Newspapers have at last become a brand, according to media commentator Roy Greenslade.
He told newspaper executives how he had “given in” and uses the term now – but that in embracing the brand strategy, media companies also had to be able to “preach the reach”.
He told a Newspaper Society conference this week that it was no good developing new platforms if their usage was not tangible or comparable with other media.
Telegraph columnist Roy called on the media industry to update its audience measurement system, encouraging publishers to “preach the reach”.
He said: “We need to find a way of showing the world what our multi-platform media companies are achieving in terms of reaching audiences.”
He identified the newspaper brand as the central hub of product portfolios, saying: “For years I refused to call a newspaper a product or a brand.
“But I’ve given in now. In truth, there’s no better way to describe a newspaper title than a brand.
“The title itself is a fantastically valuable asset. It is a brand, and to take that further, what we need to be engaged in is brand development, brand innovation.
“We need to use our unique relationship with our audiences to lock them into the multi-platform offerings built around the newspaper brand.
“In the end, it doesn’t really matter if the paper itself has a smaller audience than our websites or, in the long run, other digitally-transmitted information. The key is the brand name and to be used.”
And he praised the regional press industry’s commitment to multi-media portfolios, saying “Your adoption of a multi-platform or multi-portfolio approach is paying dividends.
“Through a mix of paid-for paper, free paper, website, podcasts, mobile phones, and digital TV in some cases, you are achieving high levels of penetration among your local audiences.”
“Nearly every owner and chief executive I speak to tells me about the reach. Many are claiming that their print-web combination is reaching more than 75 per cent of the local population, sometimes more.
“They know because they have installed software to show how many clicks their websites are getting. They can reveal the numbers of unique users to their websites.
“Of course, they also know how many papers they sell and can verify how many frees they’re distributing. What they need to do is to find a way of aggregating all this in order to telling their story to advertisers and investors.”
Multi-platform portfolios were evident throughout the conference, as delegates were presented with examples of websites and blogging, Lite editions, podcasts and SMS alerts, all supporting the main newspaper brand.
Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks described his company’s portfolio of some 30 products, while Nick Turner, deputy editor at the Carlisle News & Star, told delegates that his unique users online had risen by 130 per cent. Sales and marketing director of Johnston Press, Chris Pennock, said that audience and reach were at their highest-ever levels.
Chaired by Howard Scott, managing director of Newsquest Southern, the conference took place on Monday 27 March at the Midland hotel in Manchester. Other speakers included:
The conference was followed by the Circulation, Editorial and Promotions Awards.