Research into community media has revealed that the sector is vitally important to its stakeholders and that readers want a different product from general commercial newspapers. Compass24, a body of research commissioned by Ads24, the national advertising sales division of Media24 newspapers and digital properties, will be released this month.
TheMediaOnline caught up with Linda Gibson, CEO of Ads24, to find out more. “One of our primary objectives was to understand exactly how people relate to community newspapers, in particular 72 of our titles. The research does, however, still provide a very good understanding of how readers consume community newspapers in general with renewed relevance to readers,” says Gibson.
Generally, community newspapers attract retail advertising. As Gibson says, “Community Newspapers are being used for comparative shopping and are used to map consumer shopping trips”. But as she explains, a forward thinking approach is needed for papers to stay relevant. Gibson says there is “a widespread advertising industry perception that alternative long-term growth mediums need to be identified in order to develop effective marketing strategies for the years ahead”.
“Given that societies are becoming more community focused, community newspapers are also becoming a differently relevant medium to consider for advertising, as community centricity implies a different attraction to community newspaper titles,” she says.
While community newspapers do receive their “fair share” of advertising, “we are always striving for more advertising but the advertisers know the community newspapers provide the perfect opportunity for brands to be more specific, less generic and to showcase their commitment to their customers by being present and involved in their communities”, says Gibson.
“I think the sector has a very good understanding of which newspapers best serve which communities. But, additionally, what they need is relevant, up to date information – which is what Compass 24 gives,” says Gibson. “We have had very positive feedback from the advertising sector about the presentations and they are now doing the in-depth data mining that the Telmar software allows them to do. The insights around how a community newspaper differs, in terms of what the readers want, have been quite an eye-opener. “
Asked what she believed were the top five take outs from the research, Gibson listed them:
- Community newspapers are incredibly important to the communities they serve;
- The readers want a differentiated editorial offering from what they would expect in a general newspaper;
- 53% of readers read almost all of the paper, with 35% reading selected sections, so that’s extremely high;
- The combined readership has R22bn to spend on a monthly basis, so it’s a lucrative market; and
- 69% of readers country-wide prefer their advertising inserts inside their Community paper as opposed to 31% in their post-box.
With the MDDA and GCIS looking into ad spend in community newspapers, and encouraging state owned enterprises to budget a proportion of their advertising budgets to the community media sector, media planners are under pressure to deliver the goods. The MDDA has accused them of not being educated enough about the sector.
“In my experience the planners are well educated about this sector. They are walking a difficult tightrope between investing their clients’ money responsibly and managing the expectations of the media owners,” says Gibson. “Clearly their priority will always be what works best for the client, which is why we do the research as often as we possibly can, to give them the information we know they need rather than what we think they need.”
Interestingly, digital media has not yet impacted on community newspapers, unlike their big commercial counterparts.
“Digital has had very little impact to date at an individual title level, with only 25% of the respondents using the internet in the past 12 months and only 12% using the internet to make a purchase,” Gibson explains. “We are seeing inroads in how they access the internet, with 55% saying that they access the internet most often from their mobile phones.
“Interestingly enough, this is fairly standard across all races, yet penetration is still better for print when looking at these numbers, and consumers are still attracted to more information before making their purchase decisions.”
Gibson says the Compass24 research shows the demographics are “consistently representative of the regions represented by the 72 titles in question. Language, ethnicity and age differences are evident across the titles and the provinces. The beauty in this is that the various titles seem perfectly tailored to the communities they target,” she says.
“In addition, community titles do seem to be more effective in attracting larger numbers of female readers and younger readers; attracting more readers who do not necessarily read the mainstream papers as regularly. The regional differences elicit more opportunity for specific advertising messages and products relevant to the audience and their editorial preferences. There are many more differences (too many to mention), influenced by, for instance, large unemployed communities, larger student communities, etc, in the various regions – and then even evident on a title level.”
Gibson believes research such as Compass24 and the well-respected ROOTS should be available in AMPS so that the data is capable of being updated with the same frequency as mainstream newspapers. But, she says, there are cost implications.
She says, “The feedback from the industry is that one study which is part of AMPS is the way to go, and I have to agree. But it’s not always easy getting all community media owners to agree to one study.”