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Exciting Times In The World Of Print

Exciting Times In The World Of Print

The Aussies Mean Business We all know how competitive our trans Tasman cousins are on the sporting field, but their competitiveness does not stop there. In the world of commerce they are fierce competitors, especially in the world of media. A country that has produced two powerful billionaire media barons is proof that they must know a thing or two about how to build media properties that generate impressive revenues and profits.

With the three major Australian print players APN, Fairfax and ACP now controlling the NZ print market, and all wanting to stamp their marks, New Zealand is starting to witness real competition in print. This competition is seeing the players invest heavily into their brands, poaching talent, launching new products, and rationalising the overall business. One gets a sense that the industry will never be the same again, which has to be a good thing.

Brand Investment Until recently newspapers were notorious for telling advertisers why they should be advertising, yet they never bothered advertising themselves. Reason being, they thought they didn’t need to as they had no competition, or perceived competition. Competition for this industry was measured by the fact that there were no direct competitors so advertisers and readers had no choice. Of course, we all know that advertisers and consumers now have choices and that they are not reliant on their daily paper.

The major papers are all investing heavily in their brands, to win the support of readers and advertisers. To build their brands they are taking a professional approach by using a variety of marketing techniques from TV and outdoor advertising to direct marketing. And they are embracing the internet, a medium which a few years ago they saw as a threat not an opportunity.

Investing in their brands should give advertisers the confidence that newspapers realise the need to attract and retain readers and as a medium newspapers have to compete with other media for the advertising dollar. It’s pleasing that both Fairfax and APN are strengthening their sales forces, and are taking a more proactive approach with servicing agencies and advertisers.

New Products It’s taken a long time, but at last our two biggest weekend papers NZ Herald and Sunday Star Times, are producing a weekend magazine for their readers. Both publications are continuing to refine their look, and editorial with a focus to make it easier and, more enjoyable for readers to engage with their product. On the magazine front, things have been busy with the Listener, North & South and Woman’s Day going through recent changes;- last year it was Metro and New Idea. But of course the biggest news is the launch of a new Sunday paper,- something which would never have been seriously contemplated before the Aussies came to town to play ball.

The New Sunday The industry’s worst kept secret is now officially out. The Herald on Sunday will be tabloid size with two stand alone magazines. This format is typical of what’s happening in the UK. A difference, in the UK though is the established broadsheet titles (including The Independent) putting out two sizes. The smaller size is aimed at commuters stuck in trains and buses. Such a problem does not exist in NZ. In New Zealand it will come down to quality of read and successful marketing.

The challenge will be to convince those who currently don’t purchase a Sunday paper to change their habits. One has to wonder, if you are use to not having a Sunday read, what’s going to sway you. We suspect, the key potential has to lie with current Sunday paper readers who will be easier to win over. Current readers will welcome the choice, and with increased competition the Sunday products should continue to evolve into stronger papers.

Sundays Verse Metros The fact that only 40 percent of Aucklanders read a Sunday paper (believe it or not, the level is lower in Wellington and Christchurch) once again highlights the issue of where Sunday papers fit in the media mix. Assumptions are made that because Sunday papers are national they provide strong national coverage. They do to a certain degree, but their penetration in the metropolitan centers is very weak compared to the Saturday metros. That’s why we always recommend using a metro as oppose to a Sunday if your core audience resides in the metropolitan centers. The argument that people have more time to read on a Sunday, is not a strong case for Sunday papers, as research proves, time spent reading a Saturday paper is greater than that spent reading a Sunday.

The Readership Versus Circulation Debate With the latest readership survey out and many publications suffering a drop in readership, the industry has gone on the defensive and has pointed out that there has not been the same decline in circulations, so the drop in readership is not an issue. We say fair enough, but for those who live by the figures they have to be prepared to die by the figures. In other words, don’t then use cost per thousand readers to promote your publication against the competition. If you rely on readership as your key selling point, then you are at the mercy of the research results. In our opinion, circulation has value, but that value is undermined by the fact that demographic information is lacking. We strongly advocate that print selection needs to be based on a number of criteria including circulation, readership, pass on rates, readership profile, editorial content, brand positioning and finally cost efficiency.

All in all, what’s happening in the print industry is exciting news for both readers and advertisers. The industry is becoming more accountable and is taking up the challenge that it needs to keep evolving its offerings in order to compete against other media.

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