TOP EUROPEAN NEWSPAPERS: Surviving reality - The budding freesheet empire across Europe, as well as the conundrum about electronic news delivery, means these are trying times for Europe's top newspapers. Lucy Aitken investigates

The events of 11 September confirmed newspapers' place in society.

Whereas endlessly repeated (and often badly edited) TV images could be

too brutal to take in, the world turned to newspapers for information,

comment and comfort. Suddenly, newspapers were a million miles away from

being written off as dinosaurs blundering about in a multimedia age in

which they had no place.



When the world slowly emerged out of shock, there was no mistaking the

facts in the cold, hard light of day. Newspaper ad revenues are falling,

although some are falling more sharply than others. In the Netherlands

and Denmark combined adspend for display and classified have slumped

back to pre-1995 levels - Germany's adspend has been on a non-stop

downward spiral since then. Yet others are performing better. The UK's

revenues from newspaper ad sales rose considerably, by more than $2 billion, from 1995 to 2000. And Italy too, never renowned for its

plethora of newspaper fans, also experienced steady growth (see

table).



Like any other medium at the moment, newspapers are experiencing jittery

times. Murdoch's London HQ of News International is rumoured to be

losing staff across the board due to increasing economic pressures. But,

like many of its conglomerate counterparts, News International had

attracted criticism for being a bit on the flabby side.



Should newspapers have long-term concerns about their survival? Mike

Waterson, the chairman of the World Advertising Research Centre, doesn't

think so. He says: "The short-term future for the European newspaper

business is inevitably linked to the economic outlook for the individual

European economies. In most cases this means a relatively harsh

operating environment is likely over the next 12 months. The longer-term

outlook for advertising expenditure as a whole is good. Ad expenditure

continues over long periods to increase as a share of GDP almost

everywhere."



However, Waterson is cautious about one key revenue stream for newspaper

publishers: classified ads. "The long-term outlook for newspapers is

clouded by the uncertain future for classified advertising," he says.

"Will all or part of it go electronic? So far, the newspapers seem to be

holding their own against specialist website operators, but the future

remains uncertain."



This has been the biggest challenge for newspapers: why would anyone buy

a newspaper when they can access the news for free on a website? Six

years ago, when the web came to life as another medium, there was a

sudden outbreak of largely paranoid conferences targeting print media

owners.



Their main agenda was trying to work out how they could keep from going

under by diversifying their output to include an electronic stream. The

hurdle they faced was how to make money from it.



One newspaper has shown how it's done. The Swedish daily Aftonbladet

broadened out its offering with Aftonbladet.se, which is that rare

entity - an online newspaper which makes money. The paper's site is the

fifth most popular site in Sweden, after all the usual suspects such as

Microsoft-owned sites. Sweden can also boast that both Aftonbladet.se

and Expressesn.se are among the country's most popular 25 sites. With

the exception of the BBC in the UK, most European media owner brands

don't even come close to this.



As Scandinavian countries have been setting the pace not only in terms

of the websites' sophistication but also in terms of surfing patterns,

many other newspapers from across Europe could take a leaf out of their

book to see what makes it so sticky.



Just as for other media, attracting and retaining advertising is an

ongoing challenge. Rather than rest on their laurels, newspapers across

Europe have been rising to the challenge. Scandinavia, again, has

spawned some of the most innovative ideas. Dagens Nyheter, for instance,

gained competitive advantage by committing to running advertisers' ads

up to one month after the campaign period was over if they had not met

their targets. It has also helped the newspaper to fill up space during

the slow summer months, as well as help to combat the dent in sales

brought about by the introduction of Metro.



Metro has been one of the biggest threats to paid-for newspapers across

Europe, delivering to advertisers upmarket, educated commuters who have

not been in the habit of buying newspapers.



The success of Metro in Italy has surprised many of the country's media

planners and buyers, who did not think it would take off there, where

average commuter rides are shorter than in other European cities. But it

is part and parcel of newspapers coming into vogue in the country,

offering creative colour solutions to designer clothes brands, which

were formerly big spenders in magazines.



This kind of creative thinking shows the skill of many newspapers to

adapt to a changing environment, where the ability to keep up with what

advertisers want is paramount to survival.



NEWSPAPER DISPLAY AND CLASSIFIED ADSPEND USDOLLARS (million)*

1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000

Denmark 946 934 882 914 832 732

Finland 658 637 603 642 659 620

France 2,495 2,488 2,219 2,351 2,550 2,357

Germany 10,814 10,310 9,248 9,579 9,391 8,678

Italy 1,118 1,257 1,279 1,346 1,842 1,858

Netherlands 1,700 1,755 1,629 1,801 1,803 1,645

Norway 635 738 700 672 646 641

Spain 1,489 1,512 1,382 1,478 1,633 1,564

Sweden 1,162 1,206 1,094 1,129 1,059 1,019

UK 5,361 5,579 6,368 6,980 7,240 7,611

*At current prices and exchange rates. Source: WARC, European

Advertising and Media Forecast.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content