All things to all men in the regions?

I’d like to make a few points in response to Mike McCormack’s letter “Nothing to fear from Amra growth” (MW August 25).

First, it is true that centralisation is useful as an end to the standardisation of information and to save the planner/buyer time.

Second, regional up-weights are useful opportunities if sold correctly, but they are not the bread and butter of the regional press. They can, however, be the jam for a sales house.

Third, selling macro regions will help you compete with other media – initially as a protective measure because they attempt to capture some of the regional press’ review. (But prepare for an uphill battle if you wish to take some of theirs.)

Fourth, your negotiating power increases if all potential clients of the regional press have the same overall turnover, number of sites, turnover by site, site locations, catchment areas, products, criteria for media selection, marketing and advertising budgets, environmental requirements for their ads – and you work for only one publisher.

And fifth, you are already influential on the regional press side, but you will never represent all of it. You should concern yourself not only with competition from other media, but also that from other quality regional publishers (and sales houses) looking to maintain – and increase – market share.

Any company representing a mix of monopolies and clients in a competitive situation must service both equally. Otherwise the installation of revolving doors in that company’s offices would be a necessity.

That company must also acknowledge that representing a monopoly (that abuses its position) may have a detrimental effect on the revenue of those titles in areas where there is a legitimate alternative, simply because the common denominator is the sales representation.

Sales houses owned by a publisher can decide their own strategy because, although they have a responsibility to each centre, ultimately, they serve one client.

Theoretically, I am sure it would be difficult to explain the loss of revenue to one publisher because of the intransigence of another, or to explain a reduction of yield to a monopoly to ensure the use of a different publisher’s title.

As a company gets larger, so can its problems. But these can be harnessed with good management and a clearly defined logical strategy. Amra has one, and is not far away from another.

The regional press, despite the sob stories of newsprint costs and rampant inflation, still has a strong future ahead of it. But if the wrong strategy is chosen by as influential a body as Amra then you play into the hands of the other media that wish to compete against.

If you do choose the wrong strategy (and I can understand it is tempting), I won’t be so busy. If you choose the correct one then, although I might have to work longer hours, Amra’s revenue will increase, as will its clients (but not their yield).

Neil Hepburn

Regional media controller

BMP DDB Needham

London W2

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