Magazine article Marketing

Development Areas

Magazine article Marketing

Development Areas

Article excerpt

Chris Stanley is a man with a plan - a 53-point plan to be precise, to revive and revitalise the regional press. The Newspaper Society's new marketing director has been charged with dispelling the myths that exist about the UK's second largest but least loved advertising medium.

Regional newspapers are the Barbara Cartland of publishing: old, overblown and, ahem, not quite in tune with the times. The very phrase 'regional press' conjures up images of the Lower Bigglesthwaite Bugler and the Pratts Bottom Times - dull, grubby little repositories of cat-up-tree journalism and ads for secondhand sewing machines.

Apparently, that is because I, like much of the media-buying community, am suffering from a London attitude towards it. "People in London don't have access to typical regional papers in the way that people in Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham do," says Zenith regional media director Cathy Richards. "They don't see their editorial strengths or their involvement in the community. Their [Londoners] local papers tend to be very, very local to the point of being parochial."

Stanley agrees. One of his 53 action points is to launch 'Product Weeks' to get newspapers into the hands of more decision makers and so demonstrate the range and quality of regional titles, he says.

Stanley is a fervent and trenchant believer in the worth of the regional press, whose career has included selling the medium to agencies (at regional sales house AMRA and Thomson Regional Newspapers), buying it on behalf of clients (at Zenith, where he was regional media manager) and marketing it for EMAP and TRN.

His appointment at the Newspaper Society last July has been widely welcomed, as has his marketing strategy (for the highlights of which see box). "Before, no one really understood what the Newspaper Society did on the marketing front," comments an industry source. Others were not so polite: "If it had been doing its job properly, regional press wouldn't have lost so much national advertising business nor so many traditional clients and it would not have been eclipsed in image terms by radio."

Charles Brims, chief executive of Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers and chairman of the NS marketing committee, comments on this spleenful attack: "The Newspaper Society is a very powerful organisation. It has been extremely successful in lobbying government and no government would consider action affecting our industry without listening to the Society. But has it had the same impact on national advertisers and their agencies? No it hasn't."

Regional press's share of national advertising has fallen from 5.3% in 1985 to 4.3% in 1993, which equates to [pounds]45m revenue a year. Having recognised its failings, the NS instigated an 11-month review of its and the industry's entire marketing activity, during which it sought the opinions of over 300 people. Stanley comments: "There was a feeling that we had got to a point where something had to be done."

However, Stanley's brief goes beyond generating national advertising. He is attempting to evangelise the entire regional gospel, correcting the litany of misconceptions about it, improving the quality and self esteem of its practitioners, increasing the depth and accessibility of research and data and promoting its services beyond regular run of paper advertising to all potential clients.

For every disparaging description of the regionals, such as third-rate, boring, dull, down-market, declining in share and circulation, too expensive, too complex, too unwieldy and inflexible, Stanley fires out counter claims like an Uzi (see box). …

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