National daily newspapers have long been faced with falling circulation figures and the latest set of results confirms this trend, with all titles bar The Independent offshoot i showing declining ABC numbers from February to July 2012.
But the industry’s efforts to innovate and present its content in digital forms is starting to pay off, according to a new report into the future of news and entertainment, with an increasing number of readers now reading that content online. Indeed, at the end of July, the FT’s digital subscriptions exceeded its print circulation for the first time and by the end of 2012 it expects digital content revenues to represent almost half of total revenues.
Abba Newbery, director of advertising strategy at News International – which commissioned the report – says: “One of the things we need to be much better at in the newspaper industry is to think of ourselves in the context of the whole world of news and entertainment rather than the world of newspapers.”
The Times is developing strategies that tap into how people are consuming the brand’s products. On average, the printed paper is read for 55 minutes, the tablet version for 47 minutes, the mobile site for 16 minutes and its desktop website for just seven minutes.
The report, done with the Future Laboratory, picks up on trends such as crowdsourced media, where users create their own content, and ‘stuffocation’, where the rise of digital media creates an overload of information.
It also singles out the trend towards consumers themselves becoming journalists, for example using the Signal app, which allows people to take a photo, write a caption and upload a story online. The app then geo-tags the story to a particular location.
“The media is becoming further democratised through social media, as consumers turn to friends and high-profile users online rather than journalists for instant information,” states the report.
So-called citizen journalism was something that was a big part of the summer riots in the UK last year and papers like The Daily Telegraph are encouraging readers to use its website for comment. It now has 20,000 comments on its site every day, up from 5,000 a year ago. The the title also encourages readers to take part in online polls and vote on issues.
It is not only these new trends that are contributing to the decline in newspaper circulation. The general mistrust of the media is also a factor behind falling sales.
However, the Olympic Games helped rebuild that trust, according to the report. Rufus Olins, chief executive of Newsworks, the membership body that helps newspapers market themselves, says: “If you look at the way circulation and readership rises during big national events, most recently with the Olympics, people go to them because they trust and enjoy the information.
“Not just in print, with the supplements, cover wraps and coverage in the newspapers, but also what happened with the apps that were created on the tablet and the visits to websites. It was a fantastic Olympics because not only did publications do their jobs really well in the traditional environment, but also on other platforms.”
The Telegraph focused on putting together useful data, as well as reporting on Olympic events, says Edward Roussel, the title’s executive editor for digital. “We spent 24 months planning our Olympic offering. We treated data with equal importance as journalism. Readers were able to view data in a number of ways from records being set to medals being won.”
If you look at newspapers in their proper context you can see real growth because of the innovation that’s taking place
Rufus Olins, Newsworks
The paper produced a daily Olympics edition iPad app, published at 5pm every day of the Games, along with real-time news and data, which featured on all of its mobile products. A tracker provided users with a live stream of updating content, which received an average of 6.8 million global page views a day, with top traffic figures of 7.9 million global page views on the day Team GB won its first two gold medals.
The success of incorporating data into reporting is something that The Telegraph is now looking at for the reporting of the US presidential election in November, says Roussel.
Digital innovation means that Olins sees the future of national press as being relatively rosy. “If you look at newspapers through a narrow view and look backwards in can be a rather depressing story, but if you look at them in their proper context you can see real growth because of the innovation that’s taking place.
“When you combine readership of the digital and the print platform, the figure is growing. The number of people looking at it and the time they are spending with the content is also growing. Innovation means there is a strong story to tell and the national press has an attractive future.”
In the FT’s case, rather than relying on what the ABC circulation figures say, it has created its own metrics, which include the audience for its websites and apps. It says its total paid-for daily circulation is almost 600,000, which measures the total number of people who buy FT content on any given day in all global markets through print and digital channels. The figures are independently assured by Deloitte.
Anita Hague, global research director at the FT, claims that the number of subscribers continues to grow. “With a daily readership of 2.1 million in print and online, more people than ever read FT content. Our mobile audience has doubled in the last year, while 14 per cent of our readers now use more than one platform to read the FT every day.”
Just over a quarter of the FT’s readership only read it via digital formats and Hague claims that advertisers who use both these and the printed version of the paper will increase their exposure to people by 38 per cent. The FT also bought Assanka, its web development partner last December, which designs software for new digital products and services and has now rebranded as FT Labs.
Another major trend for news brands is the idea of bringing virtual communities that exist online into physical events. Times+, the title’s membership programme, invites readers to events to meet journalists and other readers, while The Guardian held its first open weekend in March this year.
The Telegraph also tapped into this trend when it created a restaurant for client Sainsbury’s, where readers got the opportunity to attend the events that promoted the supermarket’s Taste the Difference range (see Case Study, below).
It has also created an ‘experience room’ for clients, showing how a news brand covers and curates news and content. Dave King, executive director at Telegraph Media Group (TMG), explains: “The room builds on TMG’s legacy of innovation, using new platforms and applications to demonstrate how we all might consume news content in future. Clients, agencies and staff are being shown the room.”
As News International’s Newbery says: “Let’s stop thinking about ourselves as newspapers and think about where we exist in the whole spectrum of what’s going on in everybody’s lives.
“There’s no point squabbling over what might be a declining advertising medium, so let’s go out there and do something completely different and better.”
The Times and The Sunday Times
Times+ is a loyalty scheme that offers culture, travel, arts and entertainment rewards and offers for subscribers of The Times and The Sunday Times digital and print editions.
Marketing Week (MW): What is the purpose of Times+ and what value does it add to the brand?
Suzi Watford (SW): Times+ is a key retention tool for subscribers to The Times and The Sunday Times. It rewards brand loyalty and brings readers closer to the brands, giving them more of what they love and saving them money.
People can enjoy several offers and extras including complimentary film screenings, private views and expert talks.
MW: What do your brand partners get from the service?
SW: Each partner receives coverage in a weekly enewsletter on launch as well as a dedicated landing page on the Times+ website. Their offer or event is also promoted via in-paper adverts and editorial ebulletins.
MW: What is the thinking behind Times+ events?
SW: Times+ events help to bring the newspapers to life. They allow readers to engage directly with The Times and The Sunday Times journalists who they read or follow, increasing their relationship with the brands. Members also have access to exhibitions or events before they open, for example the David Hockney exhibition at The Royal Academy. Last financial year we provided 17,000 tickets to 93 events.
MW: How will Times+ innovate in the future?
SW: It will remain a core tool in retaining subscribers. We will investigate ways members can experience sold-out events through live streaming, for example. We’ll also launch a weekly Times+ magazine in The Sunday Times iPad edition and use geolocation to highlight offers relevant to where members live.
Case study: Telegraph Media Group
Due to the decline in print circulation and revenues, news papers are looking to create more tangible products and experiences for their readers. The Telegraph achieved this by combining reader experience with a sponsorship deal.
Sainsbury’s and Telegraph Media Group (TMG) partnered to open a restaurant, which saw celebrity chef Paul Merrett devise a three-course meal using only ingredients from the supermarket’s Taste the Difference range.
The campaign saw The Telegraph take over Cantina restaurant in Borough Market each Monday for a month, inviting 50 special guests and readers each night, who were all served with Merrett’s menu. The events were filmed and this and other content became ‘Meals from the menu’ features for people to try at home. The campaign had 216,000 video plays in partnership with Go Viral and Microsoft.
In print, the campaign had a coverwrap of the Weekend magazine section, followed by three weekly half-page features on each of three evenings. These included meals from the menu to cook at home, diners’ feedback on the nights and the endorsement of the top chef.
TMG claims that 45 per cent of readers recalled the campaign and it achieved a 70 per cent increase in the likelihood to shop for special occasion food at Sainsbury’s, with 54 per cent trying something in the Taste the Difference range since seeing the campaign.
Allowing readers more control in what they view will give them a sense of power and self-expression according to the Future Laboratory report on the future of news and entertainment. It will also help them navigate through the masses of content available online.
For example, the Flipboard app creates a personalised magazine for its user based on their preferences and the sites they follow, while design agency Berg has created the Little Printer which prints a receipt-sized mini newspaper edited by the user based on their content choices.
In a digital world, the lack of human contact found in online networks is beginning to turn people towards forming local communities and real-life connections. Newspaper brands are looking at this, with The Guardian hosting a festival at its headquarters with political debates. Vogue held a similar festival in April with talks, performances and workshops.
The Hackney Podcast is a location-specific smartphone app which gives consumers guided tours of the borough. When they walk through the streets, different interviews and archive recordings are ‘unlocked’. Meanwhile, US company Bluebrain created an album that uses geo-tags so the musical score changes and evolves based on the user’s location within Central Park in New York.
Source: News International/Future Laboratory