Are the reports of newspapers demise greatly exaggerated?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed I recently shared an article about South Wales Evening Post editor Spencer Freeny retiring. I didn’t share the article because I’m interested in Spencer Freeny, although I hope he enjoys his retirement. What caught my attention was some of the quotes from one of Wales’ most experienced newspaper editors and a lecturer from Cardiff University’s School of journalism.

Here are the key points that caught my attention:

  • Recently published circulation figures show the South Wales Evening Post is the most popular newspaper in Wales, selling an average of 36,623 copies a day in the first 6 months of 2012. However, the figure represents an 8.8% fall in circulation compared to the same period in 2011.
  • The BBC article stated “Mr Freeny said that advertising revenue had about halved at regional newspapers over the past five years.”
  • A lecturer from Cardiff University’s School of journalism (Dr Andy Williams) made this comment referring to regional newspapers. “I’d say it was in crisis. It’s not in a healthy state at all. The main reason is that advertisers don’t want to advertise in papers anymore.”

You can read the full article here

Before I go any further I think it’s important to state that this blog isn’t about badmouthing the current state of the press industry. I also want to highlight that Mr Freeny does think there is a future for regional press.

Both Mr Freeny and Dr Williams also mention other contributing factors as to why revenues and circulations are falling at regional papers, such as the internet, new media formats and a changing society. But….. It’s the comments about advertising revenues and advertisers that really interest me.

I’ve already established that readerships, circulations and press turnover have declined since 2007 in my blog, ‘The curious case of the shrinking ad media that’s doing better than ever!’ However, I have delved deeper for this blog and here’s what I found.

Media market share according to Nielsen – Wales (local advertisers)

As you can see from the figures taken from Nielsen, press still claims the largest proportion of advertising revenue spent in Wales.

Let’s look at the bigger picture and see what’s happening to press across the UK.

Media market share according to Nielsen – UK

Press not only takes the number 1 spot in terms of market share (by a long way) in Wales, but it also comes out as number 2 in the UK market. It’s held these rankings since 2008. These are hardly figures that suggest advertisers simply don’t want to advertise in press. In fact, when I started thinking about this blog I looked through three regional papers, all three were laden with adverts from both national and local advertisers.

When looking at the market share I think it’s important to establish if the size of the market increased or decreased. Comparing 2008 to 2011 the Welsh market shrank by -9%, but the UK market grew by 1%.

I wanted to see how other ‘traditional media’ had fared over the last few years. The graphs below look at advertising revenue (according to Nielsen) generated by press, TV and radio from 2008 to 2011.

In the Welsh market it is evident that the press revenue did decline in 2011, but the fall wasn’t as steep as the graph suggests. In fact press revenue only fell by -9% from 2008 compared to 2011. Radio and TV near enough plateaued over 2008 through to 2011. Across the UK, TV advertising revenue has grown since 2008. Radio seems to have stayed the same, neither growing nor declining.

Press seems to be up and down, but saw a greater decline than in the Welsh market and fell by -12% from 2008 when compared to 2011.

I’m not suggesting that the press industry can solely be measured by their market share of advertising revenue, or the actual sum of revenue they generate from advertising. Ultimately for any company the vital figures are those on your accounts (such as turnover and profit). After all that’s why any company trades, to make money. I looked at the accounts for several regional press owners, as expected they all saw a decline in their turnover and profit over the past few years.

Hard copy might be losing its appeal to consumers which are reflected in the declining circulation figures. And yes, it may no longer be deemed as ‘fashionable’ to advertise in hard copy editions, especially with more modern or new media platforms such as digital and social media advertising. That said, press continues to generate more money than any other media platform in Wales.

I can’t remember the last time I read a positive article or blog about the press industry; they all focus on the negatives in the industry. If the media and blogs I have read are correct, then how does the industry continue to dominate advertising revenue both in Wales and the UK?

Is it simply a question of fashion and fads? Perhaps it’s just that we in are in a world where the traditional is seen as passé and the new-fangled latest thing is always the best option by default?

One is certain, while Press as an industry continues to weigh in with the comparatively huge revenue that it does, it’s a long way for extinction

As always please leave a comment below, or email me or tweet me @realradioodi


Social media: The good, the bad and the ugly

For a bit of fun I thought I would look at corporate/brand social media successes and blunders.

Let’s take Waitrose as an example. The food retailer invited Twitter users to finish the following sentence ‘I shop at Waitrose because…….’ using the hastag, #WaitroseReasons. Whilst there were some honest tweets, some took the opportunity to poke fun at the brands ‘middle class’ image with replies such as:

  • I shop at Waitrose because the butler’s on holiday
  • I shop at Waitrose because I once heard a 6yr old boy in the shop say “Daddy does Lego have a ‘t’ at the end, like Merlot?”
  • I shop at Waitrose because it makes me feel important and I absolutely detest being surrounded by poor people.

Waitrose were slow to respond to the ‘funny’ tweets. Eventually they did tweet “Thanks for all the genuine and funny #WaitroseReasons tweets. We always like to hear what you think and enjoyed reading most of them.”  The shy response from Waitrose indicates that the company hadn’t foreseen the potential backlash when they put the first tweet out.

Even charities can make the odd social media blunder; an American Red Cross employee accidently sent a personal tweet from the corporate account. The employee accidently tweeted that they intended to get drunk using the hashtag #gettingslizzerd.

Rather than merely deleting the tweet, the Red Cross came back with this inspired response:

“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

The Red Cross then went on to address the tweet on their blog, explaining that they are a 130 year old humanitarian organisation; we’re also made up of human beings. The charities followers showed a positive response and some even pledged donations whilst using the hashtag #gettingslizzerd to show their support.

We’ve all asked to speak to a customer services advisor’s manager. But imagine if the CEO addressed your concerns directly? That’s exactly what happened to Mark Nei when he took to twitter to complain about Vodacom (South African Telecommunications Company), when the networks service went down.

Rather than a standard response from the company’s twitter account, Pieter Uys (CEO) took to his personal twitter account to reply.

And this is my favourite example of how a brand can use social media to address customer service issues.

Back in July O2 experienced something of a crisis; a lot of O2’s customers couldn’t use their mobile phones to make calls. As expected the irate customers took to twitter in order to vent their frustrations with the telecoms provider, some in a particularly rude manor.

Below are some of the ‘tamer’ tweets that they had to deal with. You can see from these tweets that the person in charge of the Twitter account that day took a humoured approach to their responses.

Not all companies are as sucessful as the examples above when it comes to addressing their customers grievences via social media. So I have handpicked some of the bad and quite frankly ugly responses.

First up it has to be Chrysler, Similar to the American Red Cross blunder the account manager accidently sent a tweet from the Chrysler account which was intended to come from his personal account.

I think it’s important to mention that the twitter account was outsourced to an agency. Chrysler came under futher scruitinity for their inablitlity to make light of the situation and an attempted cover up of the situation.

Chrysler decided to delete the tweet and claimed their account had been comprimised. Eventually they did ‘fess up on their blog and admitted that the comment had come from an employee at their social media agency. Needless to say the contract between Chrysler and the agency was terminated.

The next attempt at social suicide comes from a BBQ restaurant. This time it was the manager that took to twitter and Facebook to relive his frustrations over a particular diner.

Not only did he use inappropriate language and left abusive comments but in addition uploaded a photo of the customer in question. There is a complicate back story here. According to the manager the customer did not leave a tip. However the customer insists she did tip the staff and the abuse was down to a previous unfavourable review she left about the restaurant.

The restaurant did remove the posts, but as with anything online it was too late the comments had already been shared and captured.

Now for the pièce de résistance, Kenneth Cole (a fashion retailer) tweeted a particularly insensitive message at a particularly inappropriate time.  In order to celebrate their new spring collection they posted the following tweet.

As most of us would anticipate, a tweet like this caused outrage across the internet. It was even given its own hashtag #KennethColetweets. An hour after Kenneth Cole sent the tweet they followed it up with:

They then went onto apologise on their Facebook page, unfortunately the damage had already been done.  The information was shared across the internet and Kenneth Cole watched their reputation go up in flames right before them.

Social media accounts are run by actual people, so on occasions accidents will happen. What can we learn from these examples?

  • Recovery of such occasions is important
  • Triple check which account you are using
  • Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to your boss/customers
  • World ‘issues’ aren’t amusing

What’s your favourite social media blunder? Please feel free to leave a comment below, email me or tweet me @realradiojodi

Turbulent Times of Motorhome & Caravan Sales

I have already looked at the UK staycation market in my Hi-di-hi Campers blog, off the back of this I was asked to look into the sales of touring caravans and motorhomes. One of my colleagues recently spoke to someone in the industry, and explained they were experiencing a decline in the number of sales.

How big is the UK caravan industry?

  • Each year it generates around £6bn to the UK economy. (This includes revenue from sales of products, related services and holiday bookings)
  • Employs around 115,000 people
  • 1.5 million people regularly take touring caravan/motorhome holidays
  • The Caravan Club has 1 million members (around 80,000 live in Wales)
  • The Camping and Caravan Club has over half million members

The staycation market is increasing in popularity, but touring caravan and motorhome registration statistics demonstrate this isn’t the case when purchasing said vehicles to staycation in. The UK motorhome market experienced growth year on year up until 2008, after which the economic climate took a turn for the worse and figures reveal that motorhome sales were also affected.

One way to see how the industry has reacted to the fall in sales is to review their advertising revenue. In total I reviewed the advertising spends for four caravan/motorhome dealers in Wales, the amount they spent on advertising per annum somewhat varied from £3000 to £730,000. It’s typical to see advertising spends reduce when the market shrinks. However it’s essential to increase your market share when the market is shrinking, in order to even stand still. To increase your market share you need to take if off someone else, the only way to do that is to out promote your competition.

Unfortunately their financial information isn’t available on the systems I use, so I can’t see the impact of the decline in sales against their turnover.

We have already established the market for new recreational vehicles declined in 2011. So, many dealers focused on the used market, one dealer indicated that small and medium vehicles under £27k sold extremely well. Sales of used touring caravans were reported to be better than sales of new caravans, but this didn’t instil much confidence for the retailers.

The sales of new and used holiday homes mirror the same decline in sales as motorhomes and caravans. One area of this industry that bucks the trend is park homes. Production of park homes increased by 23% between July and September 2011, compared to the same period in 2010. This could be down to the rising costs of mortgaging and running a bricks and mortar property.

In most of the reports I analysed they simply put the reduced sales down to the turbulent economy. Yes some of the population are experiencing financial hardship, but it seems like an easy label to apply to the shrinking market.

Here are some reasons why I think we aren’t buying caravans and motorhomes:

  • Fluctuating petrol prices, petrol is 30p per litre more than it was in 2008 and diesel has increased by 32p per litre.
  • Some consumers are trading down their cars for smaller more economical cars, which may not have the ability to tow a caravan.
  • New build houses offer fewer parking spaces, many house builders stipulate you can’t park recreational vehicles on your drive, there are storage facilities around the country but are an additional expense.
  • In times of austerity consumers want to feel as though they have had a ‘bargain’, but dealers don’t have the margins to discount the motorhomes/caravans that consumers are so used to seeing on the high street with other goods.

There are some positives though:

  • 2011 was the first year that diesel car sales overtook petrol sales.
  • 35% of cars sold in 2011 averaged between 55-70 mpg
  • Touring caravan manufactures are making lighter caravans, aimed exclusively of small car owners.
  • The Camping & Caravanning Club has reported a huge rise in the number bookings for its European Winter Rallies; almost 61% more getting involved this winter than last.

Fortunately the proposed intention of adding 20% VAT onto holiday and caravan sales from the 1st of October has been reduced to 5%. If they had gone ahead with the initial 20% VAT then the impact on the industry would have been disastrous. HM Revenue & Customs estimated that if they did implement the 20% VAT, the demand for caravan and holiday homes could have decreased by 33%.

The market has experienced some challenging times, if the VAT is introduced then it looks like it will continue. On the positive side, 83% of the Camping & Caravanning Club members are 46+, and 46% of the Welsh population are 45+. If you have read my ‘Why are marketers stepping over pounds to pick up pennies’ blog, you will already know this demographic is the most lucrative demographic to target. Not only do they have more disposable income but more time to spend it, and I’m guessing more time to holiday in their new caravan/motorhome.

Please leave a comment below or get in touch with me directly, or @realradiojodi

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