News & Opinion

An (un)believable truth?

Newsworks' Denise Turner addresses what she believes to be "the biggest malaise affecting the industry today" – a tendency to confuse what seems unbelievable as untrue, in a piece first published by Mediatel.

A number of new terms have appeared in our lexicon over the last few months. We've seen the rise to prominence of fake news, alternative facts, echo chambers and filter bubbles.

Into this admittedly crowded list of contenders for industry "word of the year", I'd like to introduce another term – unbelievable truth – which I am convinced represents the biggest malaise affecting the media industry today, and encapsulates an important paradox we need to address.

A truth is defined as a fact, a certainty, a reality. Alternatively, unbelievable translates as unimaginable, incredible, far-fetched.

This paradox is an unwelcome and unhelpful consequence of the echo chambers and filter bubbles in which the London media industry operates. It has a detrimental effect on how we receive and process information.

We in the newsbrand industry often find ourselves on the wrong end of lots of fake news and alternative fact about our media, yet when we prove the opposite it is perceived as an unbelievable truth. People have been so conditioned to talking about the death of newspapers, that they don't think anyone reads them anymore. They don't believe NRS PADD numbers which show that 34 million people read printed newspapers every month, that newsbrands reach 47 million people, or that 97% of millennials read newsbrands.

Newsworks has recently launched some new work with renowned effectiveness expert Peter Field, using the IPA databank to analyse the business impact of newsbrands. It shows some impressive results, but will the media industry in its filter bubble view them as unbelievable truths?

It's worth pointing out that although the IPA databank is undoubtedly the right place to go to prove effectiveness, it's not an easy task. Newsbrands are at a severe disadvantage in terms of campaign budget, share of voice, campaign length and familiarity/size of brand – all of which are associated with higher effectiveness. We also imposed our own barriers, in our quest to provide up-to-date credibility. We didn't include the entire global database since 1980. We wanted to get a clear picture of the impact of newsbrands in the modern media environment, where digital and social platforms are adequately represented as well as the more traditional media. Therefore, Peter only focused on the most recent UK commercial cases (2012-2016).

So, what are the key believable truths to take away from the work?

Print is still an effective medium

Everyone knows that newspaper print circulations have declined, (though over 14 million people do still read a print edition daily, which is a significant proportion of the UK population, especially considering much-hyped digital sites like Buzzfeed only reach 163,000 daily, according to NRS PADD).

But does a decline in scale mean a decline in effectiveness? Clearly not, just as growing digital numbers in themselves don't mean heightened impact on brand business results. This latest analysis shows that in fact, the effectiveness of print as a whole is growing over time across key business measures. There is often an assumption that digital channels are most appropriate for bringing in new customers, especially those trendy digital natives who apparently don't watch, listen to or read "traditional media". But in fact the data shows that print is increasingly effective at delivering new customers to brand advertisers. Campaigns including print were 39% more effective at delivering new customers than campaigns without print in the six years ending 2004. This rose to a hefty 67% differential in the six years to 2016. This is also apparent for other "legacy media" – as digital media expands, TV, newspapers and the like are actually working harder in the media mix.

Newsbrands drive long-term business effects

We know that there has been an increasing trend towards short-termism. One of the key contributors to this has been the rise of digital, with its instant numbers and real-time trackability. But not all digital is equal. Digital newsbrands work differently – they provide the right context to drive the same powerful business effects as print does. What's more, UK newsbrands have a unique advantage – both print and digital platforms perform very well in delivering these important business effects, but the combination of print and digital formats provides advertisers with a very strong multiplier effect.

UK newsbrands are a powerful weapon in the battle against short-termism, because they deliver growth in very large business effects that are vital to long-term brand success. It's not just about immediate sales at any cost. Campaigns that use newsbrands are significantly more likely to drive sustainable share growth, attract new customers and increase loyalty among existing customers. They reduce price sensitivity and therefore reduce the need to rely on short-term cost-cutting promotions. This means bigger profits.

So how will you treat these findings? Will they be considered fake news, coloured by our echo chambers and filter bubbles? Or will they instead be treated and utilised as what they are – believeable truths? 

First published by Mediatel

UK newsbrands are a powerful weapon in the battle against short-termism, because they deliver growth in very large business effects that are vital to long-term brand success.

Denise Turner, insight director, Newsworks
by Denise Turner 18/04/17

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