Dean Wilson, UK MD at Active International: “Challenges for the press are many but I doubt whether there will be a day in my life when I won’t be able to get what I want to read on good old analogue processed tree...”
Prior to the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth
century, the vast proportion of information and stories were
distributed by word-of-mouth, so not much difference to
these days, if you listen to a social media guru.
Today, there can’t be many media professionals who haven’t
discussed the woes of the press, certainly with regard to
advertising revenue and their ongoing commercial models.
The subject has been debated at length by publishers, their
trade associations and media buyers.
I don’t plan to tread the well-worn path of these experts, but
first to put things in perspective, some key facts, courtesy of
the Newspaper Marketing Agency (national newspapers), the
Newspaper Society (regional/local newspapers), the
Periodical Publishers Association (magazines) and a couple
of media agency experts:
- Around 50% of UK adults read a newspaper daily,
- Three quarters of adults read a local/regional newspaper.
- In any one month well over 80% of the population
read magazines, often a range of titles.
However, with some notable exceptions, paid newspaper
print circulations are in long-term decline and many general
interest magazines are suffering the same fate.
Advertising revenues have suffered in the last few years,
like much other “traditional” media but are forecast to be
relatively flat this year and next, except regional’s where the
washout of classified and recruitment still has some way to
go, hence negatively affecting ad yields.
Factually then there is still plenty of scale to reach audiences
and few titles staring over a precipice on revenue, cover
prices or ad income.
Personally I want a free-press and understand the benefits
of proper journalistic standards and the creation of great
content. However, can the business model of a mix of cover
price (or not) and advertising revenue sustain the costs of
gathering and producing the content and its distribution?
If the switch from print to digital saves on overheads, can
people still be encouraged to pay and will advertising be as
valuable to brands?
Perhaps the fact the press is so synonymous with the
printing press is one of its problems, surely publishing is a
more accurate moniker.
Here are some of my observations on the positives for
Brands are important to people, openly and subliminally.
Many titles have strong and positive brand attributes people
understand and trust.
The internet has given people access to more of everything,
free is everywhere: new, cheaper, faster distribution channels
allow publishers to reach out to existing and new audiences
who they may be able to turn into paid subscribers. Even if
people won’t pay, data can be collected enabling better
targeting for advertisers at higher rates; readers can be
directly sold products and services, kind of publisher as
grocer or sales agent.
The thirst for great content when people are mobile still has a
long way to go. Whether the iPad and other tablets become
truly mass market anytime soon is anyone’s guess. But the
Financial Times is using the latest internet language HTML5
to prove you don’t have to be an application to deliver great
digital content functionality. The internet will surely be the
de facto delivery platform to all mobiles. Perhaps the Apple
walled-garden, taking a greedy slice of digital subs and
sales, has reached a near peak.
Most newspapers have an over-reliance on retail advertising.
Digital distribution and a demand for more localisation and
location-based marketing play into the hands of regional titles
and nationals with strong a strong digital readership.
Vouchers and loyalty programmes appear to be growing in
popularity among many people. There are great opportunities
to exploit this, as an example look at the Mail’s recent launch
of a rewards club.
Also of interest, some stories about press in the news, just
in the last week. If you saw the Apprentice on TV last week,
you’ll have seen some of media-land’s finest giving expert
advice to contestants who devised and created dummies for
new magazines. It is unlikely the Apprentice producers would
pick a challenge that viewers, all 7.2 million of them, wouldn’t
The Guardian in print is to move from competing in the 24
hour breaking-news arena to offering a read more
appropriate for the half of their readers who don’t look at the
paper until the evening. At the same time their online
publishing will move in to the “digital first” space.
Richard Desmond categorically denied a sell-off of his
UK print titles, Express, Star and OK! He backs this up
with his £100 million investment in a new print works in
Luton, of all places.
Challenges for the press are many but I doubt whether
there will be a day in my life when I won’t be able to
get what I want to read on good old analogue
Press doesn’t look like a dead parrot to me, even if
a Norwegian Blue and the Sport are pushing-up the
daisies, and forecasts of the death of the patient are