UK, regional newspapers have banded together to sell
print advertising. Amra, for example, represents nearly 40 per cent of
the UK’s regional daily newspapers by circulation, including titles
owned by Trinity (which owns Amra), Midland News Association, Eastern
Counties Newspapers and Isle of Wight County Press as well as the
Manchester Evening News.
Co-operation is certainly welcomed by media buyers. McMurtrie says: ’It
obviously reflects what’s happening in media networks as well - fewer
buying points speaking to fewer selling points.’
Further alliances between European media owners are almost certain - the
intriguing question is, who will get into bed with whom?