Classified information

In this installment of Michael Carney’s Marketing Week:

  • Classified advertising was hit hard last year. How long before newspapers give it up?
  • All change in the New Zealand movie business. And will 3D advertising change the game?
  • US publishers are adding online readers to total circulation and charging advertisers for all of them. So is that likely to happen here?

Down Is The New Up

They seem so long ago and far away now, those days when media proprietors were reporting steady growth (typically of revenues, not necessarily readers/listeners/viewers). Now we trumpet “a decline of only nine percent” as heartening, at least within the context of the economic tsunami that was 2009.

Anyway, that’s the word from Newspaper Publishers Association president Michael Muir. Nine percent stacks up well against the just-released Advertising Industry Turnover figures (produced each year by the Advertising Standards Authority), indicating that the industry as a whole is down 11.7 percent.

But there is one caveat to the NPA results: total newspaper advertising revenues for 2009 are shown as down 18 percent, suggesting a massive drop in the classified advertising portion of newspaper earnings.

The NPA president didn’t release figures on any classifieds revenues, but by implication they were hardest hit when the Global Financial Crisis took hold in New Zealand (as elsewhere).

In fact, an early sign of the classified segment’s decline across the ditch came late last month when Fairfax Media and APN announced an unprecedented agreement combining the Fairfax Media classified brands, Drive.com.au, Domain.com.au and MyCareer.com.au, with the APN print classified sections in more than 90 publications through regional Queensland. You don’t parlay with the enemy when things are going swimmingly.

Over here, Fairfax’s online darling Trade Me continues to grow, with its revenue up 14 percent in the second half of 2009 – admittedly not in the same league as its glory days when the company managed 1078 percent growth and was crowned Deloitte’s fastest growing company of 2004, but still highly desirable in the context of doom-laden 2009. In New Zealand, at least, classifieds have found a new home.

All of which leads us to wonder: at what point will print-based classifieds become more trouble than they’re worth for newspapers? No doubt they’re highly profitable from a cost-per-column-centimetre perspective, but (because of their inherently last-minute nature) they do put enormous stresses and strains on the administrative infrastructure of newspapers.

Will there come a time when it doesn’t make fiscal sense for newspapers to carry classifieds? If that day ever arises, where will we turn for such classified gems as ‘For Sale: one pair hardly used dentures, only two teeth missing’ or ‘Used tombstone, perfect for someone named Homer Hendelbergen’?

For the record, these are the ASA Advertising Turnover figures, by medium, compared in percentage terms with 2008:

NZ$ Millions    2008    2009
NEWSPAPERS    760    623    -18.0%
TELEVISION    647    570    -11.9%
RADIO    268    236    -11.9%
MAGAZINES    249    217    -12.9%
INTERACTIVE    193    214    10.9%
OUTDOOR    74    68    -8.1%
UNADDRESSED MAIL    61    58    -4.9%
ADDRESSED MAIL    56    53    -5.4%
CINEMA    9    6    -33.3%
2,317    2,045    -11.7%

All Change In The Movie Business

SkyCity Cinemas changed its owners last month; now Hoyts has acquired the Berkeley Group, which has 21 screens across four cinema complexes in Botany Downs, Mission Bay, Takapuna and Hibiscus Coast.

“The Berkeley Cinema Group is a perfect fit for Hoyts. It gives us a greater presence in New Zealand’s largest market and Berkeley’s design and operations are highly complementary to our own,” said Hoyts chief executive Delfin Fernandez.

The agreement is conditional on regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed by June.

Hoyts’ New Zealand cinema circuit will increase from seven multiplexes and 49 screens to 11 multiplexes and 70 screens as a result of the acquisition.

As the adspend numbers above suggest, cinema advertising hasn’t been high on the agenda for Kiwi marketers. Offshore, 3D advertising is starting to become the next big thing in the movie business. We might not rush to follow suit over here, but as 3D international material becomes available in this market, expect to see a few fancy prints popping up down under.

Every Eyeball Matters

While some newspapers globally are agonising over the killing fields of the internet and whether paywalls can solve the problem of fiscal death by click, others have joined magazines in a whole new approach to the digital dilemma: add online readers into your total circulation base and charge advertisers for all of them.

America’s Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has just modified its definition of a digital magazine in the U.S. and Canada to accommodate new reading devices such as the Apple iPad. The new standards state that a replica digital edition must include a print edition’s full editorial content and advertising, but it no longer needs to be presented in a layout identical to the print version. Replica digital editions will continue to be included in a magazine’s circulation guarantee, or rate base.

Predictably, Wired magazine was the first publication to seek review of its iPad version, which will qualify as a digital replica edition under the bureau’s new guidelines. GQ has offered an ABC approved replica app for the iPhone and iPod Touch since December 2009.

Last week the ABC board gave its initial approval to the creation of new U.S. reports that better reflect a publication’s total audience across a range of products. As a result, publishers may begin reporting such items as:

  • E-reader distribution averages
  • Mobile app purchases
  • Total paid and verified circulation emanating from multiple products, including branded print editions associated with the flagship publications.
  • A new “Publishing Plan” executive summary box on the first page, noting frequency, delivery platforms, and distribution methods across a publisher’s various print and electronic editions.
  • Continued use of Audience-FAX, the 2007 initiative that allows U.S. publications to report print and online readership figures, as well as Website and audience data from comScore, Nielsen Online, Omniture, or other sources audited by ABC Interactive.

In New Zealand, Nielsen Media has been reporting on the combined readership impact of the main metropolitan papers’ print and online offerings for the last year or so. There’s been little demand for a similar metric for magazines since so few have posted significant content online. But the (still theoretical, no date set) arrival of the iPad and similar devices may just encourage some local magazines to offer digital replicas – at which point the urge to monetise will definitely manifest itself.

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