Arrogance could block regional press revenue

Proposals to alter the perception that national press ads are too costly must be enforced at all levels to boost regional press revenue, says Cathy Richards.

I applaud the recent launch of the next stage in the Newspaper Society’s “Creating new perspectives” campaign, which aims to generate additional revenue for the regional newspaper industry by tackling head-on the concerns and issues identified by advertisers and agencies as barriers to national advertising.

The timing of this initiative is right, since in the area of retail advertising, where historically local independents have been a source of revenue for regional publishers, there has been a shift away from such independents towards national chains. This potentially threatens regional newspapers’ local retail revenue.

The approach to date has been exemplary and a lot of proposals have been made, all of which are valid. These include areas such as the delivery of advertising copy, the quality of reproduction, ease of access to research and the need for more detailed audience research, the complexity of the booking process, the lack of accountability and justification in the area of cost, the need for advertising effectiveness research, and the marketing of the medium. While a number of these initiatives are technology-based – as for example an improved copy delivery system and an online booking system – the entire plan requires an unprecedented level of commitment from publishers and sales operations.

It is critical that, having committed real money and a considerable amount of time and effort to this campaign, publishers now follow through and deliver in all of the areas identified. They must be prepared to implement change at all levels of their business and these changes must be driven through from the chief executive down to the copy setter. My experience to date is that while chief executives can be totally aware of advertisers’ needs, unfortunately this commitment is often not replicated at the middle management level and below, where it needs to be implemented.

While these proposed initiatives will go a long way towards encouraging advertisers to feel confident about using the regional press, there is no escaping the fact that price will remain an issue. The regional press has historically been priced at a premium to, for example, national press. The advertising effectiveness research, which will be commissioned by The Newspaper Society as part of this initiative, will need to produce some pretty stunning results to convince advertisers and agencies that this pricing is justified.

If the regional press industry can prove the obstacles no longer exist which prevent the majority of advertisers from using regional newspapers to best effect, the campaign should have the desired effect and regional newspapers should see improved revenue. If, however, the old attitudes and, dare I say, arrogance towards national advertisers are allowed to prevail, this campaign will not succeed.

Cathy Richards is regional media director at Zenith Media

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