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PR agency news from the papers: Ad revenues grow

Whilst many job descriptions should come with a stress warning, media sales needs a category unto its own. The task of trying to flog advertising space in print and online is no mean feat, with plenty of pressure on the shoulders of those brave enough to take on the challenge.
Hats off then to the UK’s media sales teams on the whole, then, with news hitting the industry headlines today suggesting that, for the first time since 2007, newspaper advertising revenues are actually showing signs of growth. That’s something the bosses behind those editorial desks have been praying for- often seemingly in vain- year upon year, since the decimation of income at the hands of digital-everything.
Of course there’s some way to go before we start to see the kind of money being made pre-press recession, if those levels are ever fully recovered at all. And, whilst advertising accounts for a sizeable proportion of the overall revenue newspapers rely on, realistically without tackling the biggest problem of all- the ongoing decline of readership- this is likely to be a brief period of hope before the doom and gloom sets in once more.
What’s significant from a business perspective is that these new figures- a total rise of 1% predicted by 2015- have been heavily affected by the growth of online advertising, which finally appears to be catching up to where it should be. Well, almost.
The ability to track and monitor consumer behaviour resulting from interaction with commercial space in the digital realm has long been the subject of contention; for advertisers it’s useful to the point of providing an excuse as to why rate cards should be ignored completely in favour of pricing they deem to be suitable based on the conversion of clicks to purchases. And that’s bad news for most major press titles, not to mention particularly terrible news for smaller websites and online magazines.
The problem has always been that this is a very simplistic way of looking at how people are influenced by advertising. Roll back the timeline two decades or so, and when the average TV viewer saw a broadcasting advert they were, for the most part, unable to act on the desired impulse because, chances are, it was seen during peak time hours, when most shops were already closed other than those in cyberspace (and connections to the internet were woefully slow on the whole, meaning online retail wasn’t the behemoth it now is).
Yet this didn’t prevent the advert from having some impact. Indeed, the cleverest and most memorable were still likely to inspire a purchase at some point down the line. Just because the focus has shifted to digital, whereby people can literally see a commercial and then order the product within minutes, irrespective of whether it’s 12PM or 12AM, doesn’t mean that everyone will act in such an instantaneous way.
Perhaps it’s a week before payday, maybe they are about to leave the house. Whatever the reason for not being ‘converted’ at that moment in time, it doesn’t necessarily ring true that they won’t buy into a brand at another point further down the line based on the advert they saw the other day.
On the whole, though, the increase in profitability newspapers are seeing from online ad revenue probably has little to do with buyers acknowledging this point. Instead, we would predict the boost in perceived worth has resulted from an increase in attention and investment when it comes to the online arms of Britain’s broadsheets and tabloids.
Upgraded websites, a greater focus on the type of content that really makes the online offering unique (i.e. video footage, sound clips, interactive polls), more variety of coverage (making the most of the near-infinite number of pages you can create on the internet). All these ideas are being used, evidently to great effect, attracting increasing numbers of eyes to the domain, which in turn adds to the value of space therein.
Whether this is enough to stem the overall downward spiral of redundancies and cutbacks across each business remains to be seen, and to state this is the sign that editorial is finally beginning to properly grasp how digital can be made to work is probably a bit early. But, nevertheless, from the stance of this Manchester PR agency, it’s a welcome break from the usual negativity.

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