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Think BR: Launching Newsworks

Newspapers now need to be understood as newsbrands, writes Rufus Olins, chief executive, Newsworks.

Rufus Olins, CEO, Newsworks

Rufus Olins, CEO, Newsworks

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This has been a crazy week for us. On Monday the Newspaper Marketing Agency relaunched and changed its name to Newsworks.

Those of you with experience in project management will know that this kind of operation always involves significantly more work than you thought and you always get surprises on the way, usually involving arcane details about point size, colour matching and proxy servers.

On Tuesday I extracted myself from the onslaught of emails and meetings to attend a star-studded gala dinner held to raise money for The Journalism Foundation. 

The stars did turn up too, including Tracey Emin, Jerry Hall and Hugh Grant, who has had quite a lot to say about journalism recently.

The Foundation has an important job to do and Simon Kelner, its chief executive, reminded us exactly how critical that is in 2012 with journalism and journalists under pressure from all sides.

Occasions like these are always valuable for taking soundings - finding out what the wider world thinks of your company, your brand and your industry.

There were some interesting comments about the challenges facing Newsworks: that it’s promoting an industry that is disunited, and on the back foot - and that this was the case when both Thinkbox and the Radio Advertising Bureau launched. So, some light at the end of the tunnel then. It is interesting how perceptions change.

Leveson has cast a long shadow over the industry and will continue to over the next few months, but there is a lot of goodwill towards the national press: people think it does an effective job and is worth fighting for.

It’s also reassuring that people of all backgrounds are so quick to understand the new concept of newsbrands; in other words, while newspapers in print account for 90% of the national press market, the titles are now operating across a range of different media platforms - online, mobile, tablets, etc. We are marketing this concept to help advertisers understand the new reality of 'the papers'.

But while there is so much goodwill towards the newsbrand industry, there are also some urban myths out there. Some people - newsbrand insiders and outsiders - seem to have adopted a narrative that says newspapers are dying on their feet, circulations are going through the floor and readers are migrating elsewhere, possibly to social media.

As ever, things are not quite as black and white. Yes, print circulations are (with some exceptions) showing decline but digital readership is growing. So the newsbrands audience - print and online - has actually increased. It has grown by nearly two million people over the past five years to 24.4 million.

The other statistic which makes eyebrows go up is that people are spending more time reading newsbrand content. This was confirmed by the latest IPA Touchpoints survey, which shows that while time spent with print newspapers hasn’t changed much over the last two years, time spent reading online newsbrand content has gone up more than one third.

So we have got our work cut out in terms of helping people understand the fundamental facts about the newsbrand audience. That’s why we have published our launch brochure 'From newspapers to newsbrands' and also run an ad in various titles (created by McCann London) featuring a dog carrying not a newspaper but a tablet computer.

And when it comes to advertising in newsbrands, as Jon O’Donnell of the Evening Standard said at Media 360: "We seem to spend 90% of our time on price, leaving just 10% to focus on idea - this can’t be the right balance going forward". This was a point echoed by some attendees at the Journalism Foundation Gala - we need to start thinking again about the engagement that newsbrands create in all their different print and online versions, and the opportunities that opens up. 

After the gala dinner it was back to that pile of emails and preparing for our own Evening with Olympians Dinner on Thursday night. It was a great night on the river and the athletes reminded us of the role newsbrands play in landmark national events. But that is another story ...

Rufus Olins, CEO, Newsworks

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