Media Analysis: Telegraph Suffers Identity Crisis

Marketing, February 6, 2008 | Go to article overview

Media Analysis: Telegraph Suffers Identity Crisis


The newspaper's incoming marketing chief will find a brand in danger of creating a split personality.

It is often said that particularly cold winters lead to a dip in The Telegraph's circulation as its typically older readers succumb to flu. While this alleged statistical anomaly, often touted by rival newspapers, is perhaps apocryphal, there is no doubt the paper has struggled to shake off its 'Torygraph' reputation and appeal to the lucrative 16- to 34-year-old demographic so loved by advertisers.

Last week it was revealed that Barry Flanigan, director of marketing and communications at AOL UK, is joining Telegraph Media Group as marketing director, replacing Katie Vanneck, who returned to Times Media as sales and marketing director last summer. Flanigan faces a challenging brief, and with the newspaper's creative ad account up for pitch, changes are afoot at the paper.

Crucially, while The Independent and The Times have adopted a more compact format and The Guardian is now Berliner size, The Telegraph has stuck resolutely to remaining a broadsheet.

While this has been praised by some who believe that the paper should celebrate this difference, one former Telegraph marketer claims it is this unwillingness to change that is the crux of the problem for the brand. 'The trouble is that successive teams have come in and tried to make it more attractive to a younger market, without adapting any of the fundamentals such as size, format and fonts,' she says.

Conflict of communication

Alan Brydon, head of press communication at MPG, says that although The Telegraph's sales team has done a fantastic job over the years of arguing that while the paper's audience may be older, it is also more affluent, the publication still faces a number of issues.

'The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Independent have all invested in marketing activity that reflects their brands, but The Telegraph's marketing is often at odds with what the paper stands for,' he says.

Marc Sands, director of marketing at Guardian News and Media, believes the real challenge is to ensure the link between marketing initiatives and editorial style is seamless. 'The Telegraph's promotional activity and editorial does not sit well together and the paper appears slightly schizophrenic,' he says. Recent promotions have included giving away Paddington Bear and Dr Seuss books in order to appeal to mothers with young children.

Despite these criticisms, the paper has invested substantially in its web offering as well as creating a multimedia editorial operation where journalists contribute to both the newspaper and the web. One senior trading director says that in this respect The Telegraph is 'ahead of the game'. 'Its entire infrastructure, encompassing sales and editorial, is well placed to deliver a truly multimedia experience,' he adds.

Alex Randall, head of press at Vizeum, points out that, crucially, the newspaper's website reaches a significantly younger audience compared with the print edition, meaning it doesn't face issues of cannibalisation. …

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