Magazine article Management Today

Battleground: Print Wars on Saturday

Magazine article Management Today

Battleground: Print Wars on Saturday

Article excerpt

September heralds the start of a fresh era of competition for quality newspapers as managements invest new-found profits in expansion on Saturday

The Times they are a-changing. And the Telegraph. And The Independent. In the space of just one week, the quality newspaper market is set to undergo significant changes which, if successful, could transform Saturday from the dead day of newspaper publishing into a competitive battleground.

On Saturday 3 September, The Times sets the ball rolling, appearing for the first time as a four-section paper with editorial and advertising colour. One week later, on 10 September, the Telegraph will move its magazine from Sunday to Saturday, to be replaced on Sunday by a colour tabloid section called Seven Days. That same Saturday will see the launch of The Independent Magazine, plus a second section, bringing it into line with its peers in the market. Add to that the launch of two middle-market Saturday magazines -- the monthly dx from the Daily Express earlier this summer and the fortnightly Mail & Femail from the Daily Mail, due out on 1 October -- and the weekend looks an altogether different read.

Why the sudden focus on Saturday? Preoccupied in the past three years with labour relations, new technology and stringent cost-cutting, it's been a while since the managements of the newspaper companies have had time to devote to their titles. Now liberated from the restrictive practices of Fleet Street and with added capacity and state-of-the-art machinery, they are turning their attention and new-found profitability to unexploited brand strengths. They have their sights set on the Saturday market.

Long considered a |non-day' by publishers and advertisers alike, with slimmer products and smaller circulations, Saturday has always been a different proposition from other days of the week. The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times are the only broadsheets to attract more buyers on a Saturday than on Monday to Friday. Unlike on weekdays, when people have a distinct loyalty to a particular paper and often a duty to read, new research has shown that they are less rigid in their choice on Saturday. This promiscuity holds out the possibility of circulation gains.

Saturday's generally reduced circulations are blamed on the nature of the day. It's always been written off as a day when people are out an about on active pursuits. Sunday, on the other hand, has always been a day for setting down with the papers.

Publishers think the time is ripe to exploit Saturday as the start of the weekend. None would suggest that the British market is ready for a single weekend newspaper appearing on Saturday as in some European countries, and in Australia and Canada, where Saturday sales are much greater than Saturday. |But', says Telegraph chief executive Andrew Knight, |the weekend is wide open as a concept, as The Weekend. What the current change involves is that it establishes Saturday as a worthwhile publishing day.'

The Telegraph, following the innovative lead of the Financial Times, established a separate weekend section on Saturday in March 1987 |to change the market and meet the need for a different read.' Knight claims that its success was one reason behind the decision to move the magazine from Sunday to Saturday. Circulation, already some 15,000 higher on a Saturday than on other weekdays, has apparently gone up another 15,000 since the launch of the second section.

But while the magazine move is expected to |help' circulation, the real attraction lies in the possibility of presenting a serious challenge to the Sunday Times on the advertising front. The Daily Telegraph is the only broad-sheet whose average weekday circulation, at some 1.14 million copies, comes anywhere near to the Sunday Times' massive 136 million a week. Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the first six months of 1988 put the Sunday Telegraph's circulation, at 716,044, in third place among the qualities after the Observer's 749,644. …

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