Regional press to turn new leaf

The Newspaper Society has developed a marketing strategy for the regional press.

That the Radio Advertising Bureau has produced miracles for commercial radio is a much-disputed contention. But what it has done is spur other media that want to increase their share of the national advertising cake to examine their own marketing initiatives.

The latest sector to put its marketing under the microscope is regional newspapers. Following an 11-month review, the Newspaper Society’s ruling council has approved a new marketing strategy to meet the demands of its customers – defined as agencies, advertisers and newspaper publishers. They want more information about regional papers, and are asking for the medium to be better promoted.

The atomised nature of the sector conceals the fact that it takes the second-largest share of total ad revenue after TV, with 20.3 per cent, or 1.8bn, in 1994.

However, regional papers’ share of national advertising revenue (NAR) has been slowly falling over the years. It was 22 per cent 1983. The Newspaper Society’s new strategy is designed push it back up by bringing in an extra 85m of national advertising over the next three years.

The society’s new marketing director, Chris Stanley, will implement the new strategy. He believes regional papers are suffering from an image problem. The decisions by Reed Elsevier and Thomson Corporation to dispose of their regional paper holdings has not helped.

“I think there is a perception that it is a declining, third-rate medium,” says Stanley. “Yet national papers and magazines have declined in share terms much more than regional papers. There is no shortage of buyers for Reed and Thomson’s titles.”

Stanley maintains that the relative strength of regional papers is illustrated by the way both United News &Media and The Guardian Media Group’s regional papers subsidise their national titles.

Stanley plans to bolster his marketing department in order to spread the good news about regional papers through 200 presentations to agencies and national advertisers next year.

These presentations will have 12 new case studies to draw upon, illustrating how the medium can work, and will contain details of the Newspaper Society’s major initiative: Regional Power Packages.

The packages are designed to counter agencies’ objections that the medium is difficult to plan or buy by providing a menu of off-the-shelf and bespoke sales packages to target different demographics and regions.

The Newspaper Society will design and co-ordinate these packages across different publishers and tailor them to cash in on regional papers’ main strengths.

The closeness of regional papers to their readership will be harnessed through packages containing sales promotions, competitions, leafleting, product sampling, point-of-sale support and standard display ads.

The investment will also involve rebranding and relaunching the Newspaper Society’s commercial wing, PressAd, with an updated database that will be supplied to agencies to help their planning.

“There is a renaissance going on in the regional press,” says Stanley. “There is a willingness to play as a team that wasn’t always there in the past.” Proof is the 160 year-old Newspaper Society facing up to the future last week by voting to put 500,000 behind Stanley’s strategy.


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