Fairfax’s display dollars grow, but by how much, nobody knows

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Stuff.co.nz dominated the digital categories at this year’s Qantas Media Awards and it appears as though the advertisers have responded, with Fairfax Media claiming it has “significantly outperformed the market” in terms of its display advertising revenue, “almost doubling” the 38 percent increase achieved by the market since last quarter. But there are a few Fairfax figures that aren’t quite so forthcoming.

Fairfax Media NZ chief executive Allen Williams says its performance in the display space is particularly impressive considering the total New Zealand online market measured the second highest level of growth on record.

According to the recent IAB/PWC online expenditure report, display was the slightly surprising winner in the latest round of figures, overtaking classifieds for the first time ever (year on year display was up 26 percent). As a result, display increased its share of the total online advertising spend from 27 percent to 33 percent since the first quarter, something that deviates from international trends, where paid search advertising, social media and mobile are the major growth sectors. Total online ad spend increased 13 percent over the April-June 2010 quarter to $62.58m, up $7.26m on the Q1, 2010 result.

“Our performance [in display]is just as noteworthy year on year, again significantly higher than the 25.8 percent achieved by the market,” Williams says.

Fairfax wouldn’t supply specific figures on what ‘significantly higher’ or ‘outperformed’ meant in actual numerical terms. And also no word on how its classifieds and search and directories performed (overall IAB/PWC figures show classifieds are down 0.76 percent from Q1, 2010 but up 19 percent from Q2, 2009 and search and directories is up nine percent from Q1 2010 and up 13.59 percent year on year).

Traditionally, the first quarter is always a bit skinny on the revenue front, due to the post-Christmas lull, so growth in the second quarter is to be expected. Which means year on year comparisons are generally seen as a more accurate gauge of performance.

MSN, which recently trumpeted a big increase in readership numbers across its network of sites, was actually willing to offer a specific year on year figure, with its display advertising revenue growing by 45 percent from Q2 2009.

Unlike Fairfax, APN has a wee bit to crow about in terms of its printed offering (as well as its well-received iPad app), but when asked to respond to the Fairfax claims, APN Online, the publishers of nzherald.co.nz, wouldn’t release its figures either, and also didn’t talk specifics, which generally means there’s not much good news to talk about. Instead, it took the holistic approach, with advertising director Donna O’Keeffe saying how happy it was with the growth of the whole advertising market in New Zealand.

“Digital advertising is fast becoming a mainstream medium and an essential part of so many campaigns,” she says “The growth nzherald.co.nz and the industry as a whole has experienced over the past year is phenomenal.”

Fairfax Group sales and marketing manager Sandra King says the result was a reflection of the company’s continued innovation across its digital platforms, accompanied with brand solutions that deliver real value for advertising partners.

“Our performance can be attributed to Fairfax’s market-leading sales model that successfully creates integrated advertising ideas in and around quality content across multimedia platforms. The figures show that this integrated sales approach has been wholeheartedly embraced by the market.”

Fairfax Media, which owns Trade Me, The Dominion Post, The Press, the Sunday Star-Times and stuff.co.nz in New Zealand, recently announced a turnaround in its business fortunes, reporting a A$282.1 million profit across the group, which is a big contrast to its A$380 million loss in 2009.

Trade Me played a big part in that result, increasing revenue by 15 percent and helping Fairfax Digital achieve a 22 percent rise in earnings to A$111m. Fairfax’s online revenues now account for 12 percent of the group’s total revenue and it’s looking to take its major Aussie papers further down the online road soon.

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