Think you know all about UK newsbrands? Think again

It's time for advertisers to take into account newsbrands' impressive effectiveness story, says Mark Finney, director of media and advertising for ISBA. 

There is a reason "so many people have devoted their lives to protecting the likes of rhinos, parakeets, kakapos, and dolphins" said zoologist Mark Carwardine. "The world would be a poorer, darker, lonelier place without them." 

Advertisers in the UK should think again about newsbrands.  They seem to be getting a pretty raw deal, considering their vital importance, not only to their readers – who are your customers – but also to our culture and society.  As three new studies have shown, given a fair share of spend they can really deliver for your brand and your bottom line.

National newsbrands in the UK (the Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times etc.) have suffered from years of declining circulations and readership, and years of advertising disinvestment.  The biggest threat they face is from Google and Facebook, which between them take an estimated 60p in every £1 spent on digital media, and their share continues to increase every year (source: Statista 2016).  In short some newsbrands are in a struggle for their very existence.

Like biodiversity lost through industrialisation, it is the explosion of digital media that threatens the extinction of our newsbrands, even though they’ve embraced it themselves.  No media have been left untouched, but newsbrands are suffering the most. Unlike their purely digital rivals, they are saddled with capital-intensive overheads: printing presses, delivery fleets, and of course, journalists.  They are the providers of 80% of the news content exploited by digital aggregators, but they do not reap a fair share of the benefits.

Not that any brand or organisation has the 'right' to exist unless they deliver value to their customers, and that includes ISBA. People undoubtedly love their newsbrands and will identify themselves as, say, a Guardian reader, but what of the principle source of their revenue, the advertisers?

It would appear not. SMI data shows that newsbrands' share of advertising spend is down to an historic low of 9.7% (7.6% for print, 2.1% digital print).  In the retail category spend has declined from 30.1% in 2011 to just 16.5% in 2015.

There are a number of reasons for this, but I believe the biggest one currently is an industry-wide drive towards performance marketing, where brands and their agencies are optimising to cost per acquisition or sale rather than softer measures such as awareness, or numerical media measurement such as reach and frequency. It is no accident that Google and Facebook are so successful – they are performance marketing companies par excellence. 

Newsbrands are not performance media, right? Wrong.

Three brand new independent studies* commissioned by Newsworks tell a very impressive effectiveness story:

  • A meta-analysis of over 500 econometric models across six categories found that print newsbrands boost overall campaign effectiveness by an average of three times
  • Print newsbrands double the effectiveness of TV (when given an effective share of 10-12% of the media mix) and quadruple the effectiveness of online display advertising (with a 12-18% share)
  • Using print newsbrands uplifts brand health by 5%, but if you also use digital print the uplift is 17%

The crucial point the research makes is that current spend levels in print newsbrands have dropped below the effective weight – spend should return to 2013 levels.  For example, in the retail category (supermarkets), share of spend was just 16.5% in 2015, but it needs to be at around 27% for maximum effectiveness.

*ROI Study by Benchmarketing (2016), IPA databank study by Peter Field (2016), Multi-platform study by BDRC Continental (2016).

First published in Campaign. 

The crucial point the research makes is that current spend levels in print newsbrands have dropped below the effective weight – spend should return to 2013 levels.

Mark Finney, director of media and advertising, ISBA
by Mark Finney 29/07/16

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