PR agency news: Regionals vs Facebook (and Google, and the rest)

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To paraphrase Jon Bon Jovi’s ad-libbing during his band’s 1995 rendition of Keep The Faith at Wembley Stadium; It’s a jungle out there, baby, let’s stick together and watch each other’s backs, instead of only watching our own.
Anyone working for, or working with a public relations agency, will know only too well that the media is a competitive place, a fact compounded by problems being faced by the press on the whole. Editorial space is at a premium these days, simply because there are fewer and fewer professionally-run editorial titles on the market, a situation that has arisen from falling circulation and readership figures, coupled with difficulties in securing advertising revenue on digital platforms, resulting in countless closures and staff cutbacks.
As we reported here not so long ago, though, in a self-explanatorily-titled post, PR agency news from the papers: Ad revenues grow, income from selling commercial space in editorial titles is expected to increase by next year for the first time since 2010. That’s good news for anyone with an interest in the industry, as the more money made the more secure the publications will be, and now it seems a new agreement between some of the country’s biggest regionals could potentially boost this cash generation potential even further.
As reported in MediaGuardian today, a deal has been struck between Newsquest (the company behind the likes of Northern Echo and Glasgow Evening Times), Local World (Bristol Post, South Wales Evening Post), Johnston Press (the Scotsman, Yorkshire Post), and several other smaller publishing houses which will see digital display ad space pooled to offer buyers access to some 50million shared readers in the UK, across all platforms involved.
That already puts this conglomerate-of-sorts in a better position than some of the biggest brands on the internet, including MSN and Yahoo; quite an achievement. The idea, according to Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Newsquest, is to bite into the profits currently being reaped by Facebook, Google and the other web behemoths from advertising sales by offering companies a one-stop shop to display their wares before a good proportion of Britain’s regional readers. Trinity Mirror, on the other hand, is choosing to steer well clear, and focusing on bringing together all its own titles under a similar system.
So what does this mean from a public relations agency or indeed client perspective? Well, for one thing, it shows that co-operation and the sharing of assets are most definitely a concepts being adopted by organisations that have been struggling to compete. Furthermore, if the model, which has been christened 1XL, is successful, we could well see similar systems being put in place across other media areas.
Perhaps what’s most interesting, though, is the way this points to the press finally taking seriously the threat posed by social media and non-journalistic online entities in terms of how they have taken away advertising revenue. This, combined with the increased perception of Facebook, Google, Twitter and the like as news curation (if not full on news distribution) tools, needs to be seen as a priority to be overcome, or at least dealt with, if ‘traditional media’ (including digital equivalents) are to thrive in the future.