News pub­lish­ers will re­gret fail­ure of joint ad sales plan

Campaign UK - - PERSPECTIVES - GIDEON SPANIER gideon.spanier@hay­mar­ket.com @gideon­spanier

New­shounds who want to re­live the good old days of press will love Ink, a new play about Ru­pert Mur­doch’s takeover of The Sun in 1969, run­ning at Lon­don’s Almeida Theatre.

It was a time of clat­ter­ing new up­starts in me­dia, in­clud­ing Cam­paign, which made its de­but in 1968.

News sto­ries about the big news­pa­per

Head of me­dia groups dom­i­nated our front pages in those early days and, re-read­ing them, there’s a sense of dra­matic change. As the Mur­doch char­ac­ter in Ink puts it, de­scrib­ing his plan for The Sun to over­take the Daily Mir­ror, there was “a great dis­rup­tion”.

That was then. Now, the news busi­ness is go­ing through an­other great dis­rup­tion as our con­sump­tion moves on­line. It is why this print is­sue of Cam­paign is our last weekly edi­tion, as we pre­pare to turn monthly.

There’s no point try­ing to rewind the clock and wish­ing things were the way they used to be. Yet that is what some news­pa­per groups ap­pear to be do­ing.

A year ago, News UK, Tele­graph Me­dia Group, Guardian Me­dia Group, DMGT and Trin­ity Mir­ror agreed to put their ri­val­ries aside and dis­cuss pool­ing their ad sales.

The ini­tia­tive, now called Project Arena and pre­vi­ously known as Juno and Rio, was fraught with com­pe­ti­tion prob­lems but had com­pelling logic.

Shar­ing ad sales and reader data would make the medium eas­ier for ad­ver­tis­ers to buy as rev­enues con­tinue to rush out of print and into Google and Face­book.

Alas, one by one, DMGT, Trin­ity Mir­ror and now TMG have pulled out, leav­ing the ini­tia­tive in limbo and agen­cies less than im­pressed.

What a shame that th­ese press barons think they are still liv­ing in the age of Ink and are bet­ter off alone.

News UK and GMG are now look­ing to see if there is any­thing they can sal­vage. Mckin­sey acted as project con­sul­tant and is said to have made con­sid­er­able progress, not least in iden­ti­fy­ing the need for ur­gent change.

Some say con­sol­i­da­tion, not col­lab­o­ra­tion, is the way for­ward. Trin­ity Mir­ror’s plan for a joint ven­ture with Ex­press News­pa­pers is said to be close and could be a cat­a­lyst.

But re­fusal to work to­gether risks se­ri­ous dam­age to the UK news­pa­per ad mar­ket, which is al­ready fore­cast to plunge an­other 11% this year, ac­cord­ing to Group M. The UK con­trasts with France, where pub­lish­ers have just agreed to pool ad sales.

Back to Ink and Mur­doch is cer­tain about one thing. “The num­bers are what mat­ter,” he says.

News pub­lish­ers will re­gret turn­ing their backs on joint ad sales.

“Re­fusal to work to­gether risks dam­ag­ing the news­pa­per ad mar­ket”

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