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01 . 06 . 17

Sir Martin Sorrell’s four point plan for the printed press

Words by: Print Power
Despite the pressures facing the printed news business today, there are still opportunities for the industry, says Sir Martin Sorrell

In a recent article written by Sir Martin Sorrell and titled “The Press needs (and deserves) all the friends it can get” he shows to be a strong believer of newspapers. The article builds on the idea that today, despite the various pressures on the printed news business, there are still numerous opportunities.

He points at perceived and real flaws in the digital media ecosystem that might be a potential source of competitive advantage of newspapers. Here you’ll read the essential part of the article complemented with examples and facts.

The article lists four opportunities.

1. Increased appetite for traditional, reliable news providers

“Facebook, Google, Twitter and others face accusations of giving a platform to hatred and fake news or even swinging elections. In the meantime, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have increased their subscription numbers in the recent months.”

The EuroBarometer, a study done by the EU in 28 countries, reveals some interesting facts about trust in media. The graph below shows the evolution of trust in various media. Radio and television score highest for EU citizens and both remain relatively stable within a certain bandwidth.  The written press (newspapers and magazines)  show a stable increase in trust, after a dip in 2012 there is a continuous increase.

Trust levels per country are quite different, the UK scores are the lowest of the five major EU countries with only 21% of the citizens trusting the press. France and Spain (46%), Italy (47%) and Germany with 56% complete the picture.  The details for Germany proof the local increase in this country with continued high newspaper readership.


2. Concerns about the metrics of digital media suppliers

“Advertisers and their agencies have raised concerns about vulnerabilities in the digital media supply chain. Facebook for example, was forced to admit that it had repeatedly overstated important metrics for advertisers.”

In every European country, all traditional major media are measured by an independent institute that controls and verifies circulation or readership data.

In the UK ABC has the role of circulation audit bureau, as IVW in Germany and ACPM in France. Often these are non-profit organisations where advertisers, media owners and media agencies join to measure in an objective way the readership audience and certify media.

In contrast to this situation, the largest online players (Google and Facebook) representing 54% of total online expenditures, audit their own data.

3. Viewability of digital ads is a concern

An online view is defined as a message that has been for 50% been on-screen during one second. In other words, a banner is counted as being seen when half of the banner has been seen during one second. Keith Weed, the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever has long argued that “100% viewability of ads… is the only acceptable metric.”

Comparing this definition of a view with the data of the UK's  IPA Touchpoints research shows that on the days that people read newspapers they spend 69 minutes on average reading. Providing time for news and opinion to be digested, absorbed and weighed-up and for insight to be gained.

4. Advertising to appear next to contextually inappropriate and offensive material 

“The ultimate responsibility for properly identifying content lies with the digital media owners themselves.”

Newspapers are held to strict standards of accuracy, which is driving the quality journalism trends in many countries. Much attention also goes into the design ofcontent, whether illustrations, infographics or pictures, newspapers enable readers to make sense of a complex and shifting world. Take a look at the examples of the latest winners of the ‘World’s Best Newspaper Award’ and you will understand how much attention goes into preparing the ideal context for advertisements.

Newspapers' strengths - according to Sorrell

Sorrell points to the different ways newspapers are seeking to use the above to their benefit by positioning themselves as trustworthy sources and as responsible gatekeepers for advertisers.

Newspapers increase overall campaign effectiveness

Newsworks UK, the marketing body of the UK national newspapers, commissioned independent research that showed that newspapers can increase the overall campaign effectiveness by 300 per cent. Other studies from around the world show that people are more engaged when reading a newspaper than when they are using social media. Engagement is an important consideration for advertisers seeking consumer’s attention - and access to their wallets.”

Successful newspapers pair digital innovation and commitment to newsgathering 

“Jeff Bezos , the founder and CEO of Amazon acquired the Washington Post in 2013 was an act of faith in the future of journalism and newspaper publishing. He paired the digital innovation and iron discipline of Amazon with old-fashioned commitment to newsgathering. He seems to have turned around the Post, growing audience, revenues and -critically- the number of journalists it employs.” 

Advertisers need to spend more on newspapers

“This is not a message from the publishers but from the UK trade body ISBA, they have urged their members show similar faith in newspapers, agreeing with Newsworks that current advertising spend on national press is “below the effective weight” and “should return to 2013 levels” (25 per cent higher than they are now).”

Advertisers benefit from healthy news brand 

“Just as society as a whole benefits from news brands, advertisers do as well. News brands are more than a way of reaching customers; media scrutiny of business, however uncomfortable that may be for those in the lens, makes for a more efficient and transparent corporate world.”

Sorrell concludes with a plea for newspapers: “For all their failings, newspapers are an essential component of public life, with a value that goes far beyond the commercial. Few chief executives - even those who have been on the wrong end of a headline from time to time - would argue with that.”

The full article was first published in the Sunday Telegraph.

For all their failings, newspapers are an essential component of public life, with a value that goes far beyond the commercial.
Sir Martin Sorrell
WPP chief executive officer