The Audit Bureau of Circulations has released its figures for the first quarter of 2014. Sandra Gordon delivered the keynote address.
Over the past four or fIve years I have watched In dismay as many people who earn a living in the print sector have lost faith in their medium. This often turned them into the worst enemy of their own medium as they faced a wave of:
- dropping circulations.
- diminishing or at best, stagnant revenues,
- cries of ‘print is dead’ from digital experts and sometimes your own bosses
- closure of some well known magazine titles
- constant structure changes
- in some instances a lack of a clear big media owner strategy
- the closure of the magazIne publishers assocIation
- a reluctance to move decisively on Amps.
Over a coffee on Monday Gordon Patterson suggested that print media had lost its heart and soul.
I will talk to three things today: Report on why strategy is important in a climate of change; assess where magazines and newspapers fInd themselves rIght now and maybe a bit of why; and explore what change is yet to come, and why we should plan not panIc
I am quoting from a recent decision strategies international report on global change; Compass 24 research; World Association of Newspapers research; Ask Africa’s TGI research; Media Tenor; an article by Mike Leahy, ‘Not all doom and gloom In SA’s newspaper world’ that appeared In The Media’s newspaper specIal focus In AprIl; and Gordon Patterson’s piece in our May issue on the top 10 magazines in SA.
Let me start wIth the big picture strat stuff. For historic reasons magazines and newspapers have been lumped together under ‘print media’.
Perhaps because the largest media owners in the sector have dominated print, both magazines and newspapers, and not only from a content and sales perspective but also, and importantly, from a printing and distribution one. Some may argue this to be a good thing. In my view it’s a dIsaster, frankly. As indicated by the drop in circulations due to a massive slip up in distribution of some of SA’s most loved titles, the squabblIng for shelf space and the preference for newspapers over magazines.
I see mags and newspapers as distinctive in every way except that they both involve paper.
Papers and mags are dIfferent in content positioning, pricing, distribution, promotion and resources.
Media agencIes plan accordIng to the individual and significant strengths of newspapers and magazines to deliver consumers.
So to the naysayers in the print sector, here’s why you should be proud to work in newspapers and magazines.
Newspapers – the good news
- Newspapers are still the number one medium for shapIng public opinion. This research insight emphasises that the credibility, knowledge, values and information gathering skills of the press remaIn important. In my vIew, in this age of a total informatIon glut, these values are crucial, allowIng consumers to connect emotionally wIth brands not just through reach but also reliability.
- Up to 70% of people fInd advertising in newspapers trustworthy and useful – both articles and advertisements. In fact they spend an average of 40 minutes a day reading and over 80% of them buy products appearing in newspapers.
- Combining television with newspapers advertising has positive consumer uptake. although newspapers drive a stronger emotional response (it’s in print see).
- Newspapers are best at driving users to websites.
- Print is through the worst of the so called digital revolution and it wasn’t that bad was it? Revenues have not fled to digital they have fled to broadcastIng. Check the numbers, people.
- MedIa Tenor’s latest report on the most influential media brands has Sunday Times, City Press, the Mail & Guardian and Beeld In the top four slots.
- New technology has meant cheaper printing and more efficient internal processes.
- There are new investors in the sector at Times MedIa Group and Independent. Fresh strategies and plans have been enthusiastically received by a sector mired in history and old time newspaper thinking. And of course globally, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos must see a brIght future, mustn’t they?
- Print people are fine content gatherers and great content is what counts. Watch us move across platforms wIth alacrity.
For my money it is the credibility of print that has the edge and ensures it remains a primary medium. And that credibility lies in your content gathering.
Remember that the above applies equally to national, regional and local newspapers.
Magazines – the good news
- Almost half of SA’s populatIon read at least one magazine every year.
- It is the most intimate of media types, especially for ‘me’ tImes. And they, unlike cellphones and tablets, are not banned from the bedroom.
- They are read, absorbed and trusted, then passed on and usually in good condition to multiple readers.
- 38% of consumers pay more attention to ads in magazines than other medIa.
- Magazine edItors have strong connections wIth their readers and advertisers should capitalise on this.
- Of all media types this sector, mags are known to be fleet of foot, respondIng quIckly to changes In the economy, developing brand extensions and creating partnerships wIth advertisers.
- Magazines are tangible, portable, visually appealing, more trustworthy than digital and broadcast. And very credible.
- They are tightly targeted wIth limited wastage and can inspIre readers to respond and buy advertised brands wIth confidence.
- In Gordon’s article he analyses the top 10 consumer magazines across three measures: circulation, ad spend and readership and he fInds ad income up over five years by 5% cIrculatIon down over two by 2% and readership up over two years by 2%.
- And the top 10 judged across ad income, circ and readership are? Huisgenoot, YOU, DRUM, Car, Financial Mail, Men’s Health, TRUELOVE, Landbouweekblad, Cosmopolitan, Sawubona and a specIal mentIon of Bona which has increased revenues by 59% over five years.
What is yet to come
Firstly, there is that which we cannot control but need to understand: shifting demographics, populatIon shifts, globalisation, urbanisatIon, ageing, higher taxes, state sponsored capitalism, too much data, growIng consumer power, higher servIce level expectations, short term business thInkIng, fragmentation and of course, the weather.
What we can control is what we in print say about our medium, and how willing we are to accept what has happened, think laterally and push forward.
QuestIons asked by consumers such as who should I trust? Whose opInIon should I listen to and who do I feel Is working on my behalf? are answered only by those who trust and believe in the power of prInt. That’s you.
Thank you very much for listenIng, I wIll try answer questIons but only Ii you also have one that keeps our glasses half full and our spirits buoyant.
Sandra Gordon is CEO of Wag the Dog Publishers and publisher of The Media Online.
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