Would consolidation in the regional press be good for advertisers?

As local newspapers struggle with falling distribution and ad revenues, the titles that survive are expected to end up in the hands of fewer owners. Can this process deliver benefits for marketers?

Tom Hings
Director of brand marketing, Royal Mail
With the industry's advertising revenue being badly hit by the recession, I can understand why regional publishers are implementing big cost-cutting drives, and I can see why further consolidation of ownership has come to the forefront.  
However, there is already significant consolidation in the marketplace, with the top five publishers owning about 75% of the market between them, and the top 10 owning 85%.  
From an advertiser's point of view, I'd be wary of further consolidation, as I think there is a tipping point where
it's a potentially unhealthy situation.  
At a local level, there will probably
be benefits for local advertisers, as they will have more opportunities opened up to them geographically - as long as the publishers don't get greedy. But there could be issues for advertisers using the medium regionally or nationally if there are only one or
two key players.  
There has to be a minimum level of competition to ensure that publishers have a healthy approach to advertisers.

Keith Moor
Director of brand and communications, Abbey
While consolidation could be seen as a concentration of power and a threat to diversity, it will actually be beneficial for advertisers. It is vital to maintaining quality and generating the investment needed to move regional content onto diversified platforms. The local focus
of the regional press, along with the innovation and development that has taken place in the sector, will ensure its continued strength in the market.
Despite competition from other media channels, there is reason for confidence in future advertising revenue in fewer titles and owners.
The result will be strong coverage, reinforced by complementary local platforms, giving enhanced content to readers and allowing the targeting of specific sub-groups.
Online readers are a real addition to total readership, and raw circulation figures should be considered in that light. While print will continue (albeit with reduced distribution), online editions will grow in importance, acting as a complement to the offline print editions, offering a different and richer product to the reader.

Phil Nunn
Partner, Trinity Communications
Regional consolidation will happen-
it has to. The managed model of
multi-ownership to protect the 'local' community is totally outmoded. It is sad but it is the reality. The consumer has changed and local press has lost the relevance it once had.
Consolidation may give publishers the financial breathing space to develop better, more relevant local content, but there are two elephants in this room.
The first is that consumers care less about local print media - recent ABCs have shown that. Their media world has changed. They have a far more national and international outlook, away from local issues and local society - the content of the local press.
The second is the 'L-shaped' downturn. The entire newspaper sector, national and local, is struggling. If we are lucky enough to have a local press in a number of areas, it will be a management miracle, and it's a first principle on which legislators should place the greatest priority. For local advertisers, having a consolidated local press is better than no press at all.

Simon Fairclough
Director, Scottish Newspaper Publishers Association
Readers trust their local paper. Local papers deliver fantastic penetration. That's a compelling proposition.
Yet the local press is being challenged from all quarters, not least through misguided government-condoned encroachment into market space earned and occupied by publishers.
There are local authorities trying
to pass off as publishers of so-called independent newspapers. Publicly funded initiatives encourage councils to migrate recruitment advertising away from weekly papers onto obscure web portals, and there are threats to introduce similar measures for public notices. In addition, the BBC's local news websites, take audience (and therefore, revenue) from local papers.
Publishers will innovate to mitigate such threats. That includes pursuing efficiencies through consolidation that will ultimately benefit advertisers. Equally, publishers will safeguard the core advertising proposition - that their titles reach loyal, local audiences.


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