Raymond Snoddy on media: Press advertisers lack the feminine touch

The world is awash with media research, but sometimes you see some that makes you sit up and take notice. The Newspaper Marketing Agency's latest work on how women use newspapers and how boring they find newspaper ads should receive the widest possible attention.

It is necessary for me to declare an interest - a hopeless bias in favour of newspapers combined with a limitless desire that they survive and prosper in the face of everything the electronic media can throw at them.

Until recently such optimism seemed like tilting at windmills. As the competitive threat got stronger all you had was incompetent management and squabbling proprietors dedicated to undermining each other.

Questioning the effectiveness of national newspaper advertising was far too dangerous. What if research proved that nothing worked except supermarket coupons?

The NMA, a bold if overdue initiative, is now getting into its stride.

Research into men and their emotional attachment to the sports pages was worth doing. Didn't they realise that for 52% of men the back page is the front page, or how many people buy the News of the World for its football coverage and see the front-page sex scandals as very much a secondary affair? Sex scandals and football add up to a winning combination.

But it's the new research on women that has thrown up some eye-opening numbers. Reading newspapers is largely a male activity, isn't it? Apart maybe from the Daily Mail.

Yet the research throws up high numbers for the relationship between women and their papers. For 87%, reading the paper gives them facts to use in conversation, and 81% store away things they have read for later use. No less than 92% say that newspapers keep them informed about things that interest them.

What is equally remarkable is the extent to which women concentrate on what they are reading. More than 80% say that they deliberately set time aside to read the paper - what amounts to a 'purposeful pleasure'. These strange creatures seem to read the front page and the international news.

And more than 80% have had a close relationship with a paper for 'several years' or 'as long as I can remember'.

The bad news for the advertising industry is women believe newspaper ads are boring and not aimed at them.

Surely the advertising industry is guilty as charged? Very little thought goes into newspaper ads. It is not clear why copywriters can produce great poster ideas, yet seem to ignore the opportunity to reach 12m women a day.

Newspapers also have to get their act together by providing the right environment for female advertising. It is hard to see why cosmetic ads, for instance, cannot run alongside news coverage of the big fashion shows.

There is a great deal for everyone to learn when ancient preconceptions are challenged by independent research.

Due next month, the NMA's next piece of work, on young people and newspapers, will also be challenging. After all, everyone knows young people don't read papers; it is perhaps the greatest threat the industry faces in the long term. Except that the NMA's latest research suggests that 40% of young people do read a daily newspaper.

As NMA chief executive Maureen Duffy points out, with the possible exception of Pop Idol, hardly any ITV programmes get anything like that penetration of the youth market.

Before the year is out there will also be a huge project on the effectiveness of press ads. Maybe if the advertising industry is hit over the head often enough, the message will get through that papers are about more than smearing ink on dead trees.


- Women spend an average of 37 minutes a day reading a paper, half of them picking it up on at least three occasions. At weekends they spend an average of 47 minutes with the paper.

- On a weekday, 61% of women read the newspaper in the evening. At the weekend, they are most likely to read it in the morning.

- 75% of women read international news pages, and 65% turn to health pages.Contrary to popular opinion, horoscopes are the least-liked section of newspapers.

- Mid-market papers (such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express) are most popular with 45- to 64-year-old women; 48% of 45- to 54-year-old women pick these titles, and 54% of 55- to 64-year-olds opt to read them.

- Broadsheets are read by 63% of AB women; 20% choose tabloids; 48% opt for the mid-markets.


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