This year the media industry will reflect on how local press became a major player in the print sector. For the last three years we’ve heard consistently about the poor state of the daily and weekend press as well as a cluttered magazine environment. And although there has been a growing awareness of the continuous success of the local press, this is the first year that it will be incorporated into communication strategies.
Here are four reasons why:
1. BIGGER NUMBERS DON’T MATCH ADVERTISING SHARE
In South Africa, there are over 10 million audited newspapers going out to market either free or for sale. Some are daily or ‘hybrid’, others are weekend or weekly papers and still others are fortnightly or biweekly. The community press category makes up over 60% of all circulation in the markets yet falls well behind in advertising share.
For advertisers, reaching this market is crucial. Logically the more numbers you reach, the better chance your brand has of being considered for advertising. Local community newspapers reach double the number of all daily and weekend papers combined in South Africa. With these large numbers, it is a matter of time before advertising shares reflect circulation and readership shares in South Africa.
2. THE GROWTH
It’s been a tough five years in the newspaper business. Continuous negativity surrounds this media area with the ‘techies’ painting a grim future and the industry loving anything sexy and new. It hasn’t helped that daily and weekend press circulations have dived dramatically. Daily press circulations have dropped close to 10% and weekend press almost by 4% in the past year alone. Although some attribute this to the rise of digital, in reality daily and weekend press compete (in content) more with other traditional players like TV and radio. But while this has been happening, sold and free community press have grown over 10% over the same annual period to that of other press. From July to September 2012, on average over 6.5 million sold and free community press went to market – mostly every week (up over 600 000 versus the same period the year before).
3. THE RELEVANCY
We all know that local is lekker, but in the community publishing game, it’s the key to winning or losing. Local press must be in touch with their communities otherwise they’re discarded and lost. Most local publishers are aware of this and need localised teams on the ground generating the relevant content about their communities. From Dobsonville to Durban North and Gugulethu to Polokwane, the local editorial team must provide local neighbourhoods with relevant information.
The outcome? The readers look forward to what is arguably the only source of news about what is happening on the ground where they live – the schools, the local politicians, their neighbours, their neighbours’ neighbours, crime and so much more local news. The content
is uniquely relevant and that keeps the readers coming back and looking out for ‘my local newspaper’ every week.
4. THE BUYER BEHAVIOUR
The fundamentals about buyer behaviour from a marketing perspective are fairly logical. A brand, service or store needs physical and mental availability for the buyer to consider it for purchase. If no one knows about you, you’re not considered and if you’re not available – well, you don’t even have a fleeting chance of survival. The media’s job is to help the marketer build mental availability about where the brand, store or service is available.
But all that most media can provide is a ‘spray and pray’ delivery of message. Daily and weekend press lack large numbers around key economic hotspots where brands and retail outlets exist. Even TV requires massive frequency to gain real reach and that can burn the budget very quickly. But local community press does meet these objectives. They saturate key catchment areas where the malls exist and buying takes place. They provide maximum reach (on average of close to 70% of buyers week after week, according to ROOTS 2010 research report.
More importantly, buyers use local press to make their shopping decisions. The advertising and inserts inside them offer the reader an opportunity to ‘window shop’ before the weekend, when most shopping takes place.
If marketing is about getting buyers to just think about you in a buying situation, then this environment is arguably the most powerful for advertisers. This makes local newspapers an obvious choice for retail, but a major consideration for manufacturers and service providers too that need to build market share or target their key segments.
As we have seen in previous years, marketing continues to have to justify its investment in advertising. Every cent needs to meet the communication objective. South Africa’s media landscape is cluttered and fragmented, offering a smorgasbord of delights for readers, listeners and viewers. Most media outlets are fantastic, but very few can meet the communication objectives of the advertiser. Local community press have been overshadowed by the other print media categories for many years, but marketers and advertisers understand the major role they can play. Local newspapers help brands get noticed and considered because of their unique design and their role in various communities.
This media group’s success is being put into the marketing plan more than ever before and it’s likely that we will see a major commitment shift by all advertisers towards the category in the next few years. n
John Bowles is the joint managing director of the Newspaper Advertising Bureau.
This story was first published in a special Newspaper supplement published with the March issue of The Media magazine.