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Print Media Living in The Past?

In the 80’s it was possible to observe grown men sheepishly enter newsagents with a particular mission on their minds. They’d causally move towards the packed shelves of Magazines and newspapers and loiter a while. Then, glancing briefly over their shoulders, the experienced hand in one motion would be able to flick an evening newspaper on its back and they would hastily peruse a then permanent fixture of an evening newspapers back page-the “Latest Results” column.

This gem was updated regularly throughout the afternoon with the ever increasing horse racing results and was printed ‘on the fly’ or in other words without having to stop the presses. It was, at the time, one of the quickest ways to find out if it was boom or bust on that day’s wager.

Print Media Living in The Past?

Newspapers are very much suffering at the hands of instant information. In the information age they are, in some quarters, seen as technology laggards. Without opening the great debate of where newspapers (or news organisations) are going, I’ll stay on one particular topic: their selling arsenal.

Back in the day for selling print you tooled up for the fight with your latest ABC Circulation figures and the last readership numbers, broken down into everY demographic known to man (or Woman, Main Shopper, Farmer under 40 etc). If you were working for a paper/mag with a UK parent there was a data bonus because you most likely had a brand new ABC number on a monthly basis –a good reason to contact a client. Dragging those two data antiques into a meeting now, without the support of some ‘real time’ data, would be a backward step.

Some parts of the media sit forlorn in a corner and moan how they are, yet again, suffering at the hands of someone else, and not for the first time. Rarely do the pick themselves off the floor, without the support of their peers, and do something innovative.

And their lack of foresight in their main business is reflected in the way they sell themselves to a potential advertising public. As an SME, pick a print title’s website and try and find some relevant market data that you need prior to deciding to advertise.

Lack of Real Data

I’ve seen newspaper websites quote ABC figures from 2007 in 2012. We still have the dreaded ‘publishers estimate’, which is about as sincere as a kiss from a Harlot. We have a whole slew of regional titles with no ABC data any more, no real readership statistics and certainly no analytic data on their web visits.

I can look at an analytics data and tell you, in real time, how many people are visiting any site I control. On February 8th of this year I knew how many papers the Irish Daily Star (et al) sold in the month of January 2013. Given the returns policy of newspapers and the fact that you’re dealing with a physical product, that’s actually not a bad result.

When will I be able to know how many papers the Irish Times or Irish Independent sold in January 2013? On the 22nd of August 2013. That “pace” was fine when racing results were conveyed “on the fly”. It’s far from OK in 2013. In the interest of fairness, the print media are not the only offenders here. RTE produced their ABC audited web data in December, data for May or six months previous.

There was an old expression that ‘a good soldier never looks behind’. But some of the Media here are clearly focusing on, or are routed in, the past and cannot concentrate on the future and what is needed to sell their products today. Don’t flog me data that’s stale and irrelevant. I can tell you my numbers for last month, why can’t you.

I may return again in late August with some completely out of date and redundant figures!

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