ABCs don't give full picture says NS

The Newspaper Society made no formal response to the gloomy ABC figures today but it is pressing ahead with plans to develop what it describes as “a multimedia portfolio audience currency for the regional press”.

The NS argues that the ABC figures do not give an accurate picture of the regional industry because they do not take into account the audience for regional papers’ multi-media output, such as internet sites.

Working alongside JICREG and ABC Electronic, the NS said it is building an expanded database of regional press print and online platforms – seen as the first stage in generating a system of combined audience reach.

The NS has set up the Portfolio Audience Group, a small group of regional press research, circulation and readership experts who, under the chairmanship of Mark Rix of the Manchester Evening News, have been asked by the Society’s Marketing Committee to achieve a system of audience measurement and reporting which reflects the wider portfolio of print and online, paid-for and free platforms which now makes up the regional press.

The NS argues that with major changes at regional press centres in the past year – from the launch of a part-paid, part-free distribution model at Manchester, and development of Metros and commuter Lites, to the blurring between evening and morning titles – it has become increasingly difficult to analyse ABC circulation data within the current framework (morning, evening, paid weekly, free weekly, ABC bulk) in any meaningful way.

Instead, the NS is focusing on its regional press media portfolio case studies, with 28 now available on the NS Website. These case studies show advertisers and agencies how publishers are broadening their platforms beyond the core daily and weekly newspaper products, to produce supplements, niche publications, lifestyle magazines and websites, as well as branching into radio, TV and other communications methods.

The latest NS Annual Industry Survey has shown a big increase in the number and variety of platforms offered by regional press publishers. As well as 1,300 core regional newspaper titles, the number of regional press websites increased from 509 in 2004 to 828 in 2005, while the number of stand-alone magazines and niche publications has grown from 400 to nearly 600. The number of regional press owned radio stations grew from 20 to 28. There were 16 launches of new regional newspaper titles.

“The regional press is extending its audience reach across a rapidly-growing portfolio of newspapers, websites, niche magazines and broadcast channels,” said David Newell, director of the Newspaper Society. “Readers can obtain local news, information and entertainment on the move and in a way that fits their changing lifestyles and reading habits. We have seen major investment in new product development and innovative systems over the past year. The challenge for publishers and the NS is to develop a robust system of multimedia audience measurement which gives advertisers and agencies more meaningful figures.”

The NS says the regional press is the largest print advertising medium and a £3 billion advertising medium, second only to television.

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