Media buyers say Barclay brothers face tough challenge

LONDON - Media buyers believe that the Barclay brothers will have a challenge on their hands in taking over ownership of The Daily Telegraph.

Many have already questioned the millionaire brothers' track record in newspapers, having taken on The Business, which continues to struggle, The Scotsman and closing The European.

Tim McCloskey, head of press at OMD UK, warned that the brothers could be in for a long haul to see a return on their hefty investment.

"Neither [The Business nor The European were] created by them originally, but both are/were uninspiring and they have had mixed success with The Scotsman.

"We also have also to take into account that Richard Desmond and Associated pulled out of the race. Neither are slouches in publishing so it suggests that the Barclays have paid a big price and expect their return to take time," he said.

McCloskey said that this should be good news for the Telegraph and also good news for the advertisers.

The rival 3i bid advised by former Mirror Group boss David Montgomery had a major cost-cutting plan as part of its plan for the paper, although McCloskey thinks this is unlikely with the new owners.

"The Barclays have money to invest into the Telegraph Group and hopefully allow the title to put on circulation and increase market share. It is unlikely they will aim to strip out costs. The Telegraph still has big potential and a strong management team but it does have tough decisions in the future," he said.

Among the challenges ahead, attracting a younger readership is seen as paramount. In the most recent circulation figures for May, the paper saw a 1.6% decline down from 923,449 in April to 908,265.

Tom Wilkinson, press manager at Carat, said: "If the Barclay brothers want to expand the readership beyond the 1m mark, they have the task of attracting a younger readership and expanding the paper's core readership beyond the South East."

Wilkinson said previous attempts to do this, such as putting Posh and Becks on the front page and increasing fashion coverage in the paper, have worked but it looks as though the Barclays are going to have to go the extra mile if they are to end the paper's association with the older generation.

One of the key initial tasks will be to replace interim chief executive Jeremy Deedes, as well as confronting the issue about whether to launch a compact edition of the paper or not, according to McCloskey.

Other taxing issues media buyers are mulling is how will the Telegraph take on its natural predators, such as the double-format Times and the Daily Mail, and how it will fill the revenue gap left by declining classified ad revenue.

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