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UK newspapers try to fend off closure threat with single ad sales body

The UK’s big newspaper publishers are trying to form a joint advertising sales operation according to the FT, the one big publisher still intent on ploughing its own furrow.

Newspapers really are in the last chance saloon with print advertising set to fall 20 per cent this year following a 15 per cent drop in 2015. Online ad revenue, their great hope, is slowing as money migrates to Facebook and Google and ad blockers interrupt the market. Circulations are falling too as publishers try to claw back money through price hikes. The only paper to buck the circulation trend is News UK’s The Times but that’s mainly because of its cheap cover price.

UK newspapers

Most TV ad selling is centralised to a degree with ITV, Channel 4 and Sky the big players. There are also digital channel specialists including Media Icon.

Steve Booth, founder of the BLM media agency which became Havas-owned Arena Media, is leading the project. He says: “We are convinced that a shared commercial future for news brands presents a significant opportunity for both us and our customers. We will continue to investigate if this can be brought to fruition.”

Such an entity looks a no-brainer although it will inevitably result in job losses across the board. But Booth and company need to move quickly and hope that the Competitions and Markets authority doesn’t launch one of its interminable investigations into the plan.

Any delay for whatever reason may well lead to the closure of one or more of the UK’s famous newspapers.

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  1. The commercial challenges posed by Google and Facebook to content businesses are not unique to Newsbrands. There is an undeniable move of ad revenue toward pure play technology companies. There is however an ever more vocal debate about whether things have gone too far, with advertisers favouring short term performance marketing at the expense of long term brand building, where the mass of evidence points to the primacy of content sectors like published media and TV. Recent research from Newsworks back this up.

    The published media are right to explore commercial solutions to a commercial problem. In parallel the industry has made a substantially increased investment in developing a new currency AMP (Audience Measurement for Publishers) and having completed detailed testing we aim to begin collecting the currency next year. Current data shows an appetite for publisher content which had never been greater. Newsbrands reach more people in a month than the similarly aggregated ‘Google sites’ 92% v 90 %. The logic of exploring how to exploit this huge consumer appetite for publisher content in a joined up, easy to access way seems plain. For the sake of everyone who loves the UK’s wonderful diversity of newsbrand and magazine content let’s hope that combined industry initiatives including AMP, PATs (the industry transaction system) and greater sales collaboration, can help turn record audiences into resurgent revenues.

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