New committee will fly flag for regional papers

Brown: news coverage to the fore

The regional newspaper industry is planning a show of muscle as it continues to outperform the national press, radio and television during the economic downturn.

A new marketing committee, made up of regional group top executives and their counterparts at the Newspaper Society, has been formed to push an image of the industry as modern, strong and committed to news.

Boasting a 11.2 per cent increase overall in advertising revenue for the past year, despite a downturn after 11 September, the regional press bosses believe they have seen off the threat from the internet and from free metropolitan morning paper Metro.

They have done both by assimilation, launching websites in their own news areas and making partnerships with Associated Newspapers to produce Metros in provincial cities.

The marketing committee, chaired by Jim Brown, chairman of Newsquest Media Group, includes Danny Cammiade, assistant to the chief executive of Johnston Press; Kevin Beatty, managing director, Northcliffe Newspaper Group; John Bills, managing director of Trinity Mirror’s Liverpool Post & Echo; Robin Burgess, CN Group chief executive; and Deirdre Romanes, group chief executive, Clyde and Forth Press. Between them they represent more than 80 per cent of the regional press.

They are working with Newspaper Society director David Newell, marketing director David Hoath and communications director Lynne Anderson.

Brown told a press conference last week: "Where television and radio and national newspapers are currently facing tough times, the regional newspaper business is still doing quite well."

The new committee was trying to get the most senior people in the industry involved in the marketing of the business, to develop the regional press brand and to demonstrate it can deliver results, he said.

Sophisticated methods of production were part of the success story but, Brown said: "Perhaps the most telling feature is that regional newspapers are still giving oodles and oodles of news. "We believe we are NEWSpapers."

While some national newspapers carried very little news, Brown stressed: "We never lost the habit."

He sees a chance for the regions to grab national advertising.

Asked about the grim picture regional daily sales had presented in the first half of 2001, Brown said some of Newsquest’s were up and others down in the second half, while most of the weeklies were up.

Beatty said of Northcliffe: "We do have a mix of poor performance from some of our metropolitan evenings while some of our smaller dailies are doing incredibly well, as are our weekly paid-fors."

The committee would like to see some measurement of their success other than by sales only – by readership and website page impressions.

By Jean Morgan

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