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Agency media ‘legend’ predicts newspaper resurgence

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Agency media ‘legend’ predicts newspaper resurgence

Newspapers will emerge stronger from their current circulation woes and enter 2020 as a leaner, more valued and trusted medium than at any time in the past 50 years.

This is according to ‘media legend’ Peter Thomson, founder and former CEO of M2M International, a media business he took from zero to global billings of US$550m in nine years.

Thomson, an out-and-out champion of newspapers, is coming to New Zealand in September to explain why their predicted demise is grossly exaggerated.

He is the keynote speaker at the revamped News Works NZ Advertising Awards in September where his topic is how trusted brands have permission to create new assets.

“Newspapers are increasingly reinventing themselves as trusted brands and as a result they are already on the comeback trail,” Thomson thunders down the phone from his London home.

“The internet in general is so huge and anyone can publish anything. And that’s the problem. How can you trust what you read online when you don’t know who wrote it? It may have been a paid blogger or some brand’s PR manager. But if it’s published by a reputable brand, that’s different.

“Rhetorical question. You’re looking for a new car. What do you do? Google it or check out what your trusted motoring writer is saying? Besides, Google gives you hundreds of thousands if not millions of results. How much digital information can you handle?”

Newspapers already increasingly occupy the trusted, independent and unbiased space, Thomson says.

“Your paper has the space to present both sides of the argument, filtering the plethora of information available from myriad sources to ensure readers get the facts that are relevant to them.”

The evolution is well underway he says. He cites London’s only surviving afternoon daily – the Evening Standard - as an example of how a newspaper has changed to meet 21st century challenges.

“I know the situation in New Zealand is different to here in the UK - but how they revived the Standard is a startling example of lateral thinking.

“The paper’s now free, distributed from big dump bins outside underground stations. Help yourself. It used to be the place the city went to get the latest stock market quotes, but the Internet put paid to that.

“So they changed the entire dynamic of the paper, dropping down market and running more promos. Giving it away. Advertising yield leapt overnight. Daily circulation more than doubled from 350,000 copies to more than 800,000 copies.

“Soon Burger King and McDonald’s came on board with promos – brands advertising in the paper went from 200 to 800 in no time at all.”

Thomson says Evening Standard readers are enjoying new in-depth coverage.

“They’re following particular stories and their favourite journalists, reading Olympic athletes’ tweets articulating the battles against the odds and the games’ human interest stories. You just don’t get that from a two-minute grab on the six o’clock news.”

Thomson says going down-market was right for the Evening Standard in responding to change but it’s not necessarily a model suited to all.

“Senior journalists are a key element. They are already finding a calling as reliable arbiters and as a result there will be increasing demand for writers who can quickly absorb and distil complex data.

“Readers will be increasingly engaged, returning day after day to follow stories from the sources they know and trust in their newspaper.”

• Celebrate The Power of Journalism on September 4 in Auckland, hear Peter Thomson and enjoy the 2012 Newspaper Ad of the Year Awards. For details visit

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