Guardians of press innovation

Ageh’s move from The Guardian has fuelled debate about design’s role in branding papers.

The departure of Tony Ageh from The Guardian’s development department last week brought out the often hidden role of designers and creative thinkers in the establishment of newspapers as brands.

The Guardian insists that Ageh was one of a team, but his influence on projects such as The Guide, The Guardian’s World Cup Guide and The Guardian 2 is acknowledged as unique.

The newspaper has taken the opportunity of his departure to reorganise the development department, and to bring in a creative partnership to head it.

The innovation of The Guard-ian’s development department has earned the title plaudits for its market ing and knowledge of its readership. “A lot of newspapers have jumped on the bandwagon and launched new sections,” says Bill Kinlay, media director of O&M Media, “but The Guardian is very close to its read-ership and has consistently made sure that the package is continually geared to what they want and like.”

The Guardian’s marketing director, David Brook, believes it has a different way of producing new sections. “I think that post-Wapping a lot was done in national newspapers because it could be done. Colour, back to back, new sections. These things were often done without reference to whether readers actually wanted them.”

Kinlay believes that other innovators in the national press market include the Telegraph and Associated groups, which have concen-trated on sport and review sections.

“As well as providing added value for readers, new sections provide new sites for advertisers. They enable advertisers to have more specific targeting and a slightly different environment to the main paper. In addition to extra colour, they usually create younger and more female readers.”

A number of press buyers feel that a strength for new sections and innovations reflects an attitude of mind that considers newspapers to be brands rather than commodities. To this many attribute the ability of The Guardian to sit out the price war without losing circulation to cheaper broadsheets.

However, some buyers believe the Guardian has an easier job than most titles. “The Guardian is a very well-branded product,” says Neil Jones, director at TMD Carat. “Its point of difference is seen in its political stance. This helped it sit out the price war.”

“The Sunday Times could be looked upon by some to be the extreme end of the use of sections, enabling it pick up book advertising in one section or travel in another,” adds Jones. “For The Guardian, The Guide is more about attitude rather than strict demographic targeting.”

But both Kinlay and Jones believe that The Guardian’s marketing innovations have enabled it to discard the reputation it previously had for having a lentil-eating, sandals-wearing readership.

Jones believes that the Daily Mail is Fleet Street’s best-marketed newspaper. “It knows its readership and has grown its circulation, which is the ultimate aim of marketing.

“It has to be remembered that however good a reputation The Guardian has for marketing, it has lost 30,000 readers over the past five years.”

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