Web advertising at regional newspapers helps offset drop in print editions
LONDON - Gloomy headlines about the credit crunch may come back to bite newspapers on the backside, as the regional press has become the latest medium to be hit by the economic slowdown.
Daily Mail and General Trust recently warned that a lack of property advertising was having a serious impact, and warned that the worsening conditions would put pressure on its regional arm, Northcliffe Newspapers. The group said the number of people advertising property in the six months to March in its regional titles fell 7% on the same period a year earlier, with motor advertising down 12.5%.
Last month, Johnston Press, which publishes more than 300 regional papers including The Scotsman, Yorkshire Post and Sheffield Star, announced it was seeking to raise £212m in emergency funding. The initiative resulted in Ananda Krishnan, who is Malaysia's second-richest man, taking a 20% stake in the company.
However, amid the gloom, many local papers are finding that their websites are providing some much-needed cheer.
Digital products account for 7% of Trinity Mirror's regional revenues and 10% of profits, mostly from classified and local ads, while in April, Newsquest's network of local websites attracted its biggest audience go date, according to the latest ABCe figures. The ABCe data shows that a host of other local newspaper websites are also doing well. Visitors to the Shropshire Star's website, for example, rose 60% in five months.
Consumers, it appears, are as keen as ever to get their fix of local news across a range of platforms, but the immediate challenge for local media groups is persuading advertisers not to cut their spend in the regional press in favour of supporting only their websites.
Advertisers and media agency buyers need to be reminded of the worth of newspaper advertising - and new research by the Newspaper Society may provide a worthy starting point.
The study, called Local Matters, asks how brands can connect more effectively with Britain's communities. By questioning more than 5000 participants across the UK and Northern Ireland, the results may prove helpful in persuading advertisers that campaigns in the regional press do work.
The Newspaper Society hopes it will persuade advertisers to run targeted ad campaigns in the local press that will differ from their national activity.
Marketing director Robert Ray says the research explains what binds local communities together, and how this varies across Britain, which should help generate actionable insights for advertisers and communications planning.
'We want to help advertisers become more effective when dealing with local papers,' he says. 'There is an opportunity for advertisers to understand the intricacies of the different communities, and to get an idea of what people are interested in and where. Campaigns can be tailored to meet the needs of a specific audience, so they don't have to be developed as one homogenous mass ad.'
Community identities will become even more important in the years ahead, according to Lawrie Procter, managing director of Mediaforce, the national independent newspaper sales house that represents Johnston Press. 'What we will be selling more and more will be that idea of communities, and offering advertisers opportunities based on the different data that we have.'
Internet revenue, however, is the bright spot on the horizon for GroupM, the parent company of WPP's media agencies, which has predicted that online advertising budgets will rise 4.1% in 2008.
However, the regional press faces increasing competition from the BBC, which recently announced that it planned to bolster its local coverage, as well as from ITV's ITV Local service in the online arena.
Nonetheless, Gary McNish, managing director of Amra, the sales and marketing company that represents about 270 regional papers, says the sector is becoming multiplatform, something that agencies welcome.
'All packages combine print and online advertising, and more regional titles are offering niche products, as well as core print titles,' he says.
The Newspaper Society will this week begin a showcase trip around the UK, highlighting the opportunities for agencies and advertisers across various regional press platforms. It will also promote its website, which allows advertisers to find out more about specific communities across the UK. If it succeeds in selling in-depth research, the local newspaper sector will have a lot to thank their trade body for. If not, then the regional press faces challenges on several fronts.
This article was first published on Marketing
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